When young go-getters hit the job market, they tend to take a proactive approach. They research industries, attend job fairs and network like crazy to open as many career doors as possible.
For those in their 50s and older, the narrative changes. They proceed with trepidation, worried about age discrimination and disappointed that they cannot afford to retire just yet.
But graying job seekers need not pound the pavement in a beaten-down, desperate frame of mind. By thinking strategically about their search—and broadening their horizons—they may land a satisfying position that they never imagined pursuing earlier in life.
For starters, track demographic and consumer trends. Hot careers for preretirees include health diagnosing and treating practitioners (such as pharmacists, exercise physiologists and nutritionists), sales representatives (especially in wholesale and manufacturing) and advertising and marketing, according to a 2017 report from AARP and IMPAQ International .
While health care jobs usually require advanced degrees, other fields such as sales and public relations may come with less rigid prerequisites such as a few years of business experience or relevant education or professional certification.
Begin your search by identifying similar jobs in your area of expertise. Let your years of work experience serve as a starting point.
To explore occupations aligned with your background, use free online research tools such as MyNextMove.org or Onetonline.org , says Donna Shannon, president of Personal Touch Career Services in Westminster, Colo.
“These are repositories of all job descriptions in the United States,” Shannon said. “Search using ‘project management’ or whatever job skills you have, and you’ll get a list of other jobs based on the same KSA [knowledge, skills, abilities].”
Beware of focusing too narrowly on the job title of the work you seek. Such titles change constantly and sometimes lead you astray.
While popular websites such as Indeed.com can prove helpful, they might also limit your results, Shannon warns. That’s because a promising job may come with a newfangled or unexpected title, and “if you don’t know what the job title is, you won’t find it” on an online job board.
“It’s better to search by job skills and find all these other possibilities that you might never knew of,” she said.
At the same time, think local. Consider what economic sectors are thriving in your region. If you’re in the Denver area, for instance, aerospace is growing, Shannon says.
Browse regional or state business magazines for their annual list of top employers. Contact the closest economic development agency to learn about industries that are ramping up their hiring and opening new facilities.
Rethink your assumptions about what constitutes a “safe” career over the next decade or two. If your goal is to live and work in a college town—and ultimately retire there—good luck. Due to falling birthrates, there might be 450,000 fewer U.S. college applicants in the 2020s . That in turn can lead to the closure of small private colleges—and the disappearance of campus jobs.
Don’t let stereotypes stop you from embracing the millennial mind-set. Many people in their 50s and up are taking free computer coding lessons through Codecademy.com or other programs.
Even if you blaze a new career path, some old advice still applies: Let people know you’re looking for work.
“Mine your network,” said George Dutch, founder and president of JobJoy, a career assessment and counseling firm in Ottawa, Canada. “Many older people have never had to look for a job before. It’s quite humbling to ask people you’ve worked with for a job. You have to communicate your value proposition clearly, both verbally and on paper.”