Seniors: Smart Options for Part-Time Employment

I spotted a headline the other day that claimed, “70 is the new 30!” That particular claim may or may not be true, but it does seem true that individuals entering their senior years have many life options available to them besides retirement.

Many seniors continue to work, and part-time employment offers several advantages.

Jane Strommen, extension aging specialist at North Dakota State University, says there are a few reasons seniors may consider part-time work instead of full retirement. “First, people may move to part-time work due to economic concerns in our current economy or not having enough savings,” she says. “Next, people are living longer and staying healthier, so they often want to stay engaged in working and not retiring. And third, staying engaged and actively involved is a positive thing for senior well-being.”

Art Williams, who recently retired from CoreLink Administrative Solutions in Fargo, agrees with Strommen. He works part time for a number of reasons. “I like to keep my mind active,” says Williams. He also enjoys interacting with people and making additional income for activities, emergencies, or other needs.

If you’re a senior interested in a part-time job, there are a number of things you can do to find something suited to your needs and wishes. Take the time to consider your personal situation, evaluate your employment options, and find opportunities available for someone with your skills and experience.

Consider Your Situation

To make the most of your search for a part-time job, think about your lifestyle and what you want to get out of working. Keep in mind your health, how much time you want to devote to a part-time job, economic needs, and personal interests as you examine employment opportunities.

Health

Evaluate the type of work your health allows you to pursue. For example, a healthy senior might enjoy summer employment with a parks and recreation department or something that involves physical activity. Orville Janzen, a former high school science teacher from Minnesota who is nearing 80, now spends six months of each year working with his nephew’s family on their farmstead near Harvey, N.D. He explains, “At my age, the number of things I can do is limited, but I help with taking care of the animals and do other things that allow them to do heavier chores. I am having a good time doing things that other people would call ‘work.’”

Time

Another factor to consider is how to balance working with other interests or needs. Simply ask yourself the question: “How do I want to spend my time?” Williams volunteers and pursues part-time, temporary work options that allow him to stay engaged, but give him a flexible schedule for other priorities.

Economics

Economic needs must also factor into the choices you make about part-time employment. Joyce Remmick, a local senior who works part time in her own cleaning business, says, “I work because it is something to do, but also because I need the extra money.” As you near retirement, calculate your expenses, along with retirement income and savings, to get an idea of the funds you’ll require. Most experts say you’ll need anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of your current annual income to cover your expenses in retirement. This range is broad because of a number of variables. At what age will you retire? Do you own your home mortgage-free? Do you plan to travel in retirement? What will you do for health care expenses? Consider your overall financial picture as you examine various job scenarios.

Personal Interests

Another important factor is your personal interests. Strommen points out, “The senior years offer a time for people to reinvent themselves, especially if there is the opportunity for flexible work options, so consider the passions and personal interests you might want to explore.”

Janzen thought about his interests and opportunities before deciding to work on his nephew’s farm. “I tried to match my activities with some of my interests. I’ve been an outdoorsman all of my life and I saw no reason to change that. Working on the farm with my nephew’s family allows me to enjoy driving a lawnmower for a few hours or do other light work. I enjoy those activities.” He has chosen to work in a setting that allows him to spend time with family members and also to have access to outdoor activities he greatly enjoys.

Evaluate Work Options

Once you have considered your personal situation, it’s time to consider employment possibilities. Sit down with a friend or consultant to brainstorm part-time jobs that align with your skills, hobbies, and areas of interest. Strommen says this process is sometimes called re-careering, and it “offers a chance to pursue other interests you have had that perhaps you have not been able to explore.”

AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) has an interactive section on their website called “Life Reimagined” that can walk you through a six-step process of making changes in your life (www.aarp.org).

Local staffing firms, like Preference Personnel, will conduct a skills assessment and then match you to available employment opportunities. Another resource, Experience Works, is a national organization with local offices that helps match seniors with jobs that fit their needs, skills, and interests (www.experienceworks.org).

Some retirees enjoyed their full-time work and choose to find work in the same field. For instance, Williams picks up short-term projects in the information technology field, where he has years of experience and training. He says, “I like to do anything that allows me to use my management abilities, my ability to communicate with others, and my technical background.”

Others may want to look for work outside their field. Gerald Cluff, employment resources specialist for a local faith community, encourages people to keep their options open. “If you worked in a health care setting, perhaps you may find a public sector job that matches the skills you have but is more consistent with interest in an hourly work schedule,” says Cluff.

Find Job Opportunities

Now that you’ve considered your options and made some decisions about the type of work you’d like to do, it’s time to start the job search. Many work opportunities are found through networking. Let your relatives, friends, acquaintances, and former work colleagues know you are interested in a part-time position.

Look in the classifieds in your local paper and view online job databases such as monster.com (see sidebar for more resources). You can also visit businesses to inquire about part-time positions and request an application.

Consider using the resources of an employment assistance organization like Job Service, Experience Works, or an employment agency.

Tania Cook, administrative consultant at Preference Personnel, invites seniors to stop in, meet with a consultant, and get their information on file. “We can conduct an informal interview and gather information about what you are looking for and, perhaps, share a position that is open at the time,” says Cook. Preference Personnel has a selection of short-term, temporary jobs and others that are permanent part-time. “We work with many people who have retired but want to remain in the work force, and such options are wonderful for them because they also have flexibility to travel or pursue other interests in life.”

Self-Employment

If you decide to work for yourself, then let people know about the type of work you’re able to do and that you are available to be hired. Consider creating some marketing tools and developing a business plan, if appropriate.

After she retired, Remmick got started in the cleaning business through word of mouth. “A neighbor of mine asked if I would clean up a friend’s trailer and so I did. My name got referred to others, and so I began to learn step by step along the way,” recalls Remmick. She let friends and acquaintances know about her cleaning services. Her business grew by word of mouth and she’s been doing this for over a decade. Remmick sets her own schedule, enjoys the part-time work, and is able to make additional income.

Go ahead and turn your personal skills into a job you love. Cluff related the story of his wife’s grandfather who took a class in making jewelry and polishing stones after he retired. His hobby became a business as he made things for others and generated extra income.

“Do what you love and the money will follow,” says Cluff. “Find something that you really enjoy. Don’t be afraid to take some of your knowledge and expand on it, and it can become something that keeps you busy, active, useful, and vital.”

Volunteering

You may land a part-time job by first volunteering with an organization. Once potential employers see the type of worker you are, they may be inclined to offer you a paid position. It’s not unusual for volunteer positions to evolve into part-time work.

Full-Time to Part-Time

If you haven’t yet retired, you may wish to transition from your full-time position to part-time responsibilities with the same organization. When Margaret Tweten retired from the NDSU Extension Service, she stayed on part time to guide orientation and training for new employees in the organization. “Having worked full time for many years, I thought the gradual transition into retirement would allow me to stay connected to the organization while giving me the opportunity to do some volunteer work,” says Tweten. “The ability to work somewhat of a flexible schedule was very appealing when I agreed to work part time.”

Experience Matters

Many companies are opting to hire for experience and are starting to see seniors as desirable employees. Experience matters and employers want to hire people who have a track record of reliability, teamwork, and a good work ethic. As a senior, you can highlight a lifetime of relevant employment experience, ability to interact with others, and flexibility in your available hours.

Learn to view your life experience as an asset—it can be your greatest advantage in landing a job or marketing your services to clients.

A New Career

If you retire at age 65 and live beyond 90, you may spend 30 years or more in retirement. That’s a lot of time to fill even if you have a long list of hobbies, volunteer work, or vacation plans. Part-time work can give you the chance to pursue a second (or third) career, stay engaged and active, seek out interests and activities you enjoy, and earn extra income.

As Orville Janzen says, “I do things that I consider to be fun but other people call it work. I enjoy keeping busy with work projects and they also allow me to engage one-on-one with others. I am getting close to 80 but I’m not slowing down!”

Sean Brotherson is an associate professor of child development and family science at North Dakota State University. He lives in Fargo with his wife, Kristen, and their eight children. He enjoys reading, writing, horses, fishing, and serving his faith community.

 

Filed Under: Elder Care

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