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What to know about retirement and returning to the workforce

Last week, we addressed the first part of a question about wanting to return to work after an unfulfilling volunteer experience. This week, we discuss the second part of his question: How does one overcome the societal and human resources biases toward rehiring? Is there any place (or hope) for seniors returning, once they retire?

Let’s begin with some background information about work, retirement and older adults.

The trend toward early retirements that occurred during the pandemic is about to reverse, according to a Kiplinger newsletter. Rather than exiting the labor force, more older adults are likely to be working and that includes retirees returning to work.

Yet, at the same time, we have well-documented labor shortages in specific industries as many older adults face obstacles to employment. Currently, over 11 million jobs are unfilled while over 36 percent of potential older workers age 55 and older are long-term unemployed, meaning they couldn’t find a job for 27 weeks.

Age discrimination is one reason. Although illegal, it is pervasive. A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that workers age 40 and older are about half as likely to get a job offer compared to younger workers if employers knew their age. And 78 percent of older workers have reported seeing or experiencing age discrimination on the job. Add to that more than 14,000 claims of age discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the fiscal year of 2020.

Such discrimination is a loss for employers, devastating for older workers and a financial loss for our country. In 2018, the U.S. lost potentially $850 billion in economic growth, according to an AARP report.

Unfortunately, only eight percent of organizations include age as part of their diversity, equity and inclusion strategies which likely would address ageism.

To overcome workplace age biases, older job seekers need to be prepared, current, relevant and resourceful. In addition to last week’s suggestions, consider the following from The Muse, an online job board.

Update your skills. If you are unfamiliar with specific hardware or program, take an online course or a YouTube tutorial. Don’t dismiss a job opportunity because you don’t have those up-to-date skills if everything else looks promising.

Optimize your resume. Know that most resumes are not read by people but by an applicant tracking system (ATS). That means including the right keywords. Learn how to get past the robot gatekeepers.

Think about where you are valued. Look at job opportunities where age is acknowledged as an asset. ARP has identified over 2,000 employers committed to older workers who have taken the AARP Employer Pledge Program. AARP also identifies companies with remote work (work from home) opportunities.

Keep current. If you are interested in a particular industry, stay up to date. Read about your industry, skillsets and latest trends. Be ahead of the curve with your skill set and knowledge.

Draw attention to your accomplishments. Emphasize the results you have delivered. If the concern is ageism, omit references to your age and emphasize your achievements and what you are capable of doing today.

Activate your network. That includes your professional and informal ones. Networking is more than forwarding a resume. Provide some specific information to folks whom you know who can share that information with others.

Some further considerations. The approach to finding a job essentially depends the type of work that fits one’s needs and preferences. Is it part-time that has nothing to do with your previous work and perhaps at a lower level compared to a 40-year work history? Is the money critical or is it an extra? Is it a continuation or variation of your previous work? Is it time for something new? And take a look at your neighborhood. Look for the “We are hiring” signs. It doesn’t hurt to ask. And if you are living with a mate or partner, remember to have the “work conversation” and discuss how your work may fit into both of your lives.

Hope is an outlook on life. It can be converted to reality by being prepared, resourceful and resilient and – knowing what you can bring to the table.

However, it may take time and a little patience.

G.D., Thank you for your good question. Best wishes in finding that right work opportunity and, of course, be good to yourself and others.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Visit Helen at and follow her on


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