It's tempting for this generation to work harder and update their skills but learning the 'right' things is the answer

An American study shows that more than half of older US workers are forced out of long-time jobs before they're ready to retire.

The research suggests that up to 22 million of these people have, or will, suffer a layoff, forced retirement or other involuntary job separation.

As Robin Ryan, author of Retirement Reinvention says, "Too many baby boomers are settled into jobs that their companies just can't wait for them to leave. And this may be the year that your company gives you the boot."

Though there are no comparable studies for the local baby boomer workforce, Auckland-based career management specialist Janet Tuck at Career Clinic says they face their own challenges in the workplace.

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"They have traditionally been hard workers, resourceful and pretty self-assured about the contribution they want to make. Many will have been relatively successful and made it to the top of their field. They might feel relatively confident about their value to an organisation, due to their solid work ethic. And its this feeling of security that might catch them out."

She says workplaces are changing and the need to understand new developments has never been more important.

"I often get asked 'How do I stay relevant?' This is a great question for a boomer. Because the temptation is for them to simply work harder, and try to update their skills, particularly the technical ones. But the answer isn't always about trying to keep up with all the latest thinking in their field. Learning is important, but learning the 'right' things is the key. The learning that will be most relevant and helpful, will be related to the skills that they already have. Building on existing strengths will enable boomers to leverage off these into new areas, especially the skills often referred to as soft skills."

They should talk to younger employees in their organisations. Find out what matters to them, where they think things are going and what their ideas are. And then become a champion for them and their ideas.

She also advises to read up on trends and developments in their industry.
"Talk to others about this and find out where new ideas are being discussed and get involved with these conversations. They are a great opportunity to listen and learn, and also to contribute in a positive way."

And that CV probably needs a refresh too.

"Get help to do this if it hasn't been done in a while. It needs to look professional and present a person's strengths and achievements in a way that helps people understand the value they bring. Years of experience in one industry will give boomers lots of skills that are transferable to new areas. They need to practise talking about their skills in ways that are not locked into only one industry.

"Many of my clients in the mid to late career stage, have not given any thought to their career development for many years. They are not prepared when the unexpected happens. And they have tunnel vision when it comes to what to look for. My job is often to help them realise that it is important for them to be open to new opportunities and jobs in new areas. This takes a lot of courage, but can be very rewarding when they successfully pivot into a new career.

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"Staying relevant and remaining in the workplace can be a challenge for boomers. How you look says as much about you as an out-of-date CV. Updating a wardrobe and a hairstyle can make a big difference to how you are perceived by others. If it's time for an updated look, go and do it."