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Getting Back in the Work Force After 50

 


Whether you’ve been forced into early retirement, downsized, or
are tired of being at home and eager to work again, or even
taking your first job, entering the work force after the age of
50 can hold some challenges. Here are some tips from someone who
coaches a lot of people in this transition.

 

 

FOCUS ON YOUR SKILLS

 

Focus on the skills you have, not your deficits. Chances are
you’ve accumulated a great range of talents over the years,
particularly people skills. Studies show that Emotional
Intelligence generally increases up to the age of 50 or so
(Reuven Bar-On, Ph.D.) and EQ includes those “soft skills” so
sought after in today’s work place.

Your ability to handle stress and handle people can be a great
asset.

 

 

‘GET’ WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE

 

 

Don’t be intimidated if you haven’t had the chance to get
computer-proficient. Sign up for courses at the local community
college or computer store. People over 50 are the fastest
growing segment on the Internet.

You can also read. A friend of mine who had been a school
counselor for many years decided to apply for a job as
principal. She read as many text books on the subject as she
could find before the interview, aced the interview and got the
job.

You could also, of course, get an online degree, or a
bricks-and-mortar degree, but the possibility exists of doing
this on your own time, spending less money and perhaps doing it
more rapidly.

 

 

FOCUS ON THE PLUSSES

 

 

A friend of mine who’s 59 applied for a job recently, and both
the HR person and the manager she interviewed with asked her –
though it’s probably not “legal” – if she had children. Clearly
this was an office that had experienced difficulties with
parents taking time off for their children, and were looking for
someone not so encumbered.

 

Whether or not it’s “right” for employers to look at it this
way, once your children have left the home, or are grown,
driving, self-sufficient and back home, you have an asset to
offer. You won’t be calling in when the kids are sick, or
leaving early to take them for orthodontist appointments, and
you can find a way to mention this. My friend capitalized on
this, and she got the job though she’d been out of the work
force for three years and was nearly 60. (And at her highest
salary to-date.)

 

IT ISN’T ‘AGE-RELATED’ (NLESS YOU THINK IT IS)

 

 

A client of mine was entering the work force at the age of 60
and mentioned concern about his memory. Some people experience
some short-term memory loss as they age, though it can be
minimal, and it also depends upon the individual. I asked him
some questions around this, and by the end of our conversation
he admitted that he’d “always been that way,” and really hadn’t
suffered an appreciable deficit.

 

 

Be particularly cognizant of this on the first few weeks on the
job. Everyone who takes a new job is stressed, and stress
affects us cognitively as well as emotionally. These days, every
fax machine, every phone, and every filing system is different.
What you knew in the past doesn’t always apply. What does apply
is your ability to focus, learn and apply. If you anticipate
having problems because of your age, you’ll add that source of
stress to the mix, and, like all self-fulfilling prophecies, you
may make it come true.

 

 

If you do forget some things the first days on the job, which is
quite normal, just keep forging ahead. You might also find it
helpful to carry a notepad with you and write things down. One
client mentioned she was having trouble remembering whether you
needed a “1” prior to one of the area codes in our vicinity, a
problem typical in many metro areas these days. She thought she
was losing it, until a much younger co-worker told her, “No one
can remember that. Just try it with, then try it without.”

Don’t vocally attribute things to “age”. Do this as a service to
yourself, but also to other older workers. Any time you make a
comment such as, “I’m getting too old to bend over like
this/remember file codes like this/fight with a machine like
this, you’re doing a disservice to other older workers.

My client Isabelle is 55. The last office she worked in, she was
the fastest typist, able to keyboard at over 100 wpm. She was
one of the few in the office not wearing a wrist brace, or
suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.

 

 

If you have physical impairments, don’t attribute them to age,
because there are plenty of people your age who don’t have them.
There are people with severe osteoarthritis in their 30s, and
people like Isabelle, who seem immune to the disease. It has
nothing to do with age.

 

 

 

 

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USE IT OR LOSE IT

 

 

If you’re returning to the work force in a completely new field
it may have been quite a while since you learned something new.
I have a friend who’s a physician who is just burnt out. He’s
going into sales, because he doesn’t want to retire. However,
the field of medicine has changed dramatically over his
lifetime, and kept him learning new things, so he’s not at all
troubled by the fact.

 

 

Continuous lifetime learning is one of the keys to resilience,
an important EQ competency. If you’ve gotten lax about learning,
embrace this opportunity.

 

 

ATTITUDE

 

 

I have a number of clients over 50 who are looking for jobs or
new careers. There’s a difference between those who have chosen
this path, and those who feel they were ‘forced’ into it. I
think of a friend of mine who found out, after her third child,
she couldn’t have any more babies. “I really didn’t want any
more kids,” she said. “It just made me furious not to have the
choice.”

 

 

Emotional Intelligence means managing your emotions. If you’re
stuck in a situation you don’t like, the only thing you can
control is your attitude. No one wants to work with someone
who’s negative, pessimistic or hostile, no matter how great
their skills or expertise, no matter what their age.

If you’re having trouble managing your attitude, consider
getting help with this.

 

 

GET A COACH

 

 

Coaching is wonderful for this transition. You will likely
encounter negatives from those around you. People may tell you,
“You’ll never get a job at this age,” or “No one will hire you
for anything decent.” To counter this, you need support, and you
also need specific examples to the contrary, which a coach who
works in this area can provide. I can tell you many specific
examples from my own coaching practice.

 

 

IT WILL TAKE LONGER

 

 

Not necessarily. Everyone who looking for “the” job these days
has a hard go of it. It depends upon many factors, including the
job market in the town where you live.

 

 

NO ONE WANTS TO MANAGE ‘THEIR MOTHER”

 

 

I interviewed an HR professional to check out the other side of
the picture. He agreed that some managers don’t want a report
who’s the age of their parent, but some do; and some don’t even
notice. Managers are human and they have their idiosyncrasies.
Some don’t like young, unseasoned workers! The best managers are
eager for the richness of a mix of ages, backgrounds, and
expertise because they know what it can add to the bottom line.

 

 

AGE DISCRIMINATION

 

 

As the HR professional pointed out, it’s people over 40 who are
protected, and, as he said, “Do you have any idea how many
people this applies to?” Quite a few. If you encounter someone
who has prejudices against older workers, then go find someone
who doesn’t. They’re out there.

 

 

HAVE A PLAN

 

 

Getting a job in today’s market requires a commitment of time
and energy. I recommend you work with a coach to help you come
up with a plan, stay enthusiastic and keep at it. Don’t listen
to people who are negative about it. There are plenty of people
over 50 back in the work force and loving it. The best is yet to
come!

 

 

 

 

 

About the author:
©Susan Dunn, MA, Emotional Intelligence Coach and Consultant,
http://www.susandunn.cc . Coaching, business programs, Internet
courses, teleclasses and ebooks around Emotional Intelligence.
Mailto:[email protected] for FREE ezine. I train and certify EQ
coaches. Email for info on this affordable, fast and effective
program with no residency requirement.

 


 

 

 

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