Some married couples watch a newly divorced friend re-enter the dating pool and think, “Oh thank goodness we don’t have to do that.” Similarly, many older workers who are secure in their career or job thank their lucky stars when they learn that another mature worker has been laid off or, for one reason or another, is having to look for a new job.
Let’s face it, some things are simply easier for young folks, and dating and job seeking are generally two of them.
But the reality is, many mid-career workers have had to work hard to find a new job during this recent period of high unemployment. At the same time, more people are undergoing career changes midway through their career — and that in itself can cause stress. But here’s some good news: According to a 2014 survey by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), a large majority of mid-career workers who sought a career change (whether voluntary or forced) after age 45 found that their new positions led to less stress and felt their results were successful. In fact, 72 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “I feel like a new person.” Sixty-five percent said their stress levels dropped.
One explanation for the lower stress may be explained by another study that revealed older workers frequently move from a management position to a non-management position. And here’s some more good news: Half of the survey participants reported that although they may have initially taken a lower-paying position, eventually their pay increased.
Other findings from the study reveal that people with some college education fare best when it comes to making a career change. First of all, workers with no more than a high school diploma are less likely to change careers. Second, professionals with graduate degrees are also less likely to change careers, presumably because they have spent so much time acquiring specialized skills and knowledge that it may be difficult to translate that experience into a new career. So it turns out that your basic college graduate with a general BS or BA degree is more likely to make a career change.
Another interesting fact is that older men are slightly more likely to make a career change than older women.
If you are mid-career or later, you may have noticed that your salary bumps aren’t quite what they used to be. That’s because the greatest salary jumps come between the ages of 25 and 35, and then earnings begin to plateau. In fact, a recent study found that by age 45 to 55, earnings are considered to be shrinking because they no longer keep up with inflation.
Here’s another interesting fact from the same study. Higher income earners who experience a salary disruption, such as being laid off, are less likely to recover their previous level of earnings than lower-income earners. At the lowest income levels, a negative shock is likely to return to a previous high level within 10 years, and subsequent increases generally continue. At higher income levels, an income decline may or may not return to a previous high level, and subsequent increases tend to be low.
Does age discrimination still exist in the job market? Most research concludes it does. In today’s job market, about half of all baby boomer job seekers say they felt they were discriminated against due to their age, at least in terms of working as much as they would have liked. One study — narrowly focused only on women seeking entry-level positions — nonetheless found that younger workers were 40 percent more likely to be called back for an interview than older workers.
However, legal recourse for age discrimination is much harder to prove than it is for race or gender discrimination. For one thing, it’s difficult to tell if an employer rejects an older applicant due to age or because he or she is overqualified for the position and therefore seeking a higher salary than is necessary to pay for that particular role. It is also difficult to tell if an older worker is laid off due to his or her age or is one of many as part of a workforce reduction or reorganization.
In order to win a lawsuit for age discrimination, there must be concrete evidence to that effect. For example, either written documentation (such as an email or memo) or witnesses to a verbal confrontation in which a supervisor referred to the worker as some type of derogatory term that indicates ageism discrimination.
Late last year, another study found that it takes five months longer for an older worker to find a job than a younger person with similar qualifications. Unfortunately, the study could not determine if older people are less aggressive in their search because they have enough financial resources to be patient and discerning.
Boston College Center for Retirement Research. April 23, 2015. “Late-Career Job Changes Reduce Stress.”http://squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/late-career-job-changes-reduce-stress. Accessed May 6, 2015.
Boston College Center for Retirement Research. April 28, 2015. “Around 50, U.S. Workers’ Earnings Fall.”http://squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/around-50-u-s-workers%E2%80%99-earnings-fall/. Accessed May 6, 2015.
Boston College Center for Retirement Research. April 21, 2015. “Employer Bias Against Aging Boomers?”http://squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/employers-bias-against-aging-boomers/. Accessed May 6, 2015.