I retired for health reasons, but what if I need to unretire?

I lost my job just before Covid and struggled to find a new one at a time when I had health issues. I decided after a lot of thought to take early retirement [I’m in my late 50s]. However, with the cost of living rising I am worried that I will need to go back to work at some point in the next years. I am worried too that the longer I leave it the harder it will be. How should I best prepare myself in the meantime so I don’t have a big hole in my cv? I am also worried about ageist attitudes if I have to start looking for a job in my 60s. I am a PA.

Image of a cv on a tablet indicating how to avoid age discrimination


I hope your health issues are now sorted and that you’re mentally, physically and emotionally better.

In some respects “the longer you leave it, the harder it will be”. I often hear people worrying about having a gap on their CV between roles. However, you have a clear and honest reason to explain the gap, given you chose to take early retirement but due to the cost of living rising, you decided to return to work.

How to best prepare yourself in the meantime

Reflect on what you’ve been doing over the last two years when you decided to take early retirement. Have you been volunteering? Have you learned any new skills? Think about how you can turn this gap on your CV into things you’ve learned/skills you’ve gained. If this doesn’t apply, you can add ‘Career Break’ on your CV within a set timeframe and can explain it further at interview. The good news is that PA, Executive Assistant and administration skills will always be needed whether in a face-to-face capacity or virtually.

Take a step back and ask yourself some questions. What do you want to do going forward? Would you like a local, part-time role or do you feel with the increased cost of living you in fact need a full-time role in a city?

I’d recommend either talking to an Independent Financial Advisor or working out how much money you need to earn going forward. Then think about what skills you’d like to be using. Is it a role you’ve done previously, for instance, the PA role – same skills, same sector; or would you like to do something slightly different using transferable skills to another sector? Brainstorm these ideas and see where you end up in your thinking. Think about when you’re at your best, what your strengths are and where you get the most energy from.

Make a list of your non-negotiable and ‘nice to haves’ in a role.

Then look at your CV focussing on your achievements over the years. Make sure you’re comfortable with talking about your ‘career break’. Be authentic and honest with yourself and others. You won’t be the only one who has chosen to return to work due to the increased cost of living.

Have a positive mindset. If you’re worried about ageist attitudes at interview, you’re unlikely to perform at your best. Think of the positives that you have over more junior employees. Here are some tips to help you stand out:

  1. The pros are that people over 55 typically have a wider professional network. They often have better self-confidence than they did in their 20s, a heightened sense of self-awareness and a wealth of transferrable skills.
  2. Look at the network you’ve acquired throughout your career – 75% of jobs come through who you know. I’d also recommend focussing on your online network, particularly now given the world we’re living in. Use LinkedIn and download your contacts into Excel and mark who you can contact directly and ask for recommendations. LinkedIn is your marketing directory and belongs to you.
  3. It’s important to be ahead of the game – assess your skills – do you know what the market needs now? If you do need to brush up on your skills, enrol on a course in social media or IT.
  4. Older jobseekers fear ageism and they regularly get feedback about being ‘overqualified’ or ‘too expensive’ so as a jobseeker it’s important to explain why you’re so interested in the role. Embrace seniority and explain why it’s an advantage for the company.
  5. You probably have a clearer sense of your USPs – make sure they’re articulated well in your CV and elevator pitch. Demonstrate your ability to use the latest technology to perform in your next role. If the role you’re interviewing for involves unfamiliar software, find a YouTube tutorial to understand it better or take it one step further and enrol on an online course and add this skill to your CV to show you’re appreciating as an asset.
  6. Talk about how you can help younger employees learn and grow; and suggest they pair younger workers with more experienced ones.

*Liz Sebag-Montefiore is a career coach and Director of 10Eighty, a strengths-based HR consultancy. For more information, please visit www.10Eighty.co.uk.

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