How to deal with "ageism" in today's labor markets
Lots of Boomers, especially women over 60 are looking for ways keep working to earn extra income to supplement or even delay their retirement. Various studies paint a somewhat bleak picture of retirement readiness among the American seniors.
Unfortunately, age discrimination is all too real in today’s economy. Lots of people “of a certain age” get passed over for promotion opportunities at work, forced into early retirement, or denied interviews for jobs that they’re clearly qualified for. Even when they are able to secure an interview, they are often told that they are “overqualified” – a thinly veiled reference to age.
Faced with these challenges, Boomers should take charge of their own destinies and chart their own path. Anyone who feels that they are being held back in their job by the unfairness of the youth-obsessed business world or looking for a new way to earn income should consider a freelance career and become solopreneurs.
Is Freelancing an Antidote to Ageism?
Freelancing is incredibly empowering and energizing because it offers an opportunity to earn money doing what you like, often working remotely, on your own terms and schedule. Freelancers are valued for their experience, so being “overqualified” is never an issue. There are plenty of freelance opportunities there, not only in writing or technology.
For Boomer women freelancing may be a way to balance the need to work with other family responsibilities. Many of them are caregivers to elder parents or help out their children as they come out of college and start a family life. Freelancing also offers up enough flexibility to focus on own health and wellbeing.
Here are a few reasons why freelance career might be an ideal fit for women over 60 who are trying to make money and save for retirement:
Work On Your Own Terms
If you’re to the point in your job where you’re tired of working for someone, mindlessly executing tasks and dealing with office politics, then freelancing might be right for you. As a freelancer, your home office is your office, there is no politics and the only tasks you have are the ones you assign to yourself to meet your client needs. There is “busy work” assigned by someone else. Every hour you spend working adds value to you and your brand. Depending on your focus area, you can probably do some work from anywhere that has an internet connection – from home, from a coffee shop or library, or while traveling to your family.
As a business person you can set your own schedule and take on the projects that meet your interests. If you’re an independent-minded person with an energetic spirit, freelancing is the best career ever.
Define Your Own Brand
Working as a freelancer gives seniors, particularly in professional fields, a lot more freedom to build their own brand in a way that might be less susceptible to age discrimination. Unlike traditional job search that relies on resume, freelancers bid on projects and well-defined tasks. What counts is the years of experience and track of success, so age is actually a benefit rather than a drawback. You are not “overqualified”, instead you will be “experienced”.
Providing your services as a freelancer also helps prospective clients to get out of “hiring manager” mode and focus on their business needs. Everyone would agree that “ageism” is an unfair and self-defeating hiring practice because it leaves out many experienced workers. Unfortunately it’s the reality today in America, so if you can help to change the relationship from employee/employer, it will work to the advantage of both parties.
Another great aspect of solopreneur freelancing is that it gives you the power to build a personal brand that is less vulnerable to age discrimination. Instead of posting your full resume with all of your years of employment, your profile can feature an experience summary that emphasizes your achievements most relevant to your focus area. If you focus on the value delivered to clients, you do not need to mention all the years that you have spent working. Clients won’t care how “old” you are, as long as they can see that you do good work.
Learn and Reinvent While You Earn
Women over 60 might worry that they don’t have the right skills or experience to be freelancers. After all, freelancing is usually associated with technology work or some form of creative design, writing or similar.
Don’t worry about not having the “right” experience. Once you have started focusing on your freelance business, prior experience is less important than being willing to learn and adopt. Yes, of course you need to have some skills. But field of play is wide and almost any work today can be performed by freelancers.
You don’t necessarily have to learn entirely “new” skills to succeed as a freelancer – you might just need to slightly adapt the skills and expertise that you’ve already been using at your day job.
Freelancing is a great way to transition from a full-time job into enjoyable semi-retirement. There is no right time to start, only your willingness to take charge and take your first step. You can start small, join online freelance platforms, talk to your network and find your first clients. Pretty soon you can use freelancing as a flexible way to make a few hundred or more extra dollars per month. This income can never be taken away from you by a sudden corporate outsourcing, an arbitrary “retirement age” or discriminatory hiring practices.