One of the biggest mistakes jobseekers over 50 make is thinking that the job search process hasn’t changed much. It has. On the other hand, some older jobseekers also overestimate how much hiring has changed. Despite Applicant Tracking System technology and video interviews, the fact remains: it’s still people making the decision to hire people.
Even if you’re only just approaching 50, it’s important to have a career plan. U.S. workers overall had an average job tenure of 4.2 years as of January 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s down from 4.6 years in January 2014, but an increase from 3.7 years in 2002 and 3.5 years in 1983. And, in fact, the average tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 is 10.1 years, more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 years (2.8 years). What all this means is, it’s likely that the job you have right now won’t be your last.
By 2022, more than a quarter of employees in the U.S. will be 55 or older. The baby boomer generation is already impacting mid-life and pre-retirement employment with terms like “second act” or “third act” and “encore careers” being used to describe career changes later in your employment, and as you approach — or enter — retirement.
The need or desire to continue working past “traditional” retirement ages is being driven by baby boomers. Boomers are the demographic group born during the post-World War II baby boom (approximately 1946 to 1964). Baby boomers generally are ages 50 to 70 right now. Increasing financial responsibilities — paying their child’s student loans, contributing to offspring weddings that average $26,000, and sparse retirement savings — have led boomers to stay in the workforce longer than their parents. One study by the Insured Retirement Institute finds that 45 percent of baby boomers say they have no retirement savings at all.
So baby boomers remain in the workforce, but some old challenges remain. One of the biggest issues is losing your job.
It typically takes longer for someone over 55 to land a job than someone younger, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It takes an average of 37 weeks (9 months) for people ages 55 to 64 versus 25 weeks (6 months) for those 25 to 34.
Long-term unemployment is a big concern for those aged 50 and above. Older jobseekers tend to have higher fixed expenses — such as home mortgages, health insurance, and car payments — meaning they cannot afford to be unemployed for long without significantly impacting their short-term and long-term financial wellbeing. Age discrimination in hiring is a concern.
Age discrimination in the workforce — and the hiring process — is technically against the law. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 protects individuals 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. However, the law only applies to companies and organizations with 20 or more employees. And the law does not prohibit an employer from asking an applicant’s age or date of birth — although requests for age information are “closely scrutinized to make sure that the inquiry was made for a lawful purpose.”
Employers often don’t need to ask for age or date of birth to determine an approximate age for job applicants. Age-related information can often be inferred by college graduation dates and length of employment
The ADEA is modeled on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Each state also has its own age discrimination statute — some of these offer broader protection than the federal law.
But the reality remains: Age discrimination is very difficult to prove — especially when it comes to hiring. So jobseekers over 50 need to do everything they can to maximize their chances of securing satisfying work during what may be their most productive years of employment. Certainly they can be among the years when you earn the most money.
Income peaks for males in the early to mid 50s, and declines in the decade leading to retirement, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report. Payscale reported similar results: women’s pay growth stopped on average at 39, while men’s topped out at age 48.
Next time, we’ll take a look at when you’re not ready to retire and some challenges of 50-Plus jobseekers