Over 50 and looking for a job to serve the greater good? You’re not alone

In our recent job seeker survey we discovered that 30% of job seekers are over the age of 50. We invited Encore.org, a nonprofit that helps people find meaningful careers in their second half of life, to talk about what this means for job seekers and organizations.

by Marci Alboher, Vice President, Encore.org

It’s no surprise that Idealist’s recent research shows an increase in the over-50 crowd searching for nonprofit jobs. Some feel it’s time to give back after years of other kinds of success. Others are done with the for-profit sector – after it decided to be done with them.

Still others have always worked in cause-oriented environments and are ready for new challenges. According to the latest Encore.org research, 9 million people ages 44 to 70 are in encore careers – second acts for the greater good – and another 31 million are interested in launching their own encores.

Dick Goldberg is one of those 9 million. And he’s one of the lucky ones: He landed in just the right place.

Though over the age of 50, Dick Goldberg found a great nonprofit career opportunity. (Photo Credit: Dick Goldberg)

An accomplished playwright and screenwriter, Goldberg wrote for various television shows, including the hit comedy “Kate & Allie,” in the 1980s. In time, Goldberg – also a capable musician – began using his skills to contribute to causes he cared about.

He wrote and directed a cabaret fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; created a video about Philadelphia history for the Franklin Institute’s launch of its Imax theater; penned sermons for rabbis on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League. He felt increasingly drawn to make this kind of work more central to his life.

Offhandedly, he told his daughter, a “social activist who gets things done,” that if the right nonprofit job came along, he’d take it. She suggested he start looking around on Idealist.org.

The first time he browsed the site, he saw a posting for a job at Coming of Age, an initiative that helps boomers become volunteers and helps nonprofits best use the talents of the 50-and-older set: “My approach was fairly narcissistic,” he recalled. “I’m doing that and loving that. So clearly that’s what we all should be doing.”

When Goldberg was hired at 57, he was a natural fit for an organization whose mission was to help people 50-plus figure out next steps and connect and contribute to their communities. “I was all about that and had an inside view,” he told me.

Meanwhile, is the rest of the nonprofit sector ready to embrace 50- and 60-year olds, and are 20- and 30-somethings eager to work alongside people who remind them of their parents – or grandparents? Would Goldberg have received a warm welcome in a tech-driven environment loaded with 20-something engineers? (In that setting, would a woman be as welcome as a man?)

It depends. But savvy organizations of all kinds (not just in the nonprofit arena) are finding ways to leverage the assets of people in different generations. When a 60-year-old can relate experiences of being in a consciousness-raising group in the ’70s and a 20-year-old can translate those lessons into a viral video campaign, all of us stand to gain.

So let’s start putting pressure on organizations to value age diversity as much as other kinds.

It can start with the job seekers. As you consider your prospects, look around and see who’s in the office. Do you see folks like you – whatever age you are? Ask whether the organization encourages cross-generational mentoring (younger and older employees advising each other in their areas of expertise). Will you be the only one texting – or the only one not on Facebook? Maybe the next Idealist survey can report on the steps nonprofits are taking to best utilize a multigenerational workforce.

Have you seen examples of successful multi-generational workplaces? Or do you have ideas about what nonprofits can do to make the workplace friendlier to all ages? We’d love to hear about them – and so would the millions of people looking for encore careers. So please leave a comment below or email me at info@encore.org. And spread the word!

Marci Alboher is a Vice President of Encore.org, a nonprofit that promotes second acts for the greater good. She is also the author of the forthcoming book, “The Encore Career Handbook – How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life,” to be published by Workman Publishing in January 2013.

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Job seekers and hiring managers: What our surveys reveal about employment in the nonprofit sector

It’s no secret that the past few years have been challenging for nonprofits as they try to serve their clients with shrinking budgets. We saw this first hand last year when we asked nonprofits to share the impact the recession was having on their organizations.

This year, we again approached the thousands of organizations on Idealist to ask them how they’re doing, what they anticipate in the coming year, and to learn more about their human resources practices. We also asked job seekers to share their experiences to get a more complete picture of how the sector as a whole is faring. In total, we surveyed over 1,000 U.S.-based organizations and 3,000 active job seekers to find out who’s hiring and who’s looking, the latest in funding and compensation practices, and what’s posing the biggest challenges to both organizations and job hunters right now.

In general things are looking up with 48% of all nonprofits plan to make new hires in 2012 and 54% say they will offer salary increases in 2012, up from 47% last year. However, what’s compelling are the experiences of job seekers and hiring managers.

What we know about today’s nonprofit job seeker:

From Job Seekers

  • They are experienced: 30% of job seekers are over the age 50; 26% have more than 11 years of experience in the nonprofit sector.
  • They value opportunities for career development: In fact, this is one of the top reasons job seekers who are currently employed full-time (33%) are looking to leave their current organizations.
  • They are committed in and outside of the office: 83% of job seekers have volunteered, demonstrating an interest in staying and growing in the sector.
  • They want to hear from hiring managers: The number one challenge job seekers face is the lack of communication from employers. In fact, 86% say they never receive any feedback or follow up at all.

Tip for job seekers: Given your experience and needs, it’s even more important that you are searching for organizations that are a good fit. Be sure you’re searching for the right opportunities by asking yourself a few key questions.

What we know about today’s nonprofit hiring manager:


From Hiring Managers

  • They wear many hats: 84% have responsibilities in at least one other area, most often program management, office/facilities management, and communications.
  • They appreciate attention to detail: Because they have to juggle multiple responsibilities, hiring managers place emphasis on potential employees following instructions in order to move through the hiring process as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • They also prefer job seekers not call: Also because of their limited time and resources, 40% of hiring managers prefer that you not follow up about your job application status.
  • They value passion: 86% say that understanding their organization’s mission is very important.

Tip for organizations: With many job seekers looking to leave their current organizations due to lack of advancement, you may need to get creative with how you support your employees. Over at Idealisthr.org – a community for nonprofit HR professionals  – a nonprofit recently shared a successful leadership pipeline program they created designed to retain and support top talent. You can also strengthen your organization by tapping into the Idealist community.

There is more information in the surveys. Download the Job Seeker Survey and the Organization Survey to learn more.

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