Expert: Retirees returning to work should skip 'career obituary' when job-hunting

For older workers who retired and are considering a return to the workplace, the tight labor market is promising.

“There's a wide gamut of opportunities that people pursue after retirement,” Kimberly Schneiderman, a career coach and Randstad RiseSmart senior practice development manager, recently told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). A key to landing a new position is to not get stuck in the past. Hiring managers aren’t interested in “a career obituary,” she said.

With close to two open jobs for each of the 6 million unemployed workers that the Labor Department counted in February, older workers are in a more powerful position today than they’ve been in years to score a new job.

Retirees looking for a new start need to be careful not to “just recite everything that we've done for the last 10, 20, or 30 years,” she said. “We really need to think about what we're going after next and how our experience aligns with the needs in that area.”


Workers transitioning to a new field will have the advantage of re-deploying their skills and experience. “You might be able to use the transferable skills from the career that you've had into your new role,” she said.

Senior woman, engineer-technician, operating complex equipment on electrical dispatching station
(Photo: Getty Creative) (Olga Rolenko via Getty Images)

Why some retirees end up returning to the workforce

In February, 3% of retired workers made the decision to return to work, marking the highest percentage to date during the pandemic and a continuance of a movement that started in the spring of 2021, Nick Bunker, the director of economic research at Indeed Hiring Lab, recently told Yahoo Money: “Even more retirees could come off the sidelines.”

What’s spurring these older job seekers?

“A lot of people decide to return to the workforce after retiring because they might be feeling unfulfilled in not working,” Schneiderman said. “Maybe they're annoying their spouse or a partner at home. Maybe they're finding that their hobbies just aren't as fun as they thought they were, or their family isn't as available as they thought they might be. Also, for some, it's all about finances.

Do the soul-searching

There are some key questions retirees eager to return to the workforce should ask themselves, according to Schneiderman. First, they need to “reconsider what fulfillment is going to look like at this point in their lives,” she said.

“They've probably enjoyed some aspects of that retirement time. They need to figure out what they don't want to lose completely as part of going back to work. Then, they need to consider, what does going back to work look like for them?” she said. “Is it within the field that they came out of? Is it something new? Are they going to choose to go into consulting? Or are they going to choose an encore career, such as teaching or other nonprofit or philanthropic type career paths?”

The bottom line: “The important thing is that when people are going into a career path, no matter what it is and what the circumstances are, it's something that they're going to enjoy and can really see themselves doing and dedicating their time to each day.”

Don’t set an expiration date for a comeback career

Returning to work also requires a new mindset. This is not the same as embarking on a several decade climb up the career ladder in someone’s primary career. How long a one-time retiree stays in these encore career paths might be more predicated on when they left, or other factors such as health, according to Schneiderman.

This stage has a different playbook. You might do something for a few years, and then move onto something else, or do a few different things at the same time. Nothing is forever.

“It can really depend on what the reasons for coming back were,” Schneiderman said. “We know that people are working well into their 70s now.”

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Kerry is a Senior Columnist and Senior Reporter at Yahoo Money. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon

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