Riskon in the News

February 28, 2002  CAREERBUILDERS.COM
“Golden Years, Golden Jobs.
Many companies value experience over youth.
By Sheri Waldrop

If you're 55 or older, you are part of the fastest growing sectors of the U.S. workforce.  But what if your company has downsized, or you are forced by necessity to start job hunting?  Where should you start your job search, especially when tales of job-related discrimination against older employees abound?

The good news is that age discrimination may be overstated, according to Barry Honig, president of Riskon, a New Jersey firm specializing in placement of executives in the financial services and technology fields.  “If someone has the skills, and has kept themselves up-to-date in their field, they can usually get the job.”

Attitude is key, says Honig, especially as younger managers may feel threatened by a more mature or experienced interviewee.  “The thought is “This guy might replace me.'  That's why emphasizing how you can contribute to the manager's and the company's success is important.”  Honig has successfully placed people on Wall Street who are in their 50s.  “The track record is more important than age in this area.”

Where the Jobs Are

When starting a job hunt in your post-40 era, stick to companies and industries known for their willingness to look at experience and skills instead of birth certificate numbers, when hiring their employees.  Consider some of these golden opportunities:

  • Real Estate.  According to a representative at Century 21 Real Estate corporate headquarters, the average age of its realtors nationwide is 52.  Jim Duncan, owner of a Century 21 franchise in Texas, agrees.  “I have a former pharmaceutical sales person who started in his 50s, a former restaurant manager in his fifties, and a former clothing store owner in her late 40s who are all doing well as agents,” he says.
  • Century 21's program, Mature Moves, specifically geared toward recruiting adults over age 55.  “The more mature agent often has an extensive network of contacts from a lifetime of experience, which can give them an enormous advantage over the younger agent,” company sources note.  The flexible hours also draw many realtors.
  • Defense contractors.  Says Honig, “These firms contract with Uncle Sam, so they have to be extra sure to play by government rules.  That includes not discriminating against someone because of age.”  Also, government agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are excellent job fields for older workers with relevant skills.
  • Healthcare.  Andrea Wooten, president of Experience Works (formerly Green Thumb), a nationwide placement agency for older workers, states that her company's home-health training and placement program has been successful in placing older workers because of the demand for qualified help in the burgeoning healthcare field.  “But,” she adds, “I also emphasize to people that this can be physically demanding work, and to be sure that they are up to it.”
  • In an attempt to deal with a critical nursing shortage and delay early retirement, many hospitals are offering refresher courses for nurses who left the field years ago.
  • Teaching.  Many states now actively recruit retired teachers, encouraging them to continue teaching with enticements such as a Deferred Retirement Option Plan; for example, nearly 10% of the teachers in Ohio are rehired retired teachers.  And school districts actively recruit tutors and mentors from the ranks of the retired.

Looking for specific companies?  Consider Wal-Mart, where 10% of employees are 55+, according to company headquarters, and security work for firms such as Pinkerton/Burns Service Corporation, where more than one-third of employees are older than 40.  “We have many successful security officers in their 60s, 70s, even 80s,” states Kathy Rasmussen of Pinkerton.

A.E. Marks, director of Program Operations, Workforce Development Division at the National Council on Aging (NCOA), notes that several businesses have entered into an agreement with NCOA to train and hire older workers; these businesses have a proven track record in fair hiring practices.  The businesses include:

  • Bank of America
  • Mellon Bank
  • Sears Credit Card
  • Wells Fargo Bank
  • AT&T Wireless
  • CVS/pharmacy
  • A&P Food Market

Getting the Job

You can increase your chance of getting a new job several ways:

  • Develop your job skills and keep them fresh.
  • Be realistic in your salary requirement, especially if you are starting at a new company or in a new field.
  • Update your resume and highlight pertinent skills.
  • Use the interview to showcase your years of experience as an extra available resource.
  • By following these steps and starting with markets that are open to older job seekers, you can increase your chances of getting the job that you want, at any age.