MONEY Workplace

9 Ways to Make More Money at Work

150428_CAR_BuildWealthAtWork
Jamie Kripke—Corbis

Career strategies for every stage.

Even if you’re not among the super-savers who are on their way to becoming 401(k) millionaires, there are plenty of ways to build wealth on the job. Whether you’re just starting out, in your peak earning years, or planning a career second act, here are 9 ways to fatten your paycheck.

1. Begin your career in a wealth-building city. To maximize your earning potential, minimize the amount you spend on housing—for most people the largest chunk of their monthly budget. According to Zillow.com, three metro areas where job growth exceeds the median 1.3% and housing costs are below the typical 2.9 times income are Dallas (job growth 3.3%, housing costs 2.5x income); Atlanta (job growth 2.4%, housing cost: 2.7x income), and Indianapolis (job growth 2%, housing costs 2.4x income). Plus, these are great places to live: Dallas suburb McKinney and metro Indianapolis both made it onto MONEY’s annual list of the best places to live, while Atlanta is home to the headquarters of Fortune 500 companies including Coca-Cola and UPS.

2. Don’t wait for a performance review to ask for a raise. Most companies do performance reviews in February or March—but set budgets before the end of the prior year. If you can make the case for a raise, start the conversation no later than December.

3. Lead with the dollars. You are more likely to get a raise, and a higher one at that, when you say what you want first and explain why you deserve it second. “It sounds like a trivial difference, but it produces a significantly different outcome,” says negotiations expert Robin Pinkley of Southern Methodist University. You’ll also do better if you couch your request in a range. Asking for an extra $5,000 to $7,000 a year beats plain old $5,000. You’ll seem cooperative and flexible—and make it harder for the boss to return with a lowball counteroffer, according to a new study by Daniel Ames and Malia Mason of Columbia University.

4. Become a free agent. Workers may get 3% raises in 2015, but execs who jump ship can expect 15%, says the executive search firm Salveson-Stetson Group. A raise like that at the age of 40 can boost lifetime income by 9%.

5. Repackage yourself. When you were starting out, you may have played up your full work history. As you advance in your career, tailor your résumé to experiences that speak to a specific job—for instance, how you boosted sales at your last position, says Marcelle Yeager, president of Career Valet. Also, put education credentials at the bottom, says professional résumé writer Dawn Bugni. That you got a bachelor’s degree 20 years ago doesn’t mean that much now.

6. Automate your job search. There are simple ways you can help prospective employers find you with little effort. For starters, make it easy for hiring managers to spot you by filling your LinkedIn profile with keywords associated with the type of job you want. The service will make suggestions for you, but look at job listings posted on the site by companies you want to work for to see what keywords they use as well. Also, sign up for the anonymous job site Poachable, and download the app Poacht.

7. Climb one more rung. After 45, only the top 2% of earners see real continued wage growth, on average. So it’s time to gun for one more big promotion. For example, while the median salary for a software engineer is $76,000, senior engineers can expect $101,000, according to payScale.com.

8. Switch ladders. Didn’t snag the pay you deserve? With the economy adding 266,000 jobs a month, you have options. After giving notice, arrange a friendly exit interview with the boss—her endorsement will be valuable in the next switch.

9. Have a Plan B. Your middle years are crucial savings years, but perilous careerwise. On average, unemployed Americans 55 to 64 have been jobless for 11 months. so lay the groundwork for a backup plan—whether it’s a short-term project, freelancing, or a business idea.

Adapted from “101 Ways to Build Wealth,” by Daniel Bortz, Kara Brandeisky, Paul J. Lim, and Taylor Tepper, which originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of MONEY magazine.

MONEY Workplace

Why It Pays to Make Your Boss Your BFF

Illustration by Mikey Burton

Get the person into the corner office in your corner, then watch your career take off.

Buddying up with the boss can pay off, literally. In a study of executives done at Georgetown University, nine in 10 acknowledged that favoritism occurs in larger organizations, and 23% of them said they had personally practiced favoritism in making promotion decisions. Read: Getting more familiar with the person who signs off on your raises can help you make sure they’re bigger. Follow these tips to cozy up without crossing the line.

Break the Ice

Start by trying to engage the boss in small talk when riding the elevator or meeting at the water cooler. And if you know he is going to happy hour, be there. “Take advantage of any opportunity to rub shoulders outside work,” says career consultant Donald Asher, author of Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why.

To find common ground, Asher suggests posing open-ended questions like “How about them Spurs?” Use the person’s response to gauge his level of interest. Does he talk at length about the season? Depending on your relative positions, you might ask the boss to lunch to discuss your ideas on a particular project—and who will make the playoffs.

Keep Up on Facebook

“Friending” the boss on Facebook can help you cement the relationship, says Nancy Rothbard, a Wharton School professor who studies social media in the workplace. But first make sure your boss is willing to connect with subordinates—you’re good if other direct reports are in her circle.

Once you’re in, occasionally “like” and comment on posts about shared interests. “It authentically reinforces your offline interactions,” Rothbard says. Just save communication for off-work hours so you don’t look as though you’re slacking off.

Leverage Your Friendship

When the relationship is established, your boss may be naturally more inclined to advance your causes. But be strategic in your asks. “You don’t want your boss to think you’re a user,” says Asher. Chatting about weekend plans? You might slip in a mention of your desire to attend a senior staff meeting. “If you have a good relationship, your boss will go out of his way to get you in,” says Richard Klimoski, a management and psych professor at George Mason University.

Don’t Let Your Nose Get Brown

Your peers may grow jealous of your rapport with the boss. Keep them on your good side by continuing to collaborate well and publicly praising peers for achievements, says Jennifer McClure, president of leadership strategy firm Unbridled Talent. “Befriend your boss,” she says, “but don’t put a target on your back.”

Read next: Why You Should Friend Your Boss on Facebook

MONEY Income equality

Why This CEO Pays Every Employee $70,000 a Year

Dan Price
Dan Price

Dan Price's decision to dramatically increase wages at his company sparked a lot of controversy. Here's why he did it.

Growing up in rural Idaho, Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price remembers learning that one’s values are most sacred.

“My dad would ask me a question…He’d say, ‘How much money is your integrity worth?’ His point was there’s no amount of money that he would be willing to sell his integrity for. And that was ingrained in me at a very, very young age.”

Fast forward to today, the 30-year-old CEO is staying true to those principles. Just last week he announced he’d be taking a $930,000 pay cut to help afford raising the minimum wage at his Seattle-based credit card processing company to $70,000. This means that out of the 120 employees, 70 will be getting raises and 30 will see their incomes double.

For Price, this will also mean reducing his $1 million annual salary to $70,000. “I may have to sell my house, to be honest,” he told me.

I spoke with Price on my daily podcast, So Money, about how he arrived at choosing $70,000 as the company’s starting salary and how he’ll be measuring the success of this bold decision. While Price’s move was born out of a desire to bring more income equality to his workforce, he’ll be looking to his customers to learn if, in fact, he made the best decision.

Farnoosh Torabi: You were inspired to raise the minimum wage because of a well-known Princeton study that found that emotional well-being rises with income—but only to an extent, which is around $75,000 dollars. Was it just the study that was the game changer for you? The numbers also had to make sense for the business, right?

Dan Price: To me, once you know the right thing to do, and it’s the right thing for everybody involved and it’s going to be beneficial to everyone, it becomes a moral imperative to actually do it. In the past, as much as I would have wanted to do something like this, it wasn’t practical, it wasn’t the right timing. And so, with that Princeton study, one of the other aspects that really hit home with me was, “The dollars that you’re making underneath that amount are causing harm to your well-being.” And that, to me, is powerful stuff. And we only get to live this life once. And I want everybody that I’m partnered with at Gravity to really live the fullest, best life that they can. And so, that was a big part of it. And to be honest with you, all of those studies and stuff, you can throw them out the window. If you just talk to people around Seattle, or really anywhere, and you see how it’s impacting them, that’s the top thing for me.

The day I decided to do this, I was on a hike with a friend who had her rent hiked up a little bit. And she’s incredibly smart, very hard-working, and her employer does a great job taking care of her, but market rates being what they are, and living expenses being what they are, it was creating a very difficult, stressful situation for her.

[Editor’s note: The cost of living in Seattle is 24% above the national average, according to PayScale, mainly due to the high price of housing. Home prices are 51% above the national average.]

FT: You said from the beginning that this is really just an experiment for now. How will you be measuring its success?

DP: First and foremost will be our client satisfaction. That’s what we’ve always built the whole company on. In my mind, I am a butler, I’m a servant for our clients, which are amazing independent businesses all over the country, and we help them accept credit cards for less and give them great service. And so, if our clients are more satisfied, that’s going to be, for me, the most important bellwether.

We never really had trouble attracting talent because we’re very purpose-oriented. We never really had trouble retaining talent because the most important thing we provide our team isn’t money, but an opportunity—an opportunity to serve, an opportunity to grow. But I do think that there was some level of distraction, and there must be when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. And so, I honestly believe that removing that distraction will significantly increase our ability to take care of our clients.

Every day, MONEY contributing editor Farnoosh Torabi interviews entrepreneurs, authors, and financial luminaries about their money philosophies, successes, failures and habits for her podcast, So Money—which is a “New and Noteworthy” podcast on iTunes.

More from Farnoosh Torabi:
How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Obsessed With “Stuff”
Self-Help Guru Tim Ferriss Confesses His Biggest Financial Mistake
How I Conquered My Fear of Going Broke

MONEY job hunting

How to Write Emails That Will Land You a Job

man using laptop in coffee shop
Roberto Westbrook—Gallery Stock

Forget cover letters—email is where the game is won and lost these days. The dos and don'ts of job hunting via email.

Now that most introductions happen over email, it’s safe to say that email communication has become as important as or even more important than writing cover letters. With this in mind, here are my top five tips for communicating effectively over email:

Be incredibly responsive.

When someone introduces you to a new contact, it’s imperative that you follow up immediately. If you had a phone conversation or an in-person interview, send a thank-you email as soon as you get off the line or leave the building. Don’t worry about coming across as desperate or creepy; this isn’t a date. Whether the executive takes a few days to respond, or doesn’t respond at all, he or she will be impressed if you respond immediately.

Pay attention to the subject line.

The task of your email’s subject line is to trigger an impulse that causes the recipient to open the email. Your subject line should be enticing and express who you are and what you are writing about. Sometimes it is appropriate to include your name, and other times your school or connection or who referred you is the better way to go. Here are some examples:

  • Sarah Smythe Following Up on Ian McEwan’s Introduction
  • Indiana Student Interested in Learning more about the Marketing Services Industry
  • ESPN Internship Application – Douglas Spector
  • Middlebury Student Seeking 10 Minutes To Talk About McKinsey – Referral from Barry Rosenberg

Begin by explaining the occasion for your message.

The first line of your email will vary, but no matter the situation, your opening line should explain why you’re contacting the recipient. Here are some well-executed examples for a range of scenarios:

  • If you’ve had no previous contact: “I hope this note reaches you in high spirits and good health. I am reaching out to you with the hopes of learning more about the medical diagnostics industry in general and Medtronic specifically.”
  • If you’ve had one previous contact: “Thanks again for our conversation a couple of weeks ago. I followed up as you suggested and found three or four specific target companies with potentially relevant positions to apply to. Could we connect on the phone for 7 to 10 minutes (maximum) so I can get your input about these opportunities?”
  • If you were referred by a third party: “I hope you are having a great weekend and that this doesn’t catch you at an inconvenient time. I was speaking with my uncle Ken, and he explained to me that you direct your firm’s retail practice. I am very interested in exploring a career in retail and fashion, and I believe you would be the perfect person to talk to.”

Keep it short and easy-on-the-eyes.

Most people don’t have the time or attention span to read an email that’s longer than 10 lines. Assume that the recipient will be reading it on their smartphone (while multi-tasking). Make it snappy. Establish who you are and what you want in the first two sentences. Write your email in at least 11 or 12 point font so that the reader doesn’t have to put on his or her reading glasses.

Don’t lose your cool.

Chances are, you will be reaching out to people who are very busy. Unread emails don’t bring them joy; they make them anxious, and your email will be adding to the count. So if you haven’t heard back from someone, or if they’ve sent you a less-than-warm response, it doesn’t mean that they dislike you or don’t think you’re good enough. It doesn’t even mean the conversation is over.

More often than not, the recipient is just hesitant to add an unexpected task to the pile. Don’t be afraid to continue reaching out. Find the right frequency—perhaps once every two weeks—until your contact replies with a next step or tells you they aren’t interested. Even then, don’t necessarily cross the person or company off your target list. Just thank them for their time and consider them inactive for the time being.

You might try them again in a few months, or they might become an important contact for you years later in your career. An email can be forwarded in an instant, so don’t jeopardize your relationships and your network by writing something in the heat of the moment that will come back to haunt you.

Remember, every interaction by email is an opportunity to move your job search process forward by one small but concrete step.

Citrin runs the CEO Practice at Spencer Stuart, one of the world’s leading executive search and leadership consulting firms. He is the best-selling author of six books. This article was adapted from his latest, The Career Playbook: Essential Advice for Today’s Aspiring Young Professional, which was published this week.

MONEY Jobs

9 Part-Time Jobs That Pay Lots of Money

dog walker
Getty Images

These gigs keep the cash coming even if you aren't doing them every day.

If you’re trying to get out of debt, a part-time job can help you accelerate your debt payoff plan. Or maybe you are a parent with kids still at home or nearing retirement and you want extra income to avoid getting into debt, but you don’t want to be tied to a full-time job. Here are some of the most lucrative part-time jobs that also offer flexible hours. (Of course, earnings will vary significantly based on experience, geographic location, demand, etc.)

Rideshare Driver

Range: $15 to $30/hour

What you need: A reliable vehicle, smartphone, ability to pass a background check.

“Over the past year, we’ve seen a huge influx of drivers and a few rate cuts so while it’s not as lucrative as it once was,” drivers can still make good money, says Harry Campbell, publisher of TheRideShareGuy.com. “Generally, the bigger the city, the better the money.” He says drivers tend to make the most money on Friday and Saturday nights. Best of all, he says this work offers “immense flexibility.”

Bartender

Range: $10 to $75/hr

What you need: Training ($250-$600), ServeSafe Certification ($40), uniform and bar kit (about $50 together).

Lea Hatch, owner of the event planning and bartending company, A Shot Above Entertainment, Inc. says that she, her husband and their staff work mostly on weekends, giving them a full-time income for a part-time lifestyle. “A bartender/server with our company will make a minimum of $80 for four hours,” she says, “but in general we average $100 to $150 per night. Our most lucrative events net us $800 to $1,200 per staff member.” In bartending jobs, income is often heavily dependent on tips, which can vary.

Office Professional

Range: $20 to $30/hour

What you need: Experience requirements vary depending on position.

Companies looking for part-time experienced workers are often in a “high-growth stage” but “hesitant to invest in human capital, just don’t have the work to justify 40 hours per week,” says Ellen Grealish, co-founder of FlexProfessionals, LLC. “Top part-time roles in terms of number of requests are finance (bookkeeping and accounting), administration (personal assistant, office manager, administrative, etc..) and HR (generalist, recruiter),” she says.

If you have specialized skills — you are a whiz at Quickbooks, for example — you may be able to bring in $25 to $35 an hour, contract specialists often make $50 to $60 per hour, and some attorneys who no longer want the grind of working full time can command $85 to $100/hour, she says.

Special Events Worker

Range: $12 to $15/hour

What you need: Requirements vary, training may be provided.

Special events, such as hotel banquets or concerts are often staffed in part by part-time workers who handle the influx of customers. Companies may find these workers through sites such as Shiftgig.com. “Highest paying gigs come from customer service positions at silent auctions that pay $15/hr and includes a $20 travel stipend,” says Shiftgig co-founder and CEO Eddie Lou. “Onsite managers can earn $20/hour.”

Babysitter

Range: $13 to $18/hour

What do you need: Clear background check and drug test, CPR and first aid training, speak fluent English.

Working professionals, celebrities and families looking for childcare help when traveling or attending special events often need reliable screened adult babysitters to watch their children. They turn to firms like The Babysitting Company where the screening has already been done for them. “Our professionally trained sitters work both part time and full time,” says Rachel Charlupski. She adds that there is a great degree of flexibility and many sitters are students, nurses or retired professionals. “Some sitters work with one family throughout the year and others wait for shorter-term assignments whenever they are available and remain on call. We have even booked travel assignments as 5 a.m. where a sitter had to be at the client’s plane at 8 a.m. to travel to Germany.”

Web Designer

Range: $20 to $150/hour

What you need: Web design skills

“Designers with strong portfolios can make incredible money, particularly if they team up with small website marketing firms that build/maintain websites for small- and medium- (sized) businesses,” says Josh Lindenmuth, CIO with the payroll company Payce, Inc. He says one designer he knows personally made over $15,000 a month on the side. “The key was that he became extremely good at churning out great sites fast. He could get done a $1,000 site every two days, while a less skilled designer/developer may take two weeks,” he says. Web design skills — which can be learned online or at local community colleges — and a great portfolio are essential.

Designers with special skills can also command higher incomes. For example, motion graphic designers on the marketplace shakr.com earn 70% of all revenue earned (indefinitely) through their Adobe after-effect templates.

Dog Walker

Range: $15 to $75/ hour

What you need: Must love dogs! May also need to be licensed and/or bonded, and purchase insurance.

Earnings depend on locale and will increase if you can walk multiple dogs at the same time. On the plus side, “It provides plenty of exercise and you will meet new and interesting people on your walks,” says career counselor and executive coach Roy Cohen. “My dog, Oskar, is walked twice a day by a group of folks who are all artists, actors or students,” he says.

Tutor

Range: $15 to $200/hour

What you need: Ability to tutor children or adults in specific subjects.

“For teachers, ex-teachers, college instructors and grad students this is a great option,” says Cohen. It may help to work through a tutoring company initially to learn the ropes, though pay will be lower than if you work on your own. Increasingly, good tutors can work through online portals, which means less travel to client homes, and those skilled in high-demand areas, such as SAT tutoring, can earn more.

Business Consulting

Range: $150 to $300/hour

What you need: An MBA from a top-tier business school and/or specialized expertise.

Rather than hiring large consulting firms, some companies are now working on a more ad hoc basis, hiring individuals for strategic planning, process improvement, creating presentations and more. Rob Biederman, co-founder at HourlyNerd.com says technology now makes it simpler and more affordable to connect consultants to companies that need help. Our consultants “make a profile that feeds into an algorithm and when a project gets posted you will be automatically invited to bid on it.”

Marisa Goldenberg, whose education included a computer science degree from Princeton and an MBA from Harvard, often earns $250/hour and up as a consultant to top companies through HourlyNerd.com. “Depending on your experience level and what kind of project you are looking for you can set it up to work as much or as little as you want,” she says. She says she often sprints for a month, working very hard, then takes a break.

Whatever side income you pull in, just make sure you save it or use it to strategically pay off your debts. (Don’t make the mistake I made right out of college when I worked part-time in a retail job where I spent a good portion of my earnings on clothes!) Paying down debt can boost your credit scores (and you can get your credit scores for free on Credit.com to track your progress) which in turn can help you get out of debt faster. And that can make all that extra work worth it!

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

MONEY College

Here’s What the Average Grad Makes Right Out of College

new grad in front of height chart that measures salary
Kutay Tanir—Getty Images

Income for new bachelor's degree holders varies widely depending on college major.

Students who graduated college in the class of 2014 earned median starting salaries of $45,478, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The survey, which looked at the first-year income of more than 45,000 graduates, found big differences in pay depending on the new hires’ college majors.

Here’s the breakdown:

Bachelor’s Degree Major Median Starting Salary
Business $49,035
Engineering $64,367
Liberal arts and Humanities $36,237
All $45,478

Final numbers are not yet out for what starting salaries 2015 graduates can expect, but initial NACE projections earlier this year were in the low- to mid-$60,000s for engineers and the mid-$40,000s for humanities majors.

On the highest end are the class of 2015’s petroleum engineers, projected to earn an average of $80,600 in their first year out of college.

For a look at the college majors that pay you back the most, check out PayScale’s 2014-2015 College Salary Report, with information on more than 200 majors.

Read Next: How to Write E-mails That Will Land You a Job

MONEY job search

4 Job Interview Takeaways From College Senior’s Facebook Rant

Elizabeth Bentivegna
Elizabeth Bentivegna in the outfit she wore to an interview at a Cleveland tech company. She says a recruiter told her it looked like she was ready to go "clubbing."

An Oberlin College student's Facebook post about the reason she believes a tech company cut her from its job applicant pool has ignited a firestorm of comment about proper interview attire and etiquette. Here's what you can learn from the incident.

An Oberlin College senior named Elizabeth Bentivegna recently vented in a Facebook post about being rejected for a programming job at a Cleveland software company. Specifically, she was outraged by what she feels is sexism in the tech industry, and her post has sparked fierce debate online about whether there are different standards for men and women and just what is appropriate conduct during and after a job interview.

As reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Bentivegna said that a recruiter contacted her for the position, and after she interviewed with the tech company, passed along the feedback that she didn’t appear “put-together.”

“She said they’d love to hire me based on my technical ability and my personality, but were not going to because A: I looked like I was about to go clubbing and not be on an interview, B: I had a huge run in my tights and C: I was late. And I told them I was going to be late,” Bentivegna told the Plain Dealer.

The company said in prepared statement that Bentivegna was passed over for the job because they had more qualified applicants, not because of her appearance.

Regardless of gender—or your opinion on Bentivegna’s choice of interview outfit—there are a couple things every young person entering the job market can learn from this incident, says New York career coach Roy Cohen. Here are some takeaways.

1. Plan Your Outfit Carefully

Rather than going with your gut or an outfit that has worked for previous summer job interviews, research what type of interview attire is considered standard for the industry you’re looking to break into. Even if you know your industry or this company is more jeans and T-shirt than suit and tie, err on the conservative side with your fashion picks.

If you are working with a recruiter, ask for her advice. “Say: ‘I’m excited for the chance to interview and want to make the best possible impression, do you have any recommendations on interview attire?'” Cohen suggests. Alternatively, you can always seek guidance from your college’s career services center on how to prepare. You can even wear the outfit you’ve got in mind to your meeting with career services as a way of vetting it beforehand.

(For more tips on how to avoid making work-wear mistakes, see our summertime office ensemble guide.)

2. Be On Time

Just because a recruiter or company suggests an interview time does not mean you are beholden to it. If other engagements, say class or another job, conflict or overlap with the time they’ve slotted, simply explain why that time will not work and suggest an alternate time during typical business hours, Cohen recommends. Don’t hurt your prospects unnecessarily by scheduling the interview too closely to other engagements either. Give yourself space to deal with a traffic jam or whatever else life may throw at you.

3. Stay Off Social Media

It’s OK to post in celebration of landing a new gig. But ranting about a rejection or unfairness could lead you to make a career-destroying blunder as these social media users did.

If an interview experience goes poorly or you receive criticism from an employer or recruiter, keep your venting offline. Tell it to a friend. Write it in a journal. “No matter how the interview goes, if you post about an organization, you need to keep it positive. If you have nothing nice to say, it’s better to say nothing at all,” says Cohen. “Venting in that kind of public way could easily tarnish your reputation and raises issues concerning your temper, judgment, and loyalty in the eyes of future employers who fear a similar treatment.”

If you’ve already posted such a rant, purge it from your history. Hiring managers and the Internet have a way of uncovering your entire online identity, even those stupid offhand comments you may have made six years ago. If you don’t remember whether your web history includes such a venting session or something more offensive, a new app called Clear promises to search your social media accounts and flag anything questionable, then delete it.

4. Bounce Back from Rejection

“Feedback is always valuable. We can use it to become smarter interviewers and gain insight into how we are being perceived,” says Cohen. “We can’t personalize every rejection, it would distort our own value. After all, companies have to reject someone.”

But if you do feel the company misjudged you, maybe because of an outfit or a timing issue beyond your control, respond by sending the appropriate person at the company a thoughtful note expressing your disappointment at not being selected. Don’t challenge them on the reasons they or the recruiter might have given for the decision. Instead, outline the value you can add to the company once more and request another interview opportunity. You can also always ask to be kept in mind for any future openings.

Read Next: 5 Ways Women in Tech Can Beat the Odds

 

MONEY second acts

Surprising Secrets of Successful Second-Act Career Changers

man showing insect specimens to students
Gallery Stock

A new report dashes stereotypes about older workers and their ability to find rewarding jobs.

Some upbeat news for older workers looking for a fresh start: It may be easier than you think to launch a second act—if you make the right moves.

Most older workers who seek career changes are successful, especially if they use skills from their previous careers, according to a new report out Thursday from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), a nonprofit organization dedicated to economic literacy. In the survey of 2,000 people, a career change was defined as a change in jobs that involves a new role with either the same or a different employer, in either the same or a different field.

According to the report, 82% of people 47 and older who tried to transition to new careers in the last two years were successful. Nearly 70% of successful changers saw their pay either stay the same (18%) or increase (50%), while 31% took a pay cut. As for job satisfaction, 87% of successful changers said they were happy with their change, and 65% felt less stress at work.

The findings fly in the face of stereotypes about older workers and their ability to find new jobs. It’s true that when older workers lose their jobs, it takes longer to find one. But many older people are in fact fully employed. The unemployment rate for workers 55 and older is less than 3.7%, compared with 5.5% for the national average.

And the number of older people working is growing: The percentage of people 55 and older in the labor force is more than 40%, up from 29% in 1993, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Still, the report is encouraging because an increasing number of older workers say they want to or need to work past traditional retirement age, but they don’t want to continue to do the same thing. Many are looking for a change and a new challenge, as well as less stress.

“Our research shows that older workers are finding rewarding careers, not just new jobs, later in life,” says Stephen Adams, AIER president.

The findings back up another recent survey by the AARP Public Policy Institute that was positive about older workers’ ability to make a career change, even those who had been unemployed for a while. The survey focused on workers 45 to 70 who had been jobless at some point in the last five years. Almost two-thirds of reemployed older workers found jobs in an entirely new occupation.

Of course, some of the unemployed didn’t choose to switch occupations; they were forced to do so by layoffs or changes in their industry. But for others, the change was a decision to do work that was more personally rewarding and interesting, or just less demanding with fewer hours.

It makes sense that pursuing a new career is a viable option for older workers, says Adams. “Older workers tend to have more experience and stronger networks, which they can leverage to make that transition.”

The AIER research found distinct patterns among those career changers who were successful compared with those who tried but didn’t make the leap into a new field or occupation. In some cases, workers remained at the same company but in a new role. For others, they changed where they worked, their occupation. and/or their field. Here are some lessons from the successful career changers.

Identify and capitalize on your transferable skills. The people who were successful assessed their skills and figured out how their job experience could apply to a new occupation. In some cases, changers took courses or additional training to hone those skills or develop new ones. But additional education wasn’t necessarily a hallmark of successful career changers. Many people become trainers in their field, consultants to their old firms, or teachers in their field of expertise. Others used their knowledge to launch a business. In one case, a medical school administrator left academia after 22 years and started his own business of freestanding clinics. In another, a truck mechanic who already had much of the required licensing started his own hauling business after taking seminars on relevant regulations.

Be realistic. People who weren’t successful tended to be those who wanted to leap into an entirely different line of work. It sounds great to open a restaurant or buy a vineyard, but it’s much harder to pull off. It’s a bigger risk financially, and your network of contacts will be less relevant. “The notion of ‘follow your dream’ is a wonderful sentiment, but you have to have a clear-eyed vision of what you bring to the table for your employer or a new venture,” says Adams.

It’s not good to be a lifer. Successful job seekers spent fewer years at the same employer and worked in a variety of roles for different companies over their lifetime. The longer you’ve been working, the more likely it is you’ve held several jobs, so the job-changing experience isn’t so new. But if you’ve been stuck in one job a long time, it’s going to be harder to make a transition.

Enlist family and friends. The most successful career changers said family support was important. That means having encouragement from friends and relatives, and a willingness for family to change their lifestyle to accommodate a different career. Successful career changers also asked for feedback from colleagues, friends, and family members about their aspirations. “People who were successful had encouragement and honest feedback from people who knew them well,” Adams says.

 

MONEY Ask the Expert

What to Say When a Job Interviewer Asks You an Illegal Question

Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: I was recently being interviewed for a job, and it seemed to be going well. But then the interviewer asked if I was planning to have children. Is she allowed to do that?

A: If the question made you uncomfortable, there’s a good reason. It’s illegal to ask—and the person interviewing you may not even know it.

One in five hiring managers say they have asked a question in a job interview only to find out later that it was a violation of federal labor laws to ask it, according to a CareerBuilder survey.

In the same survey, one third of employers who were given a list of banned questions also said they didn’t know the queries were illegal.

Things that are out of bounds for companies to ask about include your age, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, disability, plans for children, debt, and whether you are pregnant, drink, or smoke.

While it’s unlikely that an interviewer will bluntly ask your age or religion (though that does happen), a lot of interviewers veer into dangerous territory just by making small talk, says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “Casual conversation is part of the interview process. When you’re chit-chatting, sometimes the conversation turns more personal.” In other cases, hiring managers want to make sure people are a good cultural fit, so they try to tap into other parts of a candidate’s life, Haefner says.

Sometimes it’s just how the question is framed that makes it illegal. For example, you can ask if a job candidate has been convicted of a crime, but not if he or she has an arrest record. You can’t ask a person’s citizenship or national origin, but it’s OK to ask if the person is legally eligible to work in the U.S.

Some hiring managers may be in the dark because they’ve never gotten formal training or don’t interview people often. But not everyone is just clueless. Anti-discrimination labor laws exist for a reason, says Haefner. “You shouldn’t be asked about information that’s not directly relevant to whether you can perform a job,” she says.

Understanding what’s allowed and what’s not is in a company’s best interest too. A job candidate who isn’t offered a position may say certain questions were used to discriminate against her and file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission or hire a lawyer. Though discrimination may be hard to prove, the company could face legal action and financial penalties.

If you’re the person doing the interviewing, check in with your HR department about training, and prepare your questions in advance so you are less likely to stray into illegal territory.

When you’re on the other side of the interview table, it’s a little trickier.

Whether you should answer a personal question is your choice, but if the question seems inappropriate, Haefner suggests responding with a question of your own. “Say, as diplomatically as possible, ‘I just want to clarify how that is relevant to the job.’”

If the questioner doesn’t take the hint, then it may not be a company you want to work for anyway.

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