Five Concerns of the 50+ Client

Kathleen Niedermayer ·

In my short tenure with EDSI as an EARN Job Developer, I have had the privilege of observing and teaching Job Club. Most of the clients who participate are 50 years old+, have been employed steadily in a company or industry for a long time, and generally have no clue about the requirements of a job search in this century.

Five common concerns usually come to light during our weeks together in Job Club. The exciting news for us is that with empathy, active listening and open sharing, most of these concerns can be identified and relieved before “graduation” day. You can be the change agent that turns their fear, frustration and negative attitude into one of hope for a brighter and better new day.

Concern #1 – I have worked 15 + years for the same company. What do I do now?

  • Most folks identify themselves by their job titles; I was a Sleep Specialist; I was a Medical Billing Clerk. One of the keys to this concern is to identify skill sets rather than job titles. You need to help candidates identify their skill sets. This will be a paradigm shift for most, but once they know how to do this, the ideas usually flow.

Concern #2 – I was making top dollar and considered an expert in my field. I went from Hero to Zero in one month. What happened?

  • This can be an unfortunate result of companies putting profits before people. Sometimes, bottom line is king, and experience costs more. Capable, proven workers are eased out of positions to make way for less experienced, and therefore less costly, workers. Remind participants of these facts and shift focus to the road ahead.

Concern #3 – I haven’t ever needed a resume before. Companies knew me and offered me jobs.

  • The experience of the past is not the requirement of the present. This is the area where I hear clients use the word “old” more than in any other area. It comes from feeling that time has passed them by. Ask them what they do to look behind them when driving a car and most will say they look in the rear view mirror. Then ask where they look to proceed forward and the answer will be the windshield. Tell them to think of the size of the viewing area in the mirror vs. the windshield as a guideline for how much time they should spend looking back and looking forward when pursuing a new career - look back a little, use what information and experience is appropriate, but spend most of your time and energy looking forward, learning how to navigate this new and potentially exciting job terrain.

Concern #4 – I’m not so sure I can start again. I’m feeling helpless and hopeless in this world of technology.

  • You will hear this as a commonality among many of the baby boomers in class. The good news is most of them have grandchildren who will willingly help them navigate the computer. We offer classes with our partners at the CareerLink that are invaluable for the seasoned worker. Be sure to teach them the skills they need to search and find resources in order to take advantage of all the programs available to them.

Concern #5 - I never dreamed I would be in this position; I was reliable, a good worker and loyal. I wanted to retire in five years, now that can’t happen.

  • Most of the clients who are in this situation feel disappointed, disillusioned and angry. It is part of a natural response to a major loss. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying explains there are five stages of grief that people experience when a loss occurs: shock, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Most of the 50+ displaced workers take the loss of employment extremely hard. Don’t be surprised if some of the Job Club attendees display some of these emotions and express them openly.

This is when our professional, active listening skills can help them move to a better, healthier stage. Once they look forward and not back, they are prepared for the next life adventure. This is a time of golden opportunity to redefine what they truly want to do with the rest of their working time. You and I are instrumental in teaching them the skills needed to move from unemployment to new opportunity. What an awesome privilege we have to make a difference in other peoples’ lives. Stay positive and remind them of all the positive skills, experiences and capabilities they bring to the workplace. Soon you will inspire a generation to keep moving forward.