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Taking advantage of boomer retirements

  • Story Highlights
  • Baby boomers make up one-third of our nation's workforce
  • Survey: 66 percent of boomers expect to work for pay after retiring
  • Younger job-seekers should take advantage of the tech expertise they have
  • Having a second language or culturally diverse background is a plus
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By Rachel Zupek
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A survey by the Associated Press shows 66 percent of boomers expect to work for pay after retiring.

Amidst chatter of baby boomers delaying retirement is talk of a different nature. Not about when boomers are retiring, but how certain industries and the rest of the work force will be affected when they do.

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, currently make up at least one-third of our nation's work force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the next 10 years, the number of workers age 55 and older is expected to increase by 50 percent. As the age of the work force increases, the more boomers will leave their jobs, creating a need for younger workers to fill their positions.

Though many boomers plan to extend their stay in the work force, even those retiring will continue working after they do.

A survey by the Associated Press found that 66 percent of boomers expect to work for pay after retiring; 43 percent will do so because they want to stay busy; 27 percent say they'll keep working to make ends meet; and another 19 percent will work so they can afford "extras."

Although it's at a slower rate, boomers are still leaving the job market, in some industries more than others. For example, teaching and government saw waves of hiring in the 1960s and '70s and many of these workers are retiring now. Other industries, like utilities, and oil and gas, have older workers with long tenures -- therefore, they're likely to exit the work force sooner.

What this means for job seekers

Although some boomers are staying on the job longer than their forerunners, the fact is that older workers have to retire sometime. When they do, many jobs will be open, especially for younger people.

"Young employees bring new skill sets to old industries due to the Internet and other information-age technologies," says Nicholas Aretakis, career coach and author of "No More Ramen: The 20-Something's Real World Survival Guide." "They get to reinvent the wheel."

Aretakis doesn't think boomers delaying retirement will affect hiring for several reasons. First, there's a need for younger employees to meet a growing consumer market of their generation. Additionally, younger workers have some skills most boomers do not possess. For example, the ability to navigate and develop content for the Internet, like Web 2.0 and developing podcasts or video.

"College grads grew up with the latest technologies," Aretakis says. "Cell phones, instant messaging, iPod, GPS, online communications, Internet gaming. Demand for such skills is increasing, not decreasing."

Old industries with new opportunities

Industries that have been around for ages will have more opportunities than newer trades. Aretakis gives the following examples:

• Accounting -- "Strict demands on accountability require fresher workers who were recently schooled in the latest government accounting standards."

• Marketing/sales -- "Any consumer market segments will require updating skills in navigating and communicating on the Internet. This includes creating or leveraging blogs or popular sites and reaching large masses of consumers with updated techniques."

• Recruitment -- "Much of the future of recruiting will go to video. Employers and individuals will need to have a presence, which positions the Millennia's and Generation Y much better than prior workers less fluent or interested."

• Media/entertainment -- "Content can be easily sampled to audiences, gauging interest levels before making major investments in music, movie, TV, news, book, magazine and other printed media. These require Gen Y skills."

Want to take advantage of these job opportunities? Here are six tips from Aretakis to give you an edge over other job applicants:

1. Know who's getting snatched up quickly. Top bachelor's degrees in demand are: accounting, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, business administration/management, economics/finance, information sciences, marketing, and computer engineering.

At the master's degree level: MBA, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, and accounting.

2. Seek out the industries with the most boomer retirees. The industries with the biggest demand for college grads are: federal government; nuclear industry; healthcare, especially registered nurses; auto industry; petroleum industry; utilities companies; teaching industry; and the airline industry, especially mechanics and air-traffic controllers.

3. Exploit your tech expertise. You have at least one thing in your favor that trumps the experience of senior employees. You are technologically light years ahead of your boomer counterparts. Remind employers that you learned computer skills even before your A-B-Cs.

4. Use your accent. In an attempt to meet rising demand -- especially in the tech sector -- companies are hiring a lot more international students.

In an increasingly global economy, having a second language or culturally diverse background is a plus. Make your background part of your sales pitch.

5. Give them what they want. When asked to name the attributes they look for in college grads, NACE employers ranked these in the top seven: communication skills, strong work ethic, teamwork skills, initiative, problem-solving skills, analytical skills, and flexibility/adaptability.

6. Don't undersell yourself. Nine out of 10 employers said they will offer new hires medical insurance, life insurance, a 401(k) retirement plan, dental insurance, annual salary increases, and employee assistance counseling. Translation: They need you.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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