5 Attitude Shifts Seniors Looking For Work Need To Adapt To Be Successful

Photo: getty
older woman picking fruit

Jobs for seniors are a little difficult to come by, but certainly not impossible by any means. They're out there.

"Who is going to hire a 62-year old?" Career coaches often hear this plaintive question from older folks.

We understand the dread and anxiety common among those who are 55 years and over who want to work, but feel excluded and marginalized by employers who devalue older workers.

So, it's normal to presume many 35-year-old hiring managers and bosses may be writing off Baby Boomers.

RELATED: How The Pandemic-Induced Recession Will Impact Your Career Goals

Jobs for seniors are in high demand.

The unemployment rate among workers age 55 and older has skyrocketed since COVID-19 lockdowns, jumping from 3.3 percent in March to 13.6 percent in April, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Millions of jobs are not coming back.

"Unlike previous recessions, this pandemic-led downturn has hit older workers especially hard and will likely create long-term employment challenges for them," according to Richard W. Johnson, who directs the program on retirement policy at the Urban Institute.

Anticipate a long period of workforce disruption as the pandemic runs its course. Millions of business owners, professionals, and workers will close their businesses or practices, lose employment, or be furloughed.

Conventional wisdom need not deter you from re-imagining your work-life.

Think of your career in three stages:

First stage: Early career learning your profession, building your business acumen, or developing the skills to enable you to succeed.

Second stage: Mid-career to rise in your status, income, and expertise.

Third stage: Make your choices at work to fit the life you want to have.

Rather than contort yourself to fit work, make work fit you. Now, you can do so despite the pandemic.

What do you hire your work to do for you? 

This third stage is when you can ask how work will fulfill you, fit into the lifestyle you want, and align with the skills, experiences, and values you now have. 

Ditch the dread and approach this stage with curiosity, passion, engagement, and enthusiasm for what’s next.

Rather than accept the myth of the Golden Years in retirement playing out, think of this as the Golden Age for meaningful work that keeps you feeling whole and alive for as long as you are able.

But first, you have to get ready.

Here are 5 attitude shifts and trends that seniors look for work need to adapt to be successful.

1. Know who you are, where you fit, and how you can add value.

For many who entered the workforce 30 or 40 years ago, we were expected to conform and adapt to organizational requirements.

The old joke was IBM stood for "I’ve Been Moved." We literally "went to work" in downtown offices, traveled extensively for meetings, and the job demands came first.

Who we were was "who we needed to be" to succeed in prescribed requirements and expectations.

Now, you can think about what you want to do, the kinds of people you want to work with, and how you would like your skills and experiences to be utilized.

Self-reflect so your work-life can be congruent with how you want to live.

Maybe you don't want traveling and fixed hours because you want more time with family, as well as autonomy and flexibility in your work schedule.

These new preferences can shape your search for next stage work, but you need to evaluate what you want for yourself, the environment (both human and physical), who you want to be engaged with, the purpose and meaning you want to fulfill, and what you offer that others value and will pay for.

Most often, third-stage workers want to feel useful and needed, purposeful, and in life-affirming collaboration with others. Go with your aspiration to fulfill these desires.

RELATED: 10 Quick Ways To Look For A Job In The Pandemic Era

2. Let go of the illusion of certainty and security.

Most of us were oriented to working within organizations and institutions that retained their good workers and promoted based on achievement, competence, and the internal company professional reputation.

Today, the work world is more team and project oriented. Longevity is less assured.

Change your expectations. You may both find different work, evolve in your assignments, and even your role.

3. Adopt an entrepreneurial mindset.

You are responsible for creating your own opportunities. Adopt the adage, "you eat what you hunt."

If you seek opportunities based on your own criteria and use the systems that are already organized and available, you can find work, even if you're not certain about the duration and outcome.

Entrepreneurs invest their time and resources to serve others and create value. You can do the same even as a freelance, part-time, or time-limited worker.

4. Create a diversified work portfolio.

Consider approaching your third stage of work as you would your investment portfolio. If you're familiar with diversification in asset management, then you can apply the same to your work portfolio.

Different work may simultaneously provide and satisfy diversified experiences and fulfill different needs.

In my case, I'm simultaneously a university instructor teaching interviewing and writing to undergraduate students, a career coach helping individuals make transitions for work that matters to them, and a memoir writer helping someone transmit their life story to their family and friends.

The university experience satisfies my teaching and young adult interaction needs.

Career coaching satisfies my helping and serving others in a deeply meaningful way.

My memoir writing enables me to help someone find the connections and meaning from their own experience.

Each role and set of tasks are different, yet when combined, they satisfy varied interests. I also have a very active volunteer work-life that enables me to be in the "fellowship of endeavor" with like-minded people in causes I care about.

I also take classes, webinars, and even have private tutoring to learn a language for future extended travel in a foreign country.

So, feel free to mix it up!

5. Be more agile and fearless.

If you can reimagine your life story to be based on joy and abundance, rather than fear and scarcity, you can enable your own trajectory.

Agility means you can be flexible and pivot readily to changing circumstances and opportunities. Being fearless means you're willing to take calculated risks for your own happiness without knowing what the result will be.

Having the determination and grit to give it a go, you can allow for emergent possibilities. Consider yourself as an "independent economy."

If you can navigate your own career in this third stage, you may find you can steer through the turbulence and create your own route to meaningful, purposeful work that matters to you.

RELATED: Why You Shouldn't Put Your Job Search On Hold Because Of Coronavirus

Jeff Saperstein is a career transition coach. For more information, visit his website.