Are careers in sales the solution to the Great Unretirement?

Paul Owen, MD at The True Sales Company, on why sales is the ideal job for the over 60s
Paul Owen
An older lady sells on the phone

Sales is a career for youngsters in shiny suits. A fallback job option where those with the gift of the gab try to persuade people to buy things they don’t want. Right?

Wrong. Absolute nonsense, in fact.

Sales – proper sales – is about honesty and consistency. It’s about establishing genuinely helpful relationships with people and supporting them to understand their needs, then helping them to buy well based on those needs. It could also be the perfect career opportunity for the growing number of older people who are un-retiring and returning to the workforce as part of the Great Unretirement. 

Goodbye retirement, hello (again) working life

Remember the dream we were sold when we started working? Put the effort in for a few decades, then look forward to spending your golden years relaxing in the garden, exploring new holiday destinations and generally making the most of not having to work.

The problem is, dreams aren’t the same as reality. Many older people left the workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the World Economic Forum, the labour force participation rate of those aged 55-64 in the advanced economies of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) dropped from 64.4% in 2019 to 63.7% a year later. A small-sounding change in percentage terms, perhaps, but given the OECD includes members from 37 countries, a pretty big shift in the number of people retiring early.

Then along came the cost-of-living crisis. The UK inflation rate has recently dropped to 10.1%, down from a peak of 11.1% in October 2022. The cost of food and heating – two of the staples of a happy retirement – shot through the roof as 2022 rumbled on. The result is that many of those aged 50+ are now leaving their flowerbeds to fend for themselves and returning to the workforce en masse. And sales could be the ideal career for them.

Selling sales as a career for older workers

Let me give you the pitch.

Sales jobs suit older people. They suit those who have spent years building up their transferable skills and their people skills, while any direct skills they don’t have for the role are trainable. What’s more, sales can be done from home, which will suit some older workers. It can also be done from the office, which will suit others who are looking for a social connection as part of their work (in addition to a means of affording their astronomical gas and electricity bills).

There’s plenty in it for companies too. Older people also make very reliable workers, as many have responsibilities such as mouths to feed and (these days far more expensive) mortgages to pay.

Moving into sales in a sector they’re already familiar with is a great way for older people to make use of their knowledge. Take the example of someone who has run their own plumbing business. If that individual learns to sell, then instead of retiring they can use their plumbing knowledge to increase sales, expand their business and take on others to do the day-to-day work. It’s the same across every sector. Adding selling skills into the mix suddenly opens up a whole load of doors that weren’t there before.

We all have valuable knowledge, built up over the course of working life. A role in sales can mean realising the true value of that knowledge. With the state pension age creeping higher, we’re all supposed to be working until we’re at least 68 anyway. And who knows how much higher that age will creep over the coming years! With some more physical roles becoming less appealing as older age approaches, what are we supposed to be doing?


Written by
Paul Owen