Older Workers Can Weather Economic Downturn

By: Texas A&M Newswire
By: Texas A&M Newswire

COLLEGE STATION, May 21, 2008 - As the spring crop of college graduates
enters the workforce, seasoned workers can do several things to ratchet to
up their value in the job market, says a professor at Texas A&M University
who teaches and conducts research in the area of human resource management.

"On the whole, there is still a good demand for people who want to work,"
says Ryan Zimmerman, whose research has been widely published in such
publications as "Journal of Applied Psychology," "Personnel Psychology,"
"Human Resource Management" and the "International Journal of Selection and

"The key is to not let yourself stagnate. Keep your skills up-to-date and
network - whatever you can do to remain marketable - and above all, remain
flexible. I think it's good when a person in a position for a long time
decides to learn something new. It's good for the employee and it's good for
the organization."

Such freshening gives workers more options, such as promotion within an
existing organization or moving into a higher-paying job elsewhere, he says.

Additional jobs are opening up as the baby boomers retire, Zimmerman says,
and many employers prefer replacement workers who have some experience. The
pool of older employees is growing faster than the younger workers, as the
Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates between 1998 and 2015 the population of
people 55 and older will grow by 5.2 percent, while the population of people
16-54 will only grow by 1.6 percent. The number of those 65 and older is
expected to grow by 3.2 percent between 2015 and 2025, while the 16-64 age
bracket will only grow by .8 percent.

Many individuals reaching retirement age plan to stay in the workforce, as
indicated in an AARP report that states about 80 percent of baby boomers
plan on working past retirement age.

Many companies value the older workers so much, they are building in
programs and bonuses to retain retirement-age workers through their 60s and
even 70s, Zimmerman says.
"These people represent a lot of institutional knowledge and experience that
the company can't get elsewhere, and companies are finding it difficult to
capture that knowledge," he says. "I don't think the negative is in being
older, it's in being out of date with your skills - and that is fairly easy
to solve.

Familiarity with computer programs and advanced training are two areas that
are fairly easy to attain through professional organizations or community

"A lot of companies offer tuition reimbursement so not only are they paying
for your education, a lot of times they're giving you time off work to go do
it," Zimmerman says. "If you don't, you're missing out on a great

Zimmerman also recommends that workers of any age make an effort to network,
both with others in their own field and people outside their immediate

Fear of change is a big constraint for older workers, but Zimmerman says
change can be invigorating. He recommends that older workers take an
interest inventory to see what other job avenues exist. "That way you can
kind of shop around for what else you'd like to do in case you do go through
a down-sizing or lay-off," he says. "A little time spent on self-examination
can turn into a whole new career, with a whole new set of rewards."

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