“Three out of four boomers intend to keep working and earning in retirement. For many of these older workers, it’s a matter of economic necessity. But the feeling that they’re trapped in a job they’ll never be able to leave is causing many boomers to feel bored, uninspired, and dissatisfied.

Fortunately, we’re living in an era when telework is possible, and employers would prefer to keep their older workers — the ones with experience and institutional knowledge — happy.

If you’re an older worker and you’re unhappy in a job you can’t leave, here are some creative options to make your work life more tolerable.” – Meagan and Larry Johnson, the authors of
Generations Inc. – From Boomers to Linksters–Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work

Tips for Boomers in a Job Burnout

  • Telecommute part-time
  • Migrate seasonally
  • Take a day off
  • Work part-time
  • Become a consultant

Advice to Boomers to Succeed at their Workplace and the right way for career change

Meagan, Larry, these are some great tips but most often the older generation which has been affected on a large scale during the recession has been unable to find part-time work since the last 2-3 years. What are your suggestions to them in this scenario?

This is a tough problem. Young graduates are looking for work along with those laid off during the recession, so the competition for work can be fierce. Essential for Boomers who are looking for part-time work to replace their full time positions with part-time work is flexibility. Given that most of them have a history of working at a certain level in a particular industry, it’s understandable that they would want part-time work at a similar level, if not in the same industry. We would suggest being open to jobs at all levels that can utilize the skills they’ve developed over a career.

For example, we talk in our book about Larry’s step-father, who spent a 40 years career working as a salesman for Procter & Gamble. After retiring, he was bored, and he wanted to earn some extra money.  A salesman friend who worked for a liquor distributing company turned him on to a job in a liquor store, located in the red-light district of town. It paid much less than he was used to earning. And it was frequented by ladies of the night and various nefarious characters who hung out there. Having lived an upper middle class life in a nice part of town, it was NOT a job he would have ever normally considered.  But his friend urged him to try it, so he did.

With his gregarious salesman’s personality, his familiarity with the grocery industry, and his liking of people, it turned out to be perfect for him.  He said that he got to meet some of the most interesting characters in town, that he had a ball talking to him, and that he loved every minute of it. He worked there on weekends for 15 years until his death, and never missed a day of work.

We’re not saying that would be the right choice for everyone, but it speaks to the power of being willing to consider a wide variety of options.

What 3 important tips can you give to a boomer who is looking for a career change these days?

  1. Be willing to start at the bottom. You may think that entry level is a huge waste of your talent and experience – and it probably is – but that doesn’t matter. If you’re new to an industry, you have to pay your dues like anyone else.
  2. Start training and networking before you retire. We know a state health care inspector who’s job is to health care facilities and identify deficiencies. It requires that he interact with administrators and resolve disputes over how they deliver care. He decided that the skills he’s developed over the years doing this would serve him well if he became a mediator for the courts (mediation is an up and coming field.)  So three years before his retirement, he’s joined an association dedicated to the art of mediation and started networking. Meanwhile, he’s taking  seminars and classes in his off hours to become certified. When he retires, he’ll have the connections and the training to start a new career.
  3. Contribute what skills you have to any position you take to add value to the organization, and do it with a smile. For example, if you were in accounting, and you’re now working part-time in a bookstore, offer to help with any accounting tasks that might be needed.
  4. One more suggestion. When you take new position, be careful to never talk about how good it was where you used to work. Or, for that matter, how bad it was. New employers don’t like to be unfavorably compared to previous ones (just like new husbands don’t like to be unfavorably compared to exes.) And when you bad mouth a previous employer, it can make you sound bitter and potentially a problem for your new one.

In your new book Generations, Inc.: From Boomers to Linksters—Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work, how do you address the problem of multi-generational workplace on the issue of the uneasiness an older worker faces with a Gen Y boss?

In an AARP survey1 published in May 2008, 27 percent of workers ages 45 and up said the economic slowdown had prompted them to postpone plans to retire. This means Baby Boomers will continue to be in the workforce for some time to come. Meanwhile, Gen Xers and Yers with the technological skills and the necessary drive are getting promoted, so many Baby Boomers find themselves being managed by people young enough to be their children. If you are in that position and find it disheartening, here are some tips to help you have a successful and fulfilling finale to your career.

Swallow Your Pride

It may be hard to admit, but the younger person may have more cutting edge skills than you and the decision to promote her was justified. So if it galls you that she’s now your boss, get over it. It’s a done deal so your grousing about it won’t do any good anyway.

Don’t Compete – Support

Everyone wants the support of subordinates – especially bosses who may feel threatened because they have to manage some one older than they. So don’t try to compete with your younger boss, or prove that you are smarter or better experienced. It may be that you are, but trying to prove it will only alienate him.

Match Your Communication Style

As a Boomer, you probably prefer face-to-face communication, with phone conversations coming in a close second. And that may be true for your young manager, but it’s unlikely. One only has to observe a group of teenagers or twenty-somethings sitting around restaurant table, eyes glued on their PDAs, thumbs flying while they text each other to realize that the younger generations have adopted electronic communication whole hog. A recent Pew Research Poll found that 75% of all American teenagers today have a cell phone, and 54% of them text daily. So it’s no surprise that your Gen Y boss may prefer some sort of electronic communication to face to face. We suggest that you ask her what she prefers and do whatever she says. When in Rome…

Avoid “Grandpa-isms”

“When I was your age.…” “Back in the day.…” “The way we used to do it.…” Blah, blah, blah. It’s tempting to reminisce about the past. Really,Generation Y can’t imagine being as old as you are, so stop rambling on about the way it used to be. Your responsibility is to produce so the team and your boss succeed, not to relive the touchdown you scored back in high school.

Stay Current

You’ll need the latest technical and business skills to contribute and earn your keep. Besides, after you retire, they may come in handy. We know a Boomer telecommunications engineer who got certified in working with a new system six months before she retired. After she left, the company hired her part time to consult and do contract work for them because of her extensive experience and her current certification.

Avoid Comb-Overs, Pho-hawks and Tattoos

Nothing against them, but if you go to unusual lengths to look younger than you are, you’ll just look silly. So dress your age and do a great job. That’s what will count.

Offer To Mentor

You probably have significant skills that can be of use to others in the organization, especially if they can be tied to productivity, profitability, product quality, or organizational efficiency. Offer individual coaching, training sessions and/or blogs that make that wisdom available to others. Setting it up so your boss gets the credit for sponsoring it doesn’t hurt either.

Establish a contract for disagreement

Mention to your boss that you will probably disagree with her from time to time.  Ask her how she would like you to approach that process. I may be that he prefers it be in private. Perhaps he’d like a written argument supporting your side of the disagreement. Maybe he expects you to have a clear set of reasons, with data to support your side. Or, it may be that he doesn’t want any disagreement at all. Then you have to decide if it’s worth staying or it’s time to retire.

Always acknowledge the virtues of his side first.

Provide solutions, or suggestions along with the disagreement.  Never whine.

Clarify expectations.

Ask your boss to list her expectations of you, and ask if it’s ok for  you to list your expectations of her.  Do this separately, then compare the lists.  The discussion that follows will more than justify the time and effort spent.

Stay positive.

Avoid complaining about the company, your boss, your co-workers, or anyone unless you are speaking to the person in question and are ready to be proactive in solving the problem.

1 The Economic Slowdown’s Impact on Middle-Aged and Older Americans, AARP, May, 2008, http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/econ/economy_survey.pdf

About the Authors of Generations Inc.:

Meagan Johnson and her father, Larry Johnson, are the Johnson Training Group (www.johnsontraininggroup.com), whose clients include several government agencies, American Express, Harley-Davidson, Nordstrom, Dairy Queen, and many others. They are leading experts on managing multigenerational workplaces, and are coauthors of Generations, Inc.: From Boomers to Linksters—Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work (Amacom, 2010, GenerationsIncBook.com).