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Career coach: Tips for baby boomers wanting change

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By Joyce E.A. Russell
Special to The Washington Post
  • Job seekers wait in a line at a job fair in Southfield, Mich., in June 2011.

    Paul Sancya / Associated Press

    Job seekers wait in a line at a job fair in Southfield, Mich., in June 2011.

  • Leslye Louie meets with Derek Mitchell in San Francisco in 2011. Louie is national director of the Encore Fellowships Network, which helps match baby ...

    Civic Ventures via Associated Press

    Leslye Louie meets with Derek Mitchell in San Francisco in 2011. Louie is national director of the Encore Fellowships Network, which helps match baby boomers and others looking to change careers with nonprofits.

I often hear from baby boomers who have been laid off or are thinking about changing careers or doing something different with their work lives. Some feel, given their age, there may not be hope for them in today's marketplace. That would be a grim outlook for the 78 million boomers.
But rest assured, there is hope -- and many resources -- for older workers. This is especially good news, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census Bureau and others estimate more than 80 percent of baby boomers (who will, on average, live to be 83) plan to keep working after retirement to remain active.
For baby boomers needing or wanting to make a career change, there is some specialized advice and services to help them navigate into a new career field.
Figure out your interests
Baby boomers may not want to do the same type of work after age 50 that they did when they were younger. More than 50 percent of working retirees say they want to work in a new field. The National Business Services Alliance has a job match survey that compares a person's work interests and personal characteristics to hundreds of job profiles, providing them with a list of best-fit jobs. After users finish identifying work interests, they can identify their transferable skills and see enhanced job match results.
The Labor Department has an online tool to help people consider career options related to their original career. By entering your current or previous job at the MySkills MyFuture website, you are able to see other career fields that might give you ideas of alternative careers to consider (which have some similar characteristics to your previous job). It also enables you to narrow your search based on certain work-related characteristics and even list locations by Zip code.
Keep your skills current
AARP offers WorkSearch, an online skills assessment system for job seekers. It helps identify the types of jobs you may be best suited for based on your work interests, personality characteristics, and the work/life skills you already have. The WorkSearch system also provides skills validation tests based on a person's assessment results and numerous free online Essential Skills courses, which can be used to help to upgrade the skills needed to increase your qualifications.
Another valuable site from the Labor Department is Career OneStop, which provides more information on training programs.
Use websites for boomers
Some boomers may not have had to update their resumes or write a cover letter in 30 years, so they might need help with this. They may not have learned how to network using social media. To do all this, they should refer to some Web sites designed specifically to assist boomers.
  • has a section entitled "careers at 50+"
  • seeks to bring together employers with older job seekers.
  • has lots of valuable information to help seniors with their career plans
  • has numerous resources for boomers and older workers looking for new jobs and career-change strategies and tactics.
  • lists jobs and other ways of earning money. You can search job listings, post your resume, register for e-mail job alerts, use a jobs-wanted tool and find useful resources for mature workers.
  • is a job site designed to help baby boomers and older workers in finding employment. Job seekers can search job listings, find a collection of career articles and resources, and listings of local job fairs across the country.
  • is a career resource site for older job seekers that has lots of age-related career content, from resume writing to job search strategies. They also have a career and education section to assist boomers who are considering a career or job transition.
  • has information for searching for a job and starting your own business, among other resources for seniors.
  • is a site that offers articles and resources to help a person find a new career after ending a current career.
Boomers' workplace value
As many companies know, baby boomers and seniors have much to offer the workforce, whether as full-time employees, part-timers, consultants or in other creative work arrangements. Some statistics have shown that more than 50 percent of U.S. companies are willing to negotiate special arrangements for older workers just to keep them in the workplace. If you are one of these older workers, take advantage of the career resources out there, many of which are free, to get yourself set up for your next career move.

Joyce E.A. Russell is the vice dean and director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.

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