Canadians are working longer into their lives than previous generations. In 2018 nearly 33% of Canadians over 60 were working or looking for work.
Combine that with the fact that between 2014 and 2018 the number of Canadians between 55-64 grew three times faster than those between 15-54 and it becomes clear that having to adapt to a changing workforce is becoming an increasingly common experience.
If you’re over 50 and working or looking for a new job, what can you do to stay current?
Figure out why you want to work
In a survey of working Canadians over 60, nearly 50% of respondents said they are working out of necessity. But there are many reasons why you might choose to work past 50. Perhaps you feel you have something unique to add to your company, or you find having a job to do keeps you engaged, or you feel an obligation to your organization.
Whatever the reason, figuring out why you want to continue working could help define how you are looking for work and what activities would be worthwhile for you.
For example, if you are staying in your current job primarily for the salary and are planning on retiring at the first opportunity, it may not be worth yours or your company’s time to spend 3 months training on a new computer system. But if you you’re looking for a new job because you find that working keeps you active and gives you a sense of purpose, then you may be willing to look at jobs that pay less but keep you engaged.
Research and stay connected
Whether you’re looking for a new job or remaining in your current position, staying connected to people and information is helpful in preparing for change.
Talk to the people you work with. Engage with your personal networks of professional contacts. Read about your industry in trade magazines or online. If you aren’t already a member, online social media networks–especially ones that focus on professional profiles, like Linkedin.com–are a great way to stay up to date with industry trends. When you are in the know on your industry and business, you’ll have a better idea of what changes may be coming in the future. You’ll be able to prepare for change instead of reacting to it.
If you’re looking for a new job, then keeping in touch with professional contacts (or even just friends) is one of the best ways to find out about job opportunities. Getting a sense of your local labour market will also help you understand how well your skills match with available jobs. For example, if you want to work in sales, but local sales jobs are not currently available, you may have to think about how your skills could be adapted to another industry–like customer service–or think about how far you are willing to commute to work in the industry of your choice.
Changing technology and continuous learning
As you’re staying connected to information about your industry, pay attention for news about new, disruptive technology. Technology–particularly increased automation–is changing the Canadian workforce.
One of the best ways to stay competitive when jobs are being automated is to engage in continuous learning–working on developing your skills and knowledge to better perform your job. While automation will replace many jobs, it will also open up some new ones that deal with the automation itself. It will likely not be worth your time to go from being a cashier to learning to code. But automation will open up some new career opportunities and it will make other un-automated jobs more important.
Jobs that require repetitive tasks like data entry or telemarketing are likely to be replaced by automation. But jobs that rely more heavily on human interaction and dynamic, critical thinking are more likely to remain, solely human jobs.
You can ask yourself what skills you have or could develop that align with the types of skills that will be valuable in the coming years. When you’ve identified some key skills, you can start to look at ways to develop those skills. Whether it’s enrolling in a course, signing up for workshops, or researching online, by starting to think about developing or strengthening key skills now, you’ll be ahead of the competition when automation begins to change the types of jobs that are viable.