Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

Lab Management Matters

Delaying Your Retirement

Delaying retirement? You are not alone. Many baby boomers currently are delaying their retirement. One-third plan to retire only after age 65 according to an Employment Benefit Research Institute survey. In another recent survey of more than 2,200 U.

John K. Borchardt

Dr. Borchardt is a consultant and technical writer. The author of the book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers,” he writes often on career-related subjects.

ViewFull Profile.
Learn about ourEditorial Policies.

Delaying retirement? You are not alone. Many baby boomers currently are delaying their retirement. One-third plan to retire only after age 65 according to an Employment Benefit Research Institute survey. In another recent survey of more than 2,200 U.S. workers by consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide, 44% of respondents age 50 or older said they plan to postpone retirement; half of those say they plan to work at least three years longer than they previously expected.

However, at the same time companies continue to have layoffs. How can you remain employed even past the conventional retirement age of sixty-five years even if your company reduces staff?

The key is to capitalize on skills you've developed over the course of your career and not compete directly with younger (and lower-paid) coworkers. Capitalize on these skills by sharing them. Become a resource for younger coworkers.

Several options to do so are discussed below. Engaging in only a single approach probably isn't an effective strategy to persuade managers to delay your retirement. While there is no magic number required for your success, becoming involved in multiple strategies can improve your odds of delaying your retirement.

Mentoring programs

One way to do so is to become a mentor. Many companies have instituted mentoring programs and are now taking advantage of information technology to make them more effective. For example, in December 2009 IBM created an online tool to support its mentoring program. Older employees list their skills in a database. Younger coworkers seeking to develop particular competencies can search the database to identify coworkers having these competencies. More than 3,500 IBM employees have registered to be mentors and more than 2,600 coworkers, mostly younger employees, have consulted with them.

Continuing education

Senior employees should encourage their managers to institute continuing education programs. They can serve as instructors sharing the skills they've learned and the experiences they've accumulated over the course of a long, productive career. Having senior employees serve as instructors can have advantages over sending younger employees to external training programs or bringing in consultants to teach these courses. Senior employees can present information and advice in the context of the company's culture and provide relevant examples from their own experience. This gives information an immediacy and relevance that instructors from outside the company often can't provide.

Workshops often offer an attractive alternative to internal short courses that require a longer time commitment.

Consultants to project teams

>p>Older employees can serve as consultants to project teams using their experience to help team members save time and not waste their efforts. For example, a senior chemist may know of a reactor built years ago and placed in storage when an R&D program was finished. Refurbishing and using this reactor to use in a current project can save both time and money.

Older chemists' experience may enable them to use a team's discovery in the context of the firm's earlier R&D. They can provide useful advice on such issues as the relevance of earlier projects to the current work and whether the current work should be the subject of a patent application.

"Reverse" mentoring

Older employees shouldn't be reluctant to consult younger coworkers to learn new skills they need to remain employed and improve their productivity. These include things such as online social networking, and wikis.


Another factor to consider is making your own manager and other managers in the company aware of your involvement in these programs and the value you provide to the firm – value that cannot be provided by younger coworkers. Make sure you get appropriate recognition for your efforts. It was comedian George Carlin who said, "The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets the all publicity." Make sure you're not the caterpillar.

John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book "Career Management for Scientists and Engineers." He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.