So you’ve hit the baby boomer years. Are you reaching an age when others expect you to RETIRE? Then you must be a baby boomer. But I know that many of you are not ready to stop working. Sure, long week day hours and weekend work may not be the type of work you are after. But if you are still looking for opportunities to apply your experience, skill set and expertise, there is a role for you in today’s marketplace.
There are many ways to work. Perhaps you are looking to swap the 9-5 grind for short term contract work or part time work opportunities. Alternatively you may be looking to set up a small consultancy in a niche market.
Or perhaps you are keen to participate in the gig economy. You may be interested to hear that the biggest demographic of all in the contingent marketplace is in fact baby boomers.
In this article I explore the pros and cons of more flexible work arrangements. I also provide hints and tips for building a comprehensive online profile to make it easy for employers to find and contact you.
A new career may well be ahead of you, albeit in a less traditional form!
What is the gig economy?
A lot of people associate the gig economy with companies like Uber or Task Rabbit, but the truth is “gigs” have been around for a long time.
A gig, by definition, is just work of a certain duration for multiple clients. A lot of people participate in the gig economy. And if you are a baby boomer looking to change the way you work, you can too.
Gig economy work is also known as contingent work. You don’t have any employer per se but rather you complete finite pieces of work for a range of different clients or employers. It is a flexible style of engagement. Currently this type of work is creating a lot of media attention.
Some suggest the contingent workforce is driving down the rates of workers and exposes them to unfair working conditions. It is obviously important to get your head around the sorts of challenges you might face when working in a contingent workforce.
The gig economy offers all sorts of work. From helping people to write business plans through to walking dogs and running errands, there is a job for everyone.
Baby boomer – Shifting work style trends
As I mentioned in the introduction of this article there are a range of ways you can work once your 9-5 career of working for “the man” is over. These include but are not limited to:
You work for a period of say 6-12 months in a limited term contract for a client. In this contract work you normally complete a specific role type or complete a specific project for that client. You are usually overseen by a permanent staff member of that company.
Consultancy and advisory work
You advise a client or employer on a matter or range of matters and perhaps even head up initiatives or projects to drive a particular outcome for that client. This role might not see you report into anyone at that company.
This could be anything from assisting a client for a day with their administration and finance back log to walking dogs in the park or fixing a leaking roof.
There are some pros and some cons of working more flexibly:
- You have full control over when you work (ie if you plan to take the whole of July off, then don’t sign on for any work in July!)
- You can choose the exact type of work you do
- You get to choose who you work for
- You gain more flexibility in the amount of work you do each week, month or year
The key benefit of a more flexible working style is that you have control over the above parameters. This is more important than job security for many baby boomers. When you have greater control over the scope of assignments and contracts you take, you tend to have greater work satisfaction.
- You may feel like a bit of an outsider. Some work won’t see you working within or alongside a team
- You need to spend some time and energy building a digital profile so that employees can find you
- It’s harder to predict when work will come in. You are at the mercy of your professional network of contacts and the listing of role vacancies
- Rates are variable. When you are a permanent employee, you get a salary package for the work you do. In a more flexible working economy you will need to negotiate your rates for the work you do.
Ideas to consider to see if more flexible work is for you
A transition to working in a more flexible way can take some getting used to. If you are a baby boomer looking to work more flexibly, here are some ideas to consider to get started.
Idea 1. Consider working out of a co-working space a few days a week. Monitor whether this makes you more productive or less productive. See how you feel when you are around other people during the day as you build your work pipeline or further develop your professional connections.
Idea 2. Build up your online professional profile by creating a highly comprehensive and professional LinkedIn profile, a short biography you can include when connecting with people online and a personal website (if it is relevant to do so in your specific industry and area of expertise).
Idea 3. Join professional associations and relevant online forums to form connections with prospective clients and to stay connected with others in your sector.
Idea 4. Make contributions to relevant professional online forums to further build your reputation and give back to your industry with your specialist expertise.
People pay attention when you offer assistance without seeking anything immediately in return. Contributions to relevant forums over time will build your digital profile.
Idea 5. Sit down and think about the digital channels that will help you to build work. For example, maybe you need to reach out to a couple of reputable recruitment agencies in your sector and commit to touching base with 10 people in your professional network every week etc.
The metrics you set up as goals will vary depending on how much work you are looking to secure across a year.
Idea 6. Remember to sign up to employee alumni programs when you leave companies. This will keep you connected with former colleagues and company representatives who will be well placed to connect you with relevant work opportunities in the future.
Common questions from baby boomers about working more flexibly
If you have worked in a 9-5 job for most or all of your career, you probably still have a lot of questions about how you can work more flexibly as a baby boomer. Here are some common questions I can get asked when people are considering the shift.
What sort of work can I source?
Many baby boomers are highly skilled. That means that many of them are on the higher-paying end of the spectrum, like corporate executives who choose to start consulting clients rather than retire. Others are on the lower-earning end, like those who walk dogs or drive.
Digital channels have created an ability to reach a HUGE audience from your very own home. You don’t need a large rented office space to secure flexible work as a baby boomer.
By creating a professional digital profile online you can source a large variety of work. That work could be contract work, consulting work, labour hire or anything in between.
What are the major differences baby boomers find from working a regular 40-hour week to working in the gig economy?
There is a new level of freedom to experience as a freelancing baby boomer. Instead of working for one company and reporting in to one superior, a world of tasks, projects and assignments open up to you.
As an independent worker you are usually assigned a specific piece of work with a defined scope. That usually translates into communication around the actually deliverables for that piece of work, rather than accountability for a range of day to day tasks as you might have accountability for in a full time position.
This does come with its complexities. It is very important to be clear about what it is you are expected to deliver as part of the work scope you are undertaking. Over communication on your first few assignments is essential if you want to make an exceptional first impression.
Will I still work as part of a team?
You might. You might not. Each piece of work you undertake is likely to be different. So you do need to consider the “isolation factor” in any work you take on.
It’s different being part of a work environment and then being on your own. Yes, maybe you are going into your client’s office, but you are not part of that group. You are an outsider.
For those of you who value having others around you in a professional environment, you may need to create more opportunities to experience camaraderie.
This might mean you need to join a professional organization or ensure you have lunch with current colleagues, ex-colleagues and potential clients frequently. You will want to create more of an interpersonal dimension to what can be an isolated way of working.
Are employers giving baby boomers adequate job security in the gig economy?
There is no security in the gig economy. Work typically comes and goes. But as a baby boomer having some flexibility in the way you work and when you work can be useful. Especially if you are trying to introduce new activities and patterns in your life as you strike a better balance between work and “play”.
The gig economy gives you more control over when you work, the type of work you do and for whom you work. That control is more important than job security, for some baby boomers.
How will employers find me for contract, consulting or other flexible work?
You have a large role to play in growing your digital profile on a range of social media and talent platforms online. This requires some focus and work effort to create. But once your professional profile is established, it is relatively easy to maintain.
The platforms you choose to “advertise” your skills and services on will depend on the sector you work within and the type of work you are looking to perform.
If you are looking to use the time ahead to work in low skilled roles you can tap into a range of contingent platforms such as Airtasker and Fivvr.
For more specialist skillsets you will need to build your digital profile on sites such as LinkedIn.
Be aware that a lot of sites are not specifically focused on the baby boomer generation, but this should not dissuade you from joining them.
The truth is that you are likely to generate work and secure “gigs” on your own reputation and years of keeping in contact with people. In essence this continued contact is like business development.
How do I get started building my digital profile?
Need a hand creating your digital profile? I help baby boomers to build digital professional profile “assets” such as LinkedIn Profiles, personal websites and professional biographies.
I also assist baby boomers to build communications strategies that you can use to build your digital profile and secure work in the way you want it – whether that be contract, ad hoc or strategic consulting work.
Sourcing work in a more flexible way is hugely rewarding for baby boomers. We should welcome the digital age with open arms. It represents a new era of connection, a new way of working and a flexible way of living!