Her grey hair tied up in a neat bun, Shalan Dere concentrates on moulding clay into masterpieces. As her nimble fingers deftly shape and glaze her creations, the wrinkles on her hands stand testament to the years she has spent honing her craft.
Most people would be indulgent of the 65-year-old Dere's hobby, but beneath the soft, frail demeanour lies sharp business acumen. Ten years ago, Dere turned her passion for pottery into a lucrative business, The Potter's Place.
Today, she sells her ware and teaches pottery, earning about Rs 15,000 a month.
Dere is just one of the growing multitude of sexagenarians who is breaking the grey ceiling. Once, hitting the big six oh meant you quietly retired to your rocking chair, pored over newspapers, pottered about in a garden or played with your grandchildren. Most retirees find this idea unpalatable today. Being as physically and mentally active as they were in their fifties, they are unwilling to let their skills and experience gather dust.
Most of them begin looking for a job the moment they retire. But is it easy to find one at this age? Once you are out of the rat race, do you have the gumption to put on your sneakers and jump in again? And, will the ones who are already busy running welcome you?
True, it's tough to gain an entry after you have bid goodbye to the workforce. But it's not impossible. Over the past few months, ET Wealth has profiled many senior citizens who are not only utilising their time productively, but are thriving in their fields. From a scriptwriter and cricket coach to a regional film actor and patent lawyer, we have interviewed successful seniors who are earning sufficiently from their second careers and, in the process, are breaking age-old beliefs about retirees. TRK Murthi, an 86-year-old business development executive, scoffs at anyone who believes that those beyond 60 years do not have the physical stamina to work. Hormuzdiar and Shirin Rana (both in their seventies) run a successful financial consultancy and would be amused if told that mental faculties slow down with age.
In fact, most retirees consider the 60s as their most productive years. They have the skill, talent, stability and maturity and, now that their children are settled and they have fulfilled all financial commitments, most have ample time. Another factor is that as longevity increases, most retirees believe their savings may not sustain them for the next 25-30 years. Working for a few more years helps them beef up their corpus.
As more and more retirees profess willingness to work and the workforce continues to be plagued with a dearth of talent, the industry has begun to tentatively hire them. While some companies have already begun formulating policies in this regard, others are still apprehensive. So, there are more candidates than jobs, which means you will need to struggle to find one that you like. "Be prepared to struggle. Once you leave the workplace, it's as tough to get in as for a fresher who missed the bus at campus placement," says V Suresh, business head, Naukri.com. But, perseverence, as in everything else, pays here too.
Find place in the workforce
Mumbai-based TRK Murthi retired at 60 as manager from Everest Advertising in 1985, after working there for 30 years. But sitting at home didn't appeal to him as he had lost his wife a few years ago. So, the firm offered him a job as a public relations manager because he knew most of the clients. Murthi continued working there for 15 years till the company was taken over by Rediff in 2000.
At 75, he decided to retire for good, but tragedy struck the family again. His younger son succumbed to typhoid and Murthi had to support his son's widow, Saranjit, and children, 10-year-old Veena and six-year-old Amrit. "I had to look for a job again but no one was willing to hire me," says Murthi.
He considered the services that were required or provided in his field and hit upon the idea of getting advertisements for media houses. "I approached various media houses but they were sceptical. I assured them that they would only need to pay me if I got them business. Finally, two of them agreed," says Murthi. Currently, he works as a business development executive and generates advertising revenue for the Afternoon Despatch & Courier and Corporate India. "I get a 5-15% commission which helps me earn Rs 15,000-20,000 a month," he adds.
Murthi was savvy in finding a niche service that he could provide. He also knew his own strengths-he had worked in the advertising field for almost four decades and had a vast network of contacts. Knowing that companies would refuse to hire him, he changed his strategy and agreed to work on a commission basis. This convinced his employers as they needed to pay him only from the revenue he was fetching.
Like Murthi, you too would need to exploit your strengths and highlight these when you go back to the field. If you're keen to join the rank of the working retirees, start with the field that you know best. Make a list of possible jobs you can do and the average salary that is paid. If your negotiating and work skills are good, you could haggle for the same salary, otherwise agree to do the same job for a lower salary. Smaller companies that are unable to hire experienced people at high levels will be eager to sign you up if they are convinced you can add value at a lower cost. Agree to work on a project basis as a retainer or consultant. "Usually, bigger companies hire consultants, but smaller firms are willing to hire for specific assignments," says Suresh.Where to look for a job
If you want to find a job, the first step is to inform people that you are available. Post it on social and business networks. Tell your ex-colleagues, peers and juniors. Of course, this will only work if you have shared a good rapport with them. So, repair your relationships before you retire and be good to your juniors. Remember, tomorrow, they could be the ones taking decisions on hiring.
It's easier to find a job if you've retired from a public sector company or a government agency. Many private firms will be willing to lap you up because you know how the system works and have a strong network within the industry as well as the government. This is why people who retire from PSU banks, the defense services, the civil services, etc, find jobs easily.
Another reason is that most of these are experts in niche areas, such as those who retire from ONGC and NTPC. Sectors where expertise is highly needed will also be willing to hire you no matter how old you are. Some of these are biotechnology, pharmaceutical research and automobile engineering.
"There are two areas where you can apply. One, if you are extremely skilled or qualified and are capable of driving a team forward. The other is for people who have run-of-the-mill skills. They can consider jobs with smaller enterprises.
There is still a huge dearth of talent in many areas which you would be aware of if you've left the field recently. So, if you market yourself properly, you will be able to get a job," says Sangeeta Lala, vice-president, Teamlease.
If you do not have a specific skill that you can leverage, there are several other options (see Careers for the second innings). Over the years, the experience you have gathered can help you guide others by being a mentor or consultant. Another area that now has a vast opportunity is education. You can take tuitions at home, join a coaching institute, become an online tutor, design instructional models, develop content, conduct curriculum research, etc.
"Some of the jobs that retired people can consider are the back-end office ones where there is no age bar.Also, you can work from home. You can opt for data entry and verification, accounting, advisory services, merchandising and knowledge process outsourcing. For some of these jobs, you may need to improve your technological skills," says Sunil Goel, director, GlobalHunt, an executive search firm.
Post your resume on job portals and regularly go through these as well as the classifieds. "We advertise through newspapers, our website, have tie-ups with Naukri.com and Linkedin and also consider internal referrals. Job seekers of any age can utilise all these avenues," says MS Venkatesh, president, group HR and people solutions group, Educomp Solutions.
What to write in your resume
Once you have decided on the kind of work you are ready to do, you will need to update your resume. Do not mention your date of birth or the years when you finished various stages of your education. These can always be discussed in the interview. Impress the prospective employer by emphasising your skills and the results that you have achieved over the years. Focus on the past 15 years of experience and encapsulate the years prior to this in a paragraph.
If you want to work in the same field, you will be aware of the positions where your skills will come in handy. Highlight these in the resume as well as the cover letter. Focus on how your maturity will be beneficial vis-a-vis younger candidates, who may not have the experience and capability to handle some of the stressful situations. "The first sentence in the resume should focus on how you can add value to the company," says Venkatesh.
"There are four areas that determine the suitability of an employee-the niche service he can provide, the maturity and experience he brings to the table, his competencies as well as his critical and behavioural skills. These are the areas you need to highlight rather than your age," says Rekha Gade, HR manager, Synopsys, an IT company. She advises that you accentuate flexibility and the willingness to adapt and work in any position.
How to fit into the office
Be prepared to be interviewed by someone who is younger than you and has less experience. Don't be condescending; even if you doubt his intelligence, keep it to yourself. The same will be true of the office. Your boss could be younger than you by almost a decade and this may cause some friction. You may find his style of working different from your earlier superiors. Here's where your willingness to adapt will be stretched. Follow the old adage: the boss is always right. However, if you believe that an action might lead to dire consequences, bring the issue to the notice of the top bosses.
If you are hired as a consultant, your salary structure can be designed as you require. But if you are a full-time employee, remember that there will be no provident fund contribution, gratuity or super-annuation benefits. Though the company may be willing to extend the group medical cover to you, the insurance company may not. In such cases ask for the monetary equivalent of such benefits to be included in your basic salary or as cash reimbursements. Start your own venture
Most seniors prefer to go solo. This gives them the freedom to choose their own hours as well as workload. Just keep in mind that it will take you a few years to establish yourself. Hormuzdiar (73) and Shirin (70) Rana have worked for almost 25 years to establish their financial consultancy, though in the beginning it was only a side business. In fact, it was the couple's contingency plan, when Svadeshi Mills, the factory where Hormuzdiar worked, was shut down due to a strike for six months.
"As I was the only earning member, we got jittery. We had two school-going kids, so we decided to do something before the financial constraints became too difficult to manage," says Hormuzdiar.
Unfortunately, finding a job at 44 was not easy. The only option they had was to buy an agency to promote the National Savings Certificates scheme, which was run by the Postal Department. They bought certficates worth Rs 2,000 and pledged these with the government.
"Our friends and colleagues became our first clients. Even when the mill started working, we decided to continue with the agency," says Shirin. Over the years, they expanded the range of their services, especially after Hormuzdiar retired as a spinning superintendent in 2001, after working for more than 40 years.
Today, the couple provides all types of financial solutions, including tax planning and opening of a demat account. They have nearly 400 clients who invest almost Rs 1 crore through them.
halan Dere practiced pottery for seven years before she started Potter's Place in 2001. Earlier it was a hobby that she indulged in while managing her family's textile manufacturing business, which she began winding up in 2000 and finally closed in 2003.
If you too have a hobby, you could convert it into a profitable business. If you have a green thumb, grow and sell exotic herbs, such as thyme and lemon grass; if your cooking skills are extraordinary, cater for small parties held at home.
Any business that you set up will require a lot of time and effort for the first few years. Also, if you need capital, you may have to find money on your own. Most banks are unwilling to give money to senior citizens. In fact, they insist that all debts be paid before a person turns 60. Though reverse mortgaging a house is an option, avoid it. It's not a good idea for a business whose viability you are unsure of. For instance, Dere's first experience with an electric kiln was a disaster. "There was some problem with the control panel, because of which the temperature rose too high and it caught fire. My entire work and a lot of expensive material were destroyed," she says.
However, a few public sector banks do provide loans for those aged up to 70 years. Bank of India's Start Pensioner Loan scheme grants you a maximum loan of Rs 1.5 lakh at an interest rate of 13-14.25%, while under the State Bank of India's scheme, Loans for Affluent Pensioners, you can avail of a loan up to Rs 3 lakh at about 14%. The repayment tenure varies from 2-5 years.
Whether you are eager to get back to a desk or want to be your own boss, don't let anything stop you, especially not a superficial numbe