Life may begin at 40, but job searches that begin at that age can be discouraging. After all, the job market is not what it used to be. Entire professions are disappearing, and the labor market is flooded with unmarried, childless, eager young applicants whose salary requirements are generally lower.
Despite this grim scenario, older workers shouldn’t despair. They bring such hard-won assets as experience and discipline to the table, and the people doing the hiring know it. “Savvy employers are reaching out to skilled, energetic job seekers over 40,” says Steven Greenberg, founder of the employment search site Jobs 4.0. “Newly hired older workers tend to stay in their jobs longer than younger hires. Older workers often require less training time, and have better work habits.”
CNBC.com spoke with experts in such fields as technology, human resources, and finance to determine which professions are best for older workers looking to reinvent their careers, and which sectors offer real hiring opportunities.
What are some of the careers that workers over 40 should consider? Click ahead and find out.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 17 November 2011
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may have popularized the image of the social media professional as a 20-something college dropout, but careers in this field are just as suitable for people decades older. Anyone with a background in marketing or business development who understands social media tools, such as LinkedIn or Twitter, can consider employment as a social media strategist.
”Many firms, especially small businesses, are still getting started in the social media world and need someone to guide them through the process,” according to Scott Swanay, president of Sherpa Social Media. “These people are often savvy enough to understand the value of an effective social media campaign, don't have the time or inclination to do it themselves, and are willing to spend the money to hire someone.”
Exercise is an essential part of a long and healthy life, but not everyone can just walk into a gym and do bench presses. Older bodies don’t bounce back from strenuous exercise like they once did, and in some cases exercising improperly can even be harmful.
A personal trainer over the age of 40 can demonstrate safe exercise techniques to older adults. “Older people need trainers who understand the physical and mechanical limitations that are inevitable in an older client,” according to career coach Roy Cohen. “Certification is easy and available either online or through the traditional channels, such as institutes and community colleges.”
When a worker over the age of 40 leaves a job, it can be an opportunity to pursue something more rewarding. “I think there is definitely a trend for the after-40 crowd to follow their passions and go back to school to earn a degree in something that they have always wanted to do,” says Chantell Moulin Nighswonger, account coordinator for the Allison & Partners public relations agency.
“I work with the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute and you would be surprised that for our Harley-Davidson program, the average age of our student is well into their 40s,” says Nighswonger. Motorcycle repair may not be the ideal job for everybody, but people over 40 who are interested in it are hardly alone.
Managing one’s own finances can be an intimidating prospect. As long as this is the case, there will always be a need for financial advisors. “As increasing attention is focused on maintaining and protecting assets, there is an enormous demand for skilled professionals to work for financial institutions and regulatory organizations,” says career coach Roy Cohen. “Bankers and others such as traders who have experience making credit decisions can transition with relative ease.”
A career as a financial advisor isn’t just for unemployed bankers. Working mothers have real-life skills that are sought by Help Unlimited, a money management firm that organizes day-to-day finances for senior citizens.
“In the case of working moms, the fact that they have most likely been not only raising the kids but also handling the family budget and finances is of great value to our company,” says Help Unlimited co-owner Christopher DesBarres. “There is nothing that can replace real-world experience and wisdom.”
One industry that’s surviving the recession is information technology. The jobs are indeed out there, but not everyone has the skills to get them. Fortunately, there are programs that provide the required training, such as the IT-Ready Apprentice Program, a six-month program offered by the Creating IT Futures Foundation.
"IT-Ready is an easy and cost-effective way for companies to give back," says executive director Charles Eaton. However, it’s not just a way for the unemployed to receive job training — it’s also good business.
"IT-Ready apprentices aren't college interns,” says Eaton. “An apprentice is expected to help the host company meet its goals, while simultaneously building his or her technical and professional skills."
As consumers become more environmentally conscious, catering to them with “green” packaging is a wise business move. Companies wishing to transition from older packaging techniques to new ones need qualified people to oversee the redesigns. This is where the packaging engineer comes in.
The job is ideal for someone with scientific or engineering experience. YourEncore, an Indianapolis-based company that “helps companies accelerate innovation by connecting them with retired scientists and engineers,” places such professionals with companies on a contract basis.
As long as school children continue to struggle with algebra, there will be a need for tutors. For many students, the individual attention that they get from a tutor is the only thing keeping them out of summer school.
“For retired teachers this is a great option,” says career coach Roy Cohen. He also believes that a tutor’s helpfulness is not just limited to remedial studies, but that they can also be helpful in “advising on, and helping to manage, the college admissions process.”
The Center for Strategic and International Studies has defined cyberterrorism as “the use of computer network tools to shut down critical national infrastructures (such as energy, transportation, government operations) or to coerce or intimidate a government or civilian population.” That was in 2002, and since then, the U.S. has become increasingly dependent on computer networks to operate its infrastructure.
It has been suggested by national security experts that cyberterrorism is the next major threat to the U.S. Workers with extensive computer experience can take advantage of this by becoming cybersecurity specialists. The Air Force has in fact changed its hiring process to fill vacancies in this field, and the job is also being offered by technology companies and defense contractors.
As long as people keep getting sick, there will be job openings in the health-care industry. These include jobs in which the worker acts as a liaison between the health-care company and the patient.
Another advantage of the health-care industry is that it’s part of the service sector, which means that the jobs have to stay local. These attributes all add up to “the perfect positive storm of job demand" for workers over 40, according to Stephen Sweet of Boston College's Sloan Center on Aging and Work.