If you want to be a model, a bike messenger or a ball boy, it pays to be young. However, if you want a job in which you’re expected to convey reliability, wisdom or gravitas, people over 50 have the advantage. They’ve been around the block a few times, and they have years of hard-earned knowledge with which no amount of postgraduate education can compete.
However, job-hunters over age 50 may be apprehensive about what’s out there. Will they be written off prematurely thanks to ageism? Will they have to take a big step down in salary? Will they find anything stimulating? Are there brand new jobs opening they should be aware of?
Bruce Blackwell, a consultant at the Career Strategies Group in White Plains, N.Y., thinks the over-50 set shouldn’t worry. “There are some very challenging and energizing careers for people with some gray in their hair,” he says. “By 50-something, one should have developed good ‘people reading’ skills and have heightened emotional intelligence. This gives a person an ability to listen well and respond appropriately, two critical factors in sales and client service success.”
Workers over 50 aren’t strictly limited to jobs in those areas. Older adults bring qualities to the table that make them well-suited to diverse jobs in different sectors. Click ahead to see what some of the new careers are for workers over 50.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 28 December 2011
Amy Logan, director of public relations at the Coaches Training Institute, sees those over 50 as ideal candidates for jobs as career coaches. “Some of the most successful life and executive coaches are over 50 and have already had other careers from which they draw business experience,” she says. “Their age works to their advantage because they are more likely to be perceived as wise and trustworthy, essential qualities for a coach.”
It can be time-consuming to gather all the necessary credentials to become a career coach, but Logan believes people over 50 are well-suited to that particular challenge. “They don't seem to expect it to happen overnight and are more willing to invest in the best coach training and certification programs,” she says
One of the industries that’s thrived in the U.S. in recent years is health care. There were over 14 million health-care jobs in 2008, and the sector is expected to add another 3 million jobs or more by 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Clearly, health care is where many of the jobs can be found.
One of the health-care jobs with the most robust growth is medical assistant. Medical assistants support doctors and other health-care professionals by performing such tasks as taking blood, dispensing medications and measuring vital signs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that total employment of medical assistants has been projected to increase by 34 percent by 2018.
The mention of the term “fashion industry” brings to mind images of 19-year-old models strutting across the catwalks in Milan amidst the flash bulbs of the paparazzi. Despite this widespread notion, fashion is not just a young person’s game and the people working behind the scenes can attest to this fact.
Maria Calautti teaches European pattern drafting at Le Grand Chic Italia School of Fashion at Georgian College in Ontario, Canada. She recommends a career in the fashion industry to anyone looking to start over, regardless of age, and suggests custom garment-making in particular. “My business has been increasing steadily over the past few years in custom garment-making,” she says.
Why is custom garment-making on the rise? “The reason is that off-the-rack garments fit no one well,” she says. “My current students come from all over to take the European Pattern Making courses at Georgian College for this exact reason, that they are dissatisfied with ready to wear.”
The elderly residents of assisted living facilities don’t require the round-the-clock medical monitoring that nursing home residents receive, but they often need too much attention to live alone. The assisted living facility professional is there to see to the residents’ daily activities, which can range from dispensing medication to taking them on outings.
This diverse job is well-suited to a person over 50, partially because senior citizens may prefer to be overseen by someone whose age conveys experience. Amira Rubin, spokeswoman for Atria Senior Living, says that America’s aging population has created a demand for these jobs, which are a good fit for people over the 50. “At Atria, the 50-plus employee makes up about 35 percent of our workforce,” says Rubin.
Adults over 50 have levels of experience and reliability their younger counterparts don’t. Both of these are factors that people look for when seeking financial advice, which makes a job as a financial adviser ideal for them.
“Youth is a liability for financial salespeople as it is in most business milieux, because clients have less confidence in young people,” says Seth Rabinowitz, lead consultant for the management consulting firm Silicon Associates. “Older people generally are less apt to take risks and to recommend risky strategies.”
Jacquie Whitt is co-founder and director of U.S. operations for Adios Adventure Travel, a travel agency that offers guided tours in South America. She lives in Virginia and started out as a 50-year-old tourist in Peru in 2007. She returned to guide a group of hikers on the Inca Trail. After returning again, she partnered with her original Peruvian tour guide to form the company.
Whitt organizes the trips from her Virginia home, and she believes a career as a tour guide is a fun and unique way to pay the bills after turning 50. “The travel industry offers lots of options to those of us who have experience traveling and who can handle the pressure and the expectations of today's travelers,” she says.
Ever since Humphrey Bogart starred in “The Maltese Falcon” in 1941, the private investigator has been a popular archetype for males of all ages. However, it differs from other fantasy jobs in that it’s possible to find actual work in the field, which cannot be said for the position of sorcerer or Klingon general.
Jim Tielebein of Independence, Iowa, is 54, and he’s been a private investigator for six years. He believes private investigation is a great fit for those over 50. “Life experience prior to this career has been helpful,” he says. The job allows him to “leverage life experience, critical thinking and writing ability to a better-than-average rate of pay.”
Many people over age 50 have experience in project management that their younger counterparts don’t. Executive coach Steve Langerud believes this makes the older worker a strong candidate for a career as a sustainability coordinator. This job involves helping businesses develop and implement initiatives that are environmentally conscious.
“Many professionals have broad project management experience including facilities and operations,” says Langerud. “By adding content knowledge in green and sustainable practices, they are well-positioned to help a broad range of organizations and businesses take strides into developing intentional sustainability initiatives. People over 50 have the experience, credibility and sensibilities to navigate this role.”
If you’re a creative person and you want to get paid for it, the opportunities to do so exist, particularly if you don’t mind remaining anonymous. One creative but faceless pursuit is ghostwriting. A casual perusal of autobiographies at any bookstore will turn up dozens of books that have been written by people other than those whose names appears on the spine, and in many cases this can be a well-paying gig.
New York City writer Judy Katz has ghostwritten 27 books on a wide range of topics including finance, media, diet and women’s health. She says one of the major perks of ghostwriting is the flexible schedule, “Seven years ago, with some trepidation, I gave up a midtown office with 12 employees where I was everyone’s mother, to write books from my 2,000-square-foot terraced high-rise apartment. Now I can walk my two little Chihuahuas three times a day and have an actual life.”
As the aging population has grown, so have more job opportunities in the field of private home care. This is an ideal field for people over age 50 who want to make a difference in someone’s life, according to Angil Tarach-Ritchey, owner and director of the Visiting Angels private-duty home-care agency in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“Many older adults who want to find more satisfaction in contributing to society are finding great satisfaction and enjoyment in private-duty home care,” she says. “Whether someone wants to own a nonmedical agency or work a few hours a week, the opportunities are there.”
Tarach-Ritchey says people over 50 already have the necessary qualities to excel in this field. “Since older adults are more relatable, there are great relationships formed between caregivers over 50 and the elderly care recipient,” she says. “Many seniors just need companionship and assistance with things like light housekeeping, meals, errands and transportation, all things individuals over 50 can do, and it doesn't require a medical background.”