OK, so it’s bad form to type in all capital letters because it makes it seem as if you are yelling. But RELEVANT in this case is an acronym that can help older workers feel more relevant in the job market.

“As they retire, baby boomers need to stay true to their reputation for grand statements, and to mobilize their skill set in the business world,” says Steve Kayser, author of “The Greatest Words You’ve Never Heard.” The book itself isn’t relevant (there’s that word again) but he does proffer some good advice for older workers struggling to find a job.

“In fact, many older Americans may have little choice but to adapt their mindset and survive longer in their careers if they want to maintain something resembling their current lifestyle during retirement,” says Kayser, writer, former radio host and the founder of Kayser Media.

Kayser lists a few trends that may incentivize aging workers to clock in for a few more years:

  • The number of Americans 55 and older will almost double in the next 16 years. By 2030 the number will rise from 60 million today to 107.6 million, according to the United States Census Bureau. That will likely strain public safety nets such as Social Security and Medicare.
  • American life expectancy is at an all-time high, and death rates are at an all-time low, which means some people will outlive their retirement savings.
  • The global economic crisis has wiped out or severely affected millions of middle- and senior-aged people’s life savings.

But with an increasingly competitive pool of professionals whose skill sets need to be regularly updated, how can boomers stay in the game?

Kayser quotes Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” Toffler is a leading futurist who specializes in the digital revolution.

“What it means to learn, unlearn and relearn,” Kayser says, “is the ever-shifting sands of technology pose a special challenge to older workers. Younger professionals not only grew up working and entertaining themselves with screens, they also learned to adapt to technological leaps. A program you learn today may not be relevant in a few years, so keep an open and flexible mind.”

Kayser has an outline for how older workers can maintain their value – by staying “R-E-L-E-V-A-N-T. Being R-E-L-E-V-A-N-T… Take this mnemonic device to heart:

  • Risk,
  • Experiment,
  • Listen and Learn,
  • Engage,
  • Value,
  • Attitude of gratitude,
  • No to negativity, and
  • Time.  

OK, it doesn’t exactly flow off the lips but it does establish a good guideline for goal setting.

“This is an ongoing, evolving note to keep in your mind no matter your professional situation,” Kayser says. “I’ve been around a lot of charismatic and effervescent folks in their 70s and 80s who are still successful and growing, both on a personal and business level. The acronym encompasses the ideas that seem to promote a proactive life.”

According to Kayser, older works who are job hunting need to answer the question, “What resonates with you?” He adds, “This is a deceptively deep question when you apply it to your life’s trajectory. If life hasn’t turned out to be what you expected it would 30 years ago, then it’s time to recalibrate how you see yourself, especially if that’s as a perpetual pre-retiree.

“If you’re not sure of how you see yourself in today’s setting, start with what the spiritual writer Joseph Campbell called the “moving power of your life,” which can be sensed by the things that resonate within you. The things that resonate within you, such as an unusual book, may just be the compass you need to find your way,” Kayser adds.

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