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More Older Workers Are Applying for Entry-Level Jobs, Survey Finds

Some are unretiring and taking lower-pressure jobs to cover rising costs

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Older workers are rethinking what they want in a job, and — in some cases — that might mean a new beginning. According to a recent Harris Poll survey, 79 percent of hiring managers say they see more older workers vying for entry-level jobs compared with three years ago.

The reasons older workers are taking on entry-level jobs can be as varied as the employees themselves, recruiters say, but finances are front and center. Although these positions typically mean taking a lower salary, the income from an entry-level job can delay living entirely off retirement savings.

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“With the cost of living and inflation, many retirees are going back into the workforce to supplement their income,” says Trevor Bogan, regional director of the Americas at Top Employer Institute in Charleston, South Carolina. “Many people saw their retirement savings take a hit.”

Many older adults believe they don’t have enough money to quit working altogether. A study Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research released this year found that half of the nation’s working-age households won’t have enough money to maintain their standard of living in retirement.

Health care costs can also be a concern for workers who aren’t old enough to qualify for Medicare. “Entry-level jobs can provide health insurance plans that cover the cost for prescriptions and routine physicals,” Bogan says.  

Businesses value older workers ‘soft skills’

Age discrimination often prevents older adults from landing jobs at the same level as their recent employment or higher. Among the hiring managers in the Harris Poll, however, 60 percent said they prefer hiring older candidates.

That’s not surprising, says Izzy Kharasch, 63, president of Hospitality Works, a bar and restaurant consulting company based in Chicago. He says hiring older workers can be a win-win for both companies and employees.

‘Mature workers, including myself, know the importance of showing up on time, working hard and having enjoyable interactions with guests and staff,” Kharasch says.

Those qualities, which often are referred to as “soft skills,” are especially valuable now to businesses seeking reliable workers. For example, as travel resumes after the pandemic emergency, many hotels and restaurants are on a hiring spree. Kharasch says that’s good news for people over 50. In June, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), reported that more than 80 percent of hotels in the U.S. are experiencing staffing shortages and offering increased wages, greater flexibility and expanded benefits as hiring incentives.

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“For older workers who want a flexible job, the restaurant/hospitality business is built on utilizing a part-time staff,” Kharasch says.

Pursuing a passion after retirement

A 2023 AARP survey found that older workers are rethinking their priorities and looking for jobs that go beyond a paycheck and offer a meaningful experience and flexibility. Many entry-level jobs offer the work-life balance older workers seek.

When Lisa King, 63, of Newark, Delaware, retired last February from her marketing job with a global materials science company, she saw it as an opportunity for a new beginning.

“I enjoy working and having a purpose, so after taking time off to recharge, I started looking for a flexible job where I could make a contribution,” King says.

To determine jobs that would be a good match, King met with Ed Samuel, a senior executive career coach with SamNova in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, to undergo a career assessment that took a deep dive into her personality, likes, skills and values. After a two-hour consultation, Samuel worked with King on her resume and offered recommendations for jobs he thought she’d thrive in.

“I’m a lifelong learner of landscaping and garden design, and my husband encouraged me to reach out to a local landscaping company we had worked with,” she says. “I told the owner I was looking for a part-time role, and in April, I started doing customer service work for the company.”

King said there was a bit of a learning curve for her on the landscaping business and the software used for garden design, but she enjoyed the challenges and connecting with her coworkers and clients.

“I had been working remotely long before the pandemic, so being part of an in-person team is nice,” she says. “I love learning and being challenged in my work, and I know it’s important to stay mentally and socially active as we get older.”

King’s duties have expanded at the company. She helps to create garden designs for residential clients and works with them to devise sustainable outdoor gardens.

“My husband is also continuing to work as an adjunct professor, and we both love our jobs,” King says. “We see ourselves working for at least another four to five years.”

Socialization plays a key role in older adults accepting entry-level jobs.

“A 2023 study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation found that 1 in 3 adults ages 50-80 are suffering from loneliness and feeling isolated from others,” Bogan says. “Knowing this lack of interaction can have damaging effects on mental and physical health, many older workers are seeking jobs where they can enjoy more socialization and interaction.”

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