Temping: An Option for Older Workers

Temping: An Option for Older Workers

According to government data, 40 percent of workers older than 55 were in the workforce as of February 2010 -- up from just 29 percent in 1993. That number is expected to increase to 43.5 percent by 2018. This trend reflects the need for many older workers to either stay in or rejoin the workforce to beef up their retirement income.        

In a survey released in 2004, about one-third of pensioners age 55 to 64 were employed, and 15 percent of whom retired from another job before taking their current position, according to Sarah Rix, senior policy adviser at AARP.

"A lot of us were not earning that much in our working years, and Social Security is just not that great," says MaryLu Baumbach, a retiree who turned to temp work to make ends meet.

Temping is a practical option for many older workers. Temporary staffing agencies help you land part-time jobs as well as offer additional benefits, and they want to hire you. "We've received…little resistance from employers in hiring older workers," says Michael Lynch, president of the Des Moines office of temp agency Manpower.

Check out these benefits to help you decide if a temp job is right for you.

Work Your Own Hours

If you aren't seeking a standard eight-hour, five-day-a-week position, a temp agency may be able to accommodate your schedule. "We have been successful in creating some job-sharing situations," says Lynch. "That means sometimes we'll assign two people to one job, allowing one person to work two days and the other to work the other three days of the workweek.

Experience Wanted

It's likely prospective employers will value your work history. "The people I work for are all in their 30s and 40s, and I think they realize that hiring older workers means hiring experience, dependability and a good work ethic," Baumbach says.

Social Security Considerations

If you're receiving Social Security benefit payments, you may need to monitor how much money you earn because of income limitations. According to Evelyn Morton, director of economic issues at AARP, those who start collecting payments before full retirement age will have $1 in benefits deducted for each $2 they earn above the annual limit. In the year they reach full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for each $3 they earn above that year's limit for the months before they reach full retirement age. Once you reach full retirement age, you get your full benefits, regardless of how much additional money you earn. "The best way to determine your own situation is to take a look at the Social Security Administration's Web site," Morton says.

By temping, you can control your earnings, keeping them under the limitations. Address this issue in your initial meeting with the temp agency.

Job Prep 101

Working through a temp agency can also help you overcome some job search-related hurdles before approaching an employer. Many agencies will provide counseling on resume preparation, interviewing and other essentials for a successful job search. Agencies will often provide self-guided tutorials on current office software and other skills necessary in today's workplace. Don't be shy -- ask your agency for information regarding your job hunt; even if it does not have the information, the agency may be able to direct you to the right place.

Now Find That Job

If temp work could be just what you're looking for, get started with these tips:

  • Get to Know Computers: Jobs ranging from clerical or admin work to retail sales now require some expertise with computers -- particularly a working knowledge of the Microsoft Windows environment. Ask your agency for a list of in-demand software skills. You may find related tutorials offered by area community colleges, your local library or on the Web.
  • Overcome Culture Shock: If you've been out of work awhile, a number of pivotal changes may have occurred. For instance, corporate downsizing has caused employers to expect more from each employee. Also, employees are now expected to increase the speed at which they complete assigned tasks. Be sure to ask your agency what the employer expects from you.
  • Market Yourself: The responsibility of selling yourself to potential employers -- even with a temp agency as your partner -- falls squarely on your shoulders. Document your experience and achievements without emphasizing your age. Your maturity is nothing to be ashamed of, but there is no point in bringing it to a potential employer's attention.
  • Look and Feel Your Best: You are your own most important product. How you present yourself should reflect your confidence. Present yourself professionally, emphasize your relevant, current skills, and prove yourself to be reliable and productive.

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