Why Freelancing Appeals to Older Workers

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It may seem that the gig economy is dominated by millennials, but that may be only partly true. Perhaps their desire for independence and the necessity to make ends meet and pay down student debt necessitated their move toward project work. But increasingly, older adults over age 55 are easing into retirement by taking on short-term gigs and freelancing.

The Economic Policy Institute analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, comparing statistics for independent contractors and freelancers for 2005 and 2017. Older workers over age 55 accounted for 37 percent of all independent contractors in 2017. For those in the 55-64 age group, 22.97 percent were independent contractors, up from 18.8 percent in 2005. For those over age 65, the numbers were similar. The share was 14.1 percent in 2017, up from 8.5 percent in 2005.

Over the same period, the number of total workers employed as freelancers and independent contractors fell slightly – 10.9 percent in 2005 versus 10.1 percent in 2017. So while the pool of independent workers got smaller, the over 55 workers made up a larger percentage of it. And the folks at EPI expect this trend to continue.

So why are older workers gravitating toward freelancing? According to a recent Forbes article, there are several reasons.

1. The barriers to entry is fairly low. That makes it easier to enter the gig economy. Digital platforms like Freelancers Union, Upwork and Flexjobs have made it easy for anyone to tout their skills compared to traditional word-of-mouth methods. All they have to do is complete their profile, talk up their skills then wait to be connected.

However, as simple as all this sounds, there is no guarantee that there will be a suitable connection between the older worker and an opportunity. It’s a passive approach and there’s a lot of competition. It’s easy for their profile and resume to get lost in the pile of applicants.

2. There’s no apparent cap on what they can earn. As a freelancer, older workers can negotiate their rate more readily than if they were hired. This arrangement can appeal to older workers who may be frustrated by age discrimination that they might have faced in the job market.

3. Older workers’ expertise is more valued as freelancer. When companies hire freelancers, they search for the most qualified candidate. They WANT someone that has experience. They don’t want to train a new person or risk possible mistakes. Experience counts, which is why freelancing may appeal to older workers.

4. Attitudes about “idle capacity” are changing. Older workers don’t want to spend their later years doing nothing but gazing out their window and the world rushes by. They want to participate. They want to be productive members of society and do meaningful work. That’s why many older workers are staying in the workforce longer, and why many of them gravitate toward gig jobs and freelancing.

5. Older workers want to remain connected to the outside world. Without a part-time job or a freelance gig, many older workers would feel isolated. By working, they are more engaged with the world. They join groups and form friendships, which give their lives meaning.

If in doubt about the impact of older workers, consider this statistic by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By the year 2020 (next year), one-fourth of the U.S. workforce will be over the age of 55.

Older workers are not going away any time soon. They want to work. They want to share their knowledge and expertise. They want to remain relevant and provide meaningful service in our communities. Many of them are choosing contract work and freelancing as a way to do just that.

Eight Reasons That Hiring Older Workers Makes Good Business Sense

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by the year 2020, one-fourth of the U.S. workforce will be over the age of 55.

Let that sink in for a minute.

One out of every four individuals working in the U.S. in the year 2020 will be over 55. Think about what that means for your business if you are an owner and employer. Are you prepared to hire older workers and have them become a viable part of your team? With so many 55-and-over individuals available for work, it would be a mistake to overlook them when it comes to hiring. They bring a lot of strong skills and business experience to the table, and they’re not about to retire any time soon. When you’re searching to hire the most qualified individuals for your business, don’t overlook the candidates over age 50 because they may have the skills that you need for your  business.
Still not convinced if older workers fit in with your organization? Consider these advantages:

1. Older workers bring loads of business experience. That means they can usually hit the ground running from Day One and make an immediate impact. They’re not shy about asking questions or get clarification about a project, and they’re eager and willing to learn.

According to a 2014 survey of the Society of Human Resource Management, 77 percent of HR managers surveyed cited work experience as the top advantage of hiring older workers, followed closely by maturity and professionalism (71 percent) and a strong work ethic (70 percent).

2. Older workers won’t break the bank. Although they bring a lot of work experience, they’re not expensive. In fact, in most situations, they’re not looking for a promotion or an office in the VIP suite. They’re more interested in finding a job with a steady income, one that allows them to contribute their talents. That desire for stability makes them attractive to employers who may tire of younger workers jumping ship after giving them on-the-job training.

3. Older workers are willing to learn new things and develop their skills. If they’ve lost a job or had an extended period of unemployment, some may have gone back to school for additional course work or taken computer classes to update their skills. So they return to the workforce well prepared and better educated to tackle today’s biggest business issues. And don’t worry about a lack of understanding of current technology either. Today’s 50+ workers are more technologically savvy than previous generations. These individuals have grown up with older versions of technology, so learning new technology shouldn’t be a problem.

4. Many older workers have a stronger work ethic than their younger peers. They understand what is expected of them, and you won’t find them standing idly in the break room gossiping with co-workers. They arrive on time, are willing to work overtime if necessary and they treat everyone with respect. In fact, their work ethic makes them excellent candidates for customer service positions, according to Over50JobBoard.com.

5. Older workers are loyal and reliable. They’re not looking to climb the corporate ladder or the next business opportunity for themselves. By age 50, they’ve already reached the pinnacle of success in their careers and are in the twilight of their careers, they simply want to contribute to a cause, be active in the community and stay relevant in the business world. You know you can count on them to arrive on time, be respectful of other workers and with clients, and perform their tasks efficiently and with little fuss or drama.

6. Older workers bring maturity and professionalism to the job.  Because of their experience, they have faced numerous business scenarios requiring good communication, clear thinking, problem-solving ability and an ability to look at a situation from different angles. As a result, there is a maturity in their decision-making that you won’t find in younger workers.

7. Older workers are ideal stress relievers. Because they have faced many high-pressured situations in the past, nothing fazes them. They can remain patient, calm and cool-headed in the most stressful situations.

8. Older workers have a positive attitude. They’re generally cheerful and are grateful to be working at all. Think of Robert DeNiro’s character in “The Intern,” who was always happy to help out his co-workers, do as he was asked without argument, and always had a smile on his face. He was just happy to belong to a group of dynamic professionals and contribute his insights and experience to the job.

The next time you need to hire someone for a job, don’t overlook the over-50 candidates. They have a lot to offer and may have just the skills you need to help your business thrive.

Overcoming First-Day Jitters at a New Job

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most workers will hold at least four jobs before they reach the age of 40. In addition, the youngest workers – the millennials – will likely hold 12 to 15 jobs in their entire lifetime, according to Forrester Research.

That’s a lot of first days on the job.

Looking at my own career path, I can honestly say this is true. By the time I turned 40, I was on my 12th job. That’s counting temp and freelance gigs.

With so many jobs – short-term, long-term and in between – I had a lot of first days, and a lot of first-day jitters. It never gets easier as you get older. There is always a certain level of excitement, anticipation, and yes, anxiety, when starting a new gig.

Some anxiety is normal. It’s okay to feel nervous about meeting new people, entering a new work environment and facing new challenges without, hopefully, falling flat on your face. But if those anxious feelings are so overwhelming to the point where you can’t perform, let alone step inside the door to your new office, then it may be time for an attitude adjustment, or at least, better preparation for your first day.

Below are a few tips for overcoming the first-day jitters based on my own experience in the workforce. Each person is different, of course, so some of these practices may work for some people and not for others. Find the right balance that works best for you.

1. Get a good night’s sleep. Many studies show that seven to eight hours of sleep is needed to feel refreshed and mentally alert. You may be able to get by on five or six; other people require more than eight. But ahead of a busy first day, going to bed a little earlier than you usually do and getting more sleep may be a smart way to start your new gig.

2. Eat a healthful breakfast. Another smart way to start your day is by eating a healthy breakfast, including some protein, which will keep you feeling fuller longer. Avoid heavy carbs like pancakes which can make you sleepy. Instead, choose healthy options like fruit and yogurt or eggs and toast.

3. Dress for success. No matter where your new gig is located – even if the gig is a telecommute job from home – dress for the occasion, especially on your first day. Avoid overly casual clothes, like sweatshirts and jeans. Save the casual wear for another time. You want to make a good impression, so dress the part. It might also put you in a more professional state of mind.

4. Allow plenty of time to get to your workplace. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being late on the first day of your new job. If commuting, check and double check train and bus schedules. If you ride a bike to work, get it tuned up beforehand so you won’t have accidents or breakdowns on the way to work. Ditto with your vehicle. Check traffic conditions and find alternate routes if the one you planned to take is blocked for some reason.

5. Go with the flow. Your employer or client will likely have an agenda that first day. So relax and let them take the lead.

6. Be an active observer. One of the benefits of being a new kid on the block is that you can remain detached and somewhat anonymous. By being an active observer in the office, you can learn a lot about a company. Pay attention to the office environment. For example, note how workers behave, not just toward you but also toward each other and toward their bosses. Are they friendly and treat each other with respect? Or do they gossip about co-workers and badmouth their bosses?

7. Smile and be friendly. Offer a firm handshake when you are introduced to other people on your team.

8. Listen, and ask questions. On that first day, you will likely receive tons of information about the company, the project and the team members. If you are confused about something, be sure to ask questions so there are no misunderstandings. Don’t start off on the wrong foot because you misunderstood an instruction.

Don’t let your nerves get in the way of a successful start at a new job or client project. Plan ahead and arm yourself with a good night’s sleep, a healthy breakfast and a confident, get-it-done attitude, and you are sure to start your new gig on the right footing.