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5 Ideal Industries for Job-Seeking Retirees

Robin Reshwan

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one-third of the total U.S. workforce will be age 50 and older by 2016. This is an increase from 28 percent in 2007. At the same time this group is growing, the rate of college graduates entering the labor market will decline. This presents an opportunity for retired professionals who are looking to make extra money and stay active but in a bridge role that's different from their primary career. A study by Encore.org reports that employers target senior workers for their stability and consistency.

Here are some industries you can target for that bridge role.

Retail. Like it or not, Americans love to buy stuff. One of the fastest-growing employment segments is retail. This trend is likely to continue just to keep up with the increasing population. Retail hiring, however, is often challenged by high turnover and seasonality. Mature employees with a great attitude and customer service skills can be an excellent balance to the short-term mind set of many younger retail clerks. Keys to being hired are a genuine interest in the products being offered, obvious friendliness, some interest/exposure to technology and ability to physically move around. Although many people recognize Home Depot and Lowe's as two places that hire retirees, think creatively about other stores that may pique your interest. Book stores, specialty grocery stores, office supplies, toys, car parts, pool equipment, health food/vitamins are just some examples of retail employers.

Food service. As much as we like to buy stuff, we also like to follow up our shopping trip with a fast and convenient meal. Similar to the retail industry, chain food restaurants struggle with recruiting and keeping dedicated, customer-oriented employers. Most major fast food chains hire retirees, but you may also find openings at cafes within bookstores, coffee kiosks in grocery stores and other food/drink chains within another business location.

Health care. Close to 50 percent of AARP's 2013 list of top employers for retirees are in health care. Home care aides and health aides are two of the fastest-growing employment segments that don't require a specific degree or lengthy training process. To be qualified for an aide position, you should be healthy, physically active and patient with those who are not. Your role may be in a hospital, medical facility, nursing home or at a patient's residence. Hiring may be done by the health care provider, an external company who is contracting with a facility, a retirement community or by a nursing/care facility. Some hospitals may have volunteer opportunities that you can try first to get experience and determine if the role is a good match for you.

Customer service. Not looking for a physically active role but still have people skills? There are many part-time positions providing customer service. Some examples include security guard/lobby attendant who checks in guests and prints ID badges at an office building, a ticket taker at an entertainment venue (think movie theater, concert hall or sport arena) or an information desk clerk at a museum or community center. You might also be qualified and interested in being a customer service phone agent for a travel, products or services company. Many of the roles occur in a local call center where you take inbound calls from customers who have a variety of questions.

Work from home. The software giant Intuit released an Intuit 2020 Report that predicts 60 million workers, or roughly 40 percent of the labor force, will work from home by this decade's end. Many of these remote employees will be in customer service, sales and support positions. Before considering such a job, make sure you have chosen a reputable employer, that you understand exactly what kind of work is expected from you and that you know how you will get paid. Look for employer reviews through the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org), Yelp.com and Glassdoor.com. You can also search for the employer's name using Bing or Google to see what comes up. Avoid any business without an ethical reputation and a clear outline of job description and compensation.

How to Apply?

Review sites like Indeed.com, GrooveJob.com and Craigslist.com for local openings. For local stores/retailers and restaurants, make a list of 20 places/companies that you'd like to target. Look each one up online if possible to see if they have an application or other hiring details. Next, select a business casual outfit to wear as opposed to a formal suit. Visit each business on your list in person. Ask to speak with the manager and simply state that you really enjoy shopping there and are wondering if they're hiring for part-time or seasonal employees in the near future. Inquire about the application process and follow the steps provided. Provide a completed online application, if possible. You can also ask if any other locations are hiring.

If you haven't heard back in two weeks, it's fine to call or email to follow up on their hiring plans. After that, a call one more time or six weeks before a busy season is a simple way to be politely persistent. If it's a business that hires students, calling a month before school is back in session is also helpful. Don't continue to follow up if the manager has made it clear he or she has no upcoming hiring plans, or if you're not a candidate for the roles the business does have. You can, however, ask for any advice or suggestions of regarding other businesses that are hiring.

Showing up in person, dressed in modern but store-appropriate clothing is a good way to minimize the age barrier. Your friendly demeanor and willingness to take follow up steps also reflects your ability to interact with customers and peers, your desire to work, as well as your coachability. Good luck.

Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.

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