What are your work options after 50?

A 50-year-old today can reasonably expect to work at least part time for another 20 to 25 years. For some working will be a choice, for others a necessity.

Work is not just paid employment in a company. It includes meaningful tasks that contribute to wellbeing, either of self or others. Work can be volunteering, education, and homemaking.

Leaving a work role is a big life transition and can mean a loss of social and intellectual connection, routine and identity, and replacing those losses can be challenging.

Identifying your aim in continuing to work, and contributing your talents, assists in determining the level and type of involvement. Is the desire to work due to the need for additional income, to explore the development of an idea/product and/or contribute to a family need or community concern?

After years of being focused on a particular job or role, transferable strengths can be blurred. Therefore, objectively assess what you can, can’t and don’t want to do and which skills shine, by identifying:

  • your top two to three ‘hard’ skills, such as marketing or mechanics, and top two to three ‘soft skills’, such as effective communication, administration
  • what is it that you do well and feel energised doing? For example, serving a customer, baking a cake, managing a community project.

Dwell on your strengths, tend them, magnify them, leverage them.

Read: Older Australians pessimistic about employment prospects

There are four main work options. Which one/ones meet your needs?

1. Same employer – changed relationship

A desire for greater work-life balance, wishing to transition into retirement, tired of the commute, and family needs are among the reasons that can lead to seeking to alter an employment relationship.

Baby boomers are recognised as bringing a strong work ethic, with flexible employment practices being offered to encourage them to remain within the workforce. Globally, 29 per cent of companies offer phased retirement or other transition programs.

Selling your experience as an asset is a key strategy. Highlight your reliability, problem-solving ability and work-related accomplishments. Work options can include contributing as a consultant, going part time, undertaking project-based work, or filling in for those on leave.

2. Side hustle – self-employment

The concept of a side hustle means continuing in your day job, while developing your own business through:

  • following a problem instead of a passion. Do you have a unique solution to a common problem? For instance, safe cleaning products for people with allergies
  • seeking an industry that is underserved, perhaps locally where your expertise can add value
  • turning your expertise, childhood desire, hobby, such as cake decorating, into a business.

Starting a business online or at a community market is relatively inexpensive, allowing the concept to be tested and feedback to be received. Consider a business mentor through the local council, join a small business association to provide accountability and professional advice in, for example, developing a business plan.

Read: Older Australians should be able to work – without penalty

3. New career

When considering a new career, it can be hard to know which skills and qualifications will lead to secure work. The federal government’s Labour Market Insights and Your Career websites provide guidance, as does identifying local TAFE low fee or free courses. For instance, my local TAFE’s assisted-fee course listings last year included, nurses and aged care, child careers and teacher’s aides, construction workers, accountants, and software programmers.

Websites such as SEEK provide excellent job search advice on how to create a resume, interviewing for a job, etc.

Ensure that you’re up to date with technology/computer advancements. For free or low fee in-house or online programs, try your local library, community house or University of the Third Age (U3A), which also offers fitness, language, history courses for the over-50s.

When job searching, it can be helpful to develop a network with others to provide mutual support, encouragement, and networking.

4. Volunteering

By contributing your talents and time to a cause that resonates with your heart, you will gain different experiences, meet new friends, and assist in activities of concern.

Six million Australians do volunteer work each year [Census 2017]. About 35-40 per cent are over 55 and contribute 300 million hours mainly in community welfare, sport and recreation, education and training and religious activities.

Depending on circumstances, some will combine paid and voluntary work to meet their needs; for others investing in study will enable future fulfillment.

Read: Centrelink Q&A: How do the volunteer requirements work?

Merilyn Hill is an experienced life coach, trainer and speaker. Empowering people is her life passion. As a baby boomer herself, Merilyn is excited by the emerging trends that are creating a new age of retirement to which she brings expertise and life experience.

Merilyn is a former human resources executive at World Vision Australia and has owned her own career life consultancy business in Australia for over 15 years.

Merilyn has a graduate diploma in career development and holds professional memberships with the Career Development Association of Australia and Retirement Coaches Association in the USA.If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.