Today’s job market – especially for senior executives – is anything but dull. Unemployment has reached its lowest point in nearly 50 years. The war for talent “continues to rage.” Employers now juggle workforces spanning 5 generations. And, what was once defined as “alternative” work (e.g., freelance, gig, outsourcing) has become more mainstream.
Ample research exists on younger generations entering—and taking over—the workforce, but how are more experienced professionals holding up? Are they interested in retirement? Does age or education level impact the time it takes to find a new job? Which career paths are most popular for senior executives?
BPI group’s Executive Employment Trends Report (EETR) for Q1 2019 offers visibility into the current executive job market. It analyzes new landing data collected from our Executive Transition Services clients, compared with the same period a year ago, revealing trends and insights into how senior executives are faring in today’s job market.
More Executives Remain Professionally Engaged
The majority (75%) of transitioning executives in our study landed new employment opportunities (as opposed to retiring or following another path). Meanwhile, 60% of executives reported that networking remains their primary source for new opportunities, as opposed to using the Internet or search firms.
The age range of executives in the job market has also gone up, with 9% more executives in the 61 and older age group than last year. This reflects market trends that show high numbers of Baby Boomers seeking reemployment. For instance, The Washington Post reports, “Record-breaking shares of Americans plan to work longer. An April 2018 Gallup poll showed 41% expect to be working beyond age 65—a huge jump since Gallup started tracking in 1995, when it averaged 13.5%.”
Executives are also finding alternative ways to stay professionally engaged, such as taking on board roles, transitioning to a part-time schedule, or adopting more of an advisor/mentor role where they can transfer their knowledge and provide insights from their valued experience. Simply stated, it has become the new normal that “many Baby Boomers aren’t retiring at 65.”
Boomers Becoming Business Owners
It’s also worth noting that this year saw a 44% increase in executives starting their own businesses. Rather than choosing a path of traditional retirement, professionals over the age of 50 are using their workplace knowledge and experiences, putting their professional networks to work, and taking advantage of their financial situations to become successful business owners.
In fact, The 2019 Small Business Trends for Baby Boomers survey revealed that entrepreneurs over the age of 50 account for more than half of America’s small business owners. The survey cites the top five motivators for opening a business as: 1) ready to be the boss; 2) wanted to pursue their own passion; 3) the opportunity presented itself; 4) dissatisfaction with corporate America; and 5) not ready for traditional retirement.
Only a very small percentage (2%) of the executives in our study chose traditional retirement. This may be due to longer life expectancies, desire for retirement savings, and the fact that many companies have eliminated mandatory retirement.
High Salaries, High Talent Competition
The majority of executives assessed their salaries (among other qualitative factors) as the same or better than their previous position. Additionally, HR leaders are reporting that the biggest challenge with acquiring top talent is finding qualified, experienced hires. It is no surprise that this presents executives with a highly competitive marketplace for talent, which is paying off in the form of higher salaries and other perks.
The executives surveyed spent an average of 5 months in the job search. This was shorter than the national average of 5.5 months for those in executive roles, and slightly longer than 4.9 months for the general U.S. workforce, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in April 2019. Interestingly, among our executives surveyed, those with a Ph.D. education level cut their job search time by almost half (6.2 months to 3.9 months). This trend indicates a demand for PhD-level talent in this tight job market.
Whether it’s a different job, a new business venture, or a mix of leisure and work, senior executives in today’s job market have many choices and are certainly not slowing down any time soon. With clear goals and guidance, they can make an informed and enlightened decision about their next role.
Written by Steve Spires.
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