by Ronald Louis Peterson
My career as an award-winning broadcast journalist and public relations counselor ended with a corporate downsizing the year I turned 57, which coincided with the start of the Great Recession. Since then, I’ve had a few interviews in my field but there was always someone who was a “better fit.” So, I reinvented myself as a new car salesman for eight months until that position was eliminated when the auto industry tanked.
I reinvented myself again to start a pharmacist recruitment company. But despite 60-hour work weeks for a year, that didn’t work out either because the healthcare recruitment business was another casualty of the economic downturn.
Next, I landed a part-time position as an English composition instructor at a local community college, with the hope that it would lead to a fulltime position. But because there was a long waiting line to fill those jobs and because I was paid minimum wage, I left to work with a former colleague until he closed his small public relations firm.
After assessing the job market at 63, I turned to writing novels with the hope of making money one day. So, I’m following my passion because there are still too many myths about older workers that prevent me from landing another paying job in my field.
Myth: Employers don’t discriminate against older workers
- According to a 2013 AARP survey, 64 percent of older workers between 45 and 74 say they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace and 93 percent say it is very or somewhat common.
- According to a 2012 Investors Group survey of small business owners in Canada, 79 percent said it was not likely that they would fill their open positions with someone older than 65.
- According to a 2012 survey by Adecco of hiring managers at 500 U.S. companies, 72 percent think mature workers need more technological know-how and 33 percent think mature workers resist taking direction from younger managers.
Myth: Most workers 65 and older are less productive than younger workers
According to a 2012 Investors Group survey of small business owners in Canada:
- 85 percent said that workers 65 years and older are just as productive as younger workers.
- 79 percent think that senior workers have the required level of energy and ambition for their jobs.
Myth: Workers don’t want or need to work until they’re 65
According to a 2013 Gallup survey:
- 37 percent of non-retired Americans say they expect to retire after age 65.
- 26 percent at age 65.
- 26 percent before age 65.
Gallup found that the big change is an increase in the number of people who expect to work past age 65. It rose to 37 percent in 2013 from:
- 22 percent in 2003.
- 14 percent percent in 1995.
However, older workers are apparently being forced to retire before reaching 65 since the average age of U.S. retirees today is 61.
Myth: Older workers are not go getters
According to a 2013 Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, an aging population and increasing rate of entrepreneurship among older workers has led to a rising share of new entrepreneurs in the 55 to 64 age group. And that’s an increase from:
- 23.3 percent in 2012.
- 14.3 percent in 1996.
Myth: Older workers have a poor work ethic
According to a 2009 Pew survey of people aged 16 and older, 74 percent believe that older adults have the best work ethic. Even young people think their parents’ and grandparents’ generations have a better work ethic:
- 68 percent for those under 30.
- 73 percent for those 50 and older.
- This sentiment rises to 80 percent among 30 to 49-year-olds.
Myth: It is cost effective to replace experienced workers
A 2005 analysis of Towers Perrin data indicates that replacing an experienced worker of any age can cost 50 percent or more of the individual’s annual salary in turnover-related costs.
Where does this leave me?
Where does this leave me? As I pursue my passion for creative writing, I’m thankful that my wife has a job and that she’s six years younger than me. And, while I regret that I did not “retire” from my public relations-marketing communications profession on my terms, I’m now working at becoming a great novelist–my real “dream” job.