The Hard Truth About Shifting into a 50+ New Career

I just finished listening to Brent Rasmussen, President of tell a room full of boomers how to “shift into a new career.” A show of hands quickly indicated that many of the attendees wanted a job – any job. Another 1/3 were working, unhappy, and looking. So the focus of the session was really about how someone in our age group can find a job.

First, the hard facts, for which Mr. Rasmussen was an excellent resource:

  • 41% of the workforce is 55+, the largest percentage since 1962.
  • 53% of workers over 45 work for a younger boss.
  • There are now 5 unemployed workers for every available job. Ouch.
  • The average job posted on receives 50 applications. Double ouch.

Two fastest growing sectors for 50+ employment: health care and education

The industry expects there to be 3.2 million new healthcare jobs by 2018. A huge component of that growth will be home caregivers. Unfortunately, I am concerned that a lot of boomers will be receiving, not giving, that care.

Another trend that is important to our age group is the tremendous growth in temporary and part-time employment. There are two reasons for this. First, older workers are interested in part-time work. Second, employers appreciate workers for whom they don’t have to provide benefits.

The problem is that until we are Medicare-eligible, and unless and until healthcare reform makes affordable healthcare available to us, we need those benefits.

This is what Mr. Rasmussen recommended for the 50+ job-seeker:

1. Network and self-promote. Personal referrals are far more important and successful in securing jobs, compared to the other primary resources: online job sites like, and online job boards.

2. Use social networking sites. Facebook and Linked-In were mentioned specifically. I am skeptical about Facebook. Has anyone ever done anything on Facebook except share photos, express their narcissism, and waste time?

3. Update skills. Education was emphasized. No surprise here, as Kaplan University sponsored the presentation.

Rasmussen mentioned a few resources that may be worth checking out:

American Staffing Association site, a site specifically for the 50+ job-seeker.

Finally, Careerbuilder is introducing a new feature on its site that will provide anonymous feedback to an applicant as to how he/she matches up with the other applicants for the same position. That may help you understand why you might not have been contacted after applying.

Here is my bottom line: I am so grateful to have a job and I have great empathy for my contemporaries who do not. Here’s hoping that healthcare reform will make it easier for those who want and need to work at least part-time.


  1. Levi Nigg says

    You failed to mention that if it is greed that causes people to be employeed then they are keeping young people from getting a job.

    My son graduated with high honors from Baylor University in 2010 and he cannot get a job. I am sure there is a senior citizen that is just hanging onto a job because of greed and they don’t care they are blocking the postions for new employees. I call these folks blockers.

    I retired at 55 in 2005 and am enjoying my time volunteering.

    • donna says

      Dear Levi,

      Let me begin by saying “How Nice for You that You are in a
      position that enables you to maintain your lifestyle and
      your income while volunteering… Most individuals do not share
      your perfect life situation…..

      However, aside from your enormous sense of entitlement, you
      sound as if you have a very specifice “Axe to Grind”… and
      a particularly ugly form of envy… that must be POISON

      What makes you think that someone deserves a certain position
      without the virtue of working toward it … simply because
      he has a college degree…???

      A degree merely provides the perspective employer with a
      point of reference that allows him/her to assume that the
      recent graduate can take instruction, complete tasks that
      require a certain amount of intellect, and has the study
      skills and training that assumes the applicant can assume
      certain basic responsibilities without too much supervision
      while they are working toward a greater goal and higher
      title within the company….PERIOD!

      Some individuals reveal competance in accomplishing particular
      goals.. some managerial, some reflecting “people skills”…
      Some do not…. regardless of their education…


      Most people work many years before they earn the positions
      and salaries to which you refer…. They certainly are not
      positions that your son would be deserving or capable of,
      considering the fact that he has just graduated…

      He has neither the skills nor the maturity to handle the
      positions you seem so eager to remove from those who have
      earned them.

      Your mention of the word “GREED” tells me alot about YOU!

      The fact that your son graduated with honors…. has little
      to do with the idea that someone should voluntarily give up
      a position that has taken them years to acquire and perfect.

      Why would you think that your son, in any way, deserves to b e g i n
      his career with a Manager’s Position?!

      It has been my personal experience…. as it has been with most
      of my contemporaries… (all of whom have graduated with honors…)
      that you begin your career at the l o w e s t l e v e l and
      w o r k y o u r w a y u p .

      The idea that you believe that your son deserves to start out with
      a highly coveted position tells me a great deal about your sense
      of entitlement which, sadly, has more than likely been passed
      onto your son….

      I guarantee that this will NOT be received very well…at ANY

      I recommend a change of perspective and attitude….

  2. says

    I think it’s wonderful if someone is able to retire at 55, but there are a lot of people out there who may have had unpredictable setbacks, including health care expenses, not to mention the recent financial debacle. Frankly, I doubt there are many continuing to hang on to jobs if they really believed they could afford to do otherwise. If there are, then I agree our young people need a shot at the job, but maybe for now they’ll have to settle for jobs at a level less than the high-powered one for which they trained.

    I returned to University in mid-life to change professions after taking time off to have a family. A few years earlier my husband was smacked with age discrimination when he was only in his mid-forties. He was able to deal with that and was successfully employed, but age discrimination is a serious problem at all levels of business, society, government and in the manner our society often addresses older people. Lots of work ahead for all of us as all generations must work together to resolve this issue. The last thing needed is a generational war.

  3. J'Elaine says

    Ditto on the “I think it’s wonderful if someone is able to retire at 55″ and I believe that Mr. Nigg is among the few fortunate to be able to do. Allow me to provide another side of that picture. Among those I work with here in Arizona, most of us will never be able to retire. Our salaries have been frozen for four years with no sign of the wage freeze being lifted, our homes became upside-down mortgage situations seemingly overnight, and many of us have experienced unexpected life-altering acquired physical disabilities and/or chronic illnesses (multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, etc.) at the same age Mr. Nigg was able to retire.

    Did I ever anticipate when graduating Summa Cum Laude from an MBA program that I would be in the worst financial and physical condition of my entire life at age 57? Not in a million years. Life happens and events beyond our control can and do pre-empt retirement plans in a heartbeat. Greed has nothing to do with it–we are struggling for mere survival.

    I honestly have never heard the viewpoint before expressed by Mr. Nigg that senior citizens are hanging on to jobs out of greed. I am not aware of any senior citizens hanging on to a job out of greed here; rather, I am surrounded by people who have been forced out of retirement and back into the workforce in their late 50s and 60s. And all things considered, I am far more empathetic towards those who have already worked a lifetime and have had to reluctantly re-enter the workforce out of necessity just to survive than I am with a young man who has his whole life in front of him. My daughter was unemployed for two and a half years, filled out dozens upon dozens of job applications, got the interviews but never got the job. This was actually a good thing as it taught her a lot of life lessons that one can not learn in the classroom . . . with entitlement vs. gratitude being the most valuable lesson she learned.

  4. e says

    I think the detailed response from Donna is mean spirited and vitriolic. While I think many people would disagree with the opinion provided by Mr. Nigg, the response from “Donna” with all the capital letters is just plain nasty. Thanks Donna. A big problem with the boomer generation is the “we want to have it all, spend lots and save little” philosophy. Mr. Nigg is in the position he is in because he lives below his means and was a saver. No, he is most likely not a member of the imaginary silver spoon people that the “occupy wallstreet” crowd thinks are everywhere. Read The Millionaire Next Door and you will understand this. He has done a great service to society by not behaving recklessly and spending all earnings so that he (not taxpayers) can pay for his retirement.

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