Career Counseling for Older Adults

Sally Painter
Happy senior businesswoman on a seminar in a board room

Career counseling is a good way for older adults to get back into the workforce. Older workers can find a new career path much easier when they work with a good career counselor who understands the challenges they face.

Why Career Counseling for Older Adults Is a Good Idea

A local career counselor for older workers should have a broader and in-depth understanding about employment opportunities in your town or city than a typical placement agency. Many career counselors for older workers have established relationships with local employers and agencies. This networking can provide you with insights that you could not establish yourself.

What You Can Expect from a Career Counselor

It's always best to keep your expectations in check. You must have the skills, experience and abilities required for any job. A career counselor will serve as your coach and guide through your career or job change.

Overcoming Ageism

While age discrimination is against the law, age bias is still present. Your counselor can arm you with the necessary information and tools to overcome this potential obstacle. For example, you already know you're up against younger candidates for most jobs. The majority of these jobs don't require 20 to 30 years of experience. A career counselor for older adults can help you recognize the attributes to present to an employer that will make you stand out from the mass of potential job candidates.

Assessment and Evaluation

Career counseling for older adults requires an astute counselor trained in assessing your skills and experience. You'll need to take whatever tests and assessments are necessary for your counselor to establish an overview of your skills and abilities.

Matching Your Skills With Employer Needs

The counselor is then able to translate what you bring to a company and advise you on potential jobs you're interested in pursuing. A counselor offers an objective point-of-view on how your abilities potentially match those required for a specific job. Some of the tools a career counselor may use could include assessments/tests designed for specific jobs available in your area.

The Right Attitude

Keep in mind that your career counselor doesn't know you or your abilities. It's through these assessments that she/he will gain a better understanding of what you bring to the employment table. Through these evaluations, your counselor may determine you're qualified for a job you never considered. Being flexible, cooperative and accommodating with these assessments will go a long way toward obtaining your goals.

Guidance and Encouragement

An astute career counselor for older people knows the value you can bring to a job and the benefit your expertise will give a company. You can depend on the guidance of your counselor to steer you towards the jobs best suited for your skills, experience, and any physical requirements you may have.

Career Change and Back to College

Your counselor can help you decide if a career change is right for you. There are several tuition aids available to seniors wishing to start a second career. A career counselor for older workers will know which programs are available, such as financial aid for older and nontraditional students, and can direct you to these programs.

Adult education students using laptops in classroom

Updating Your Resume

It may have been a long time since you created a resume. Most career counselors provide a resume service. Others offer personal assessment/guidance for preparing and/or updating your resume.

Networking Opportunities

Networking is vital to establishing connections with the business community. Your career counselor can direct you to various networking opportunities, such as business mixers, a chamber of commerce weekly social, and different groups you might find of value, especially those for older workers.

Interview Preparation

Your career counselor will help you prepare for your first interview. At this time, your career counselor will give you interview tips and help you assess your interviewing skills.

Interviewing Tips, Coaching and Advising

Chances are, you haven't been on a job interview for some time. You may be out of practice and not feeling too confident about resuming that stressful part of job hunting. Your counselor is used to this reaction and can help you prepare for job interviews.

Coaching for Job Interviews

Many career counselors offer mock interviews to help you learn techniques and etiquette for putting your best foot forward. This can also include what to wear for specific interviews. You can never overdress for an interview, but you certainly can be underdressed. Follow your counselor's guidance on interview attire so you always present yourself as a professional.

Smiling mature business woman

Follow-Up After Interview

Your career counselor will want to follow-up with you as soon as you finish your interview. This may be a phone call or a request for you to drop by their office. You should be as open as possible about sharing your interview experience so your counselor can help you assess your performance and what to try next time for improvement.

Evaluating Your Interview

The purpose of the interview follow-up is to learn from the feedback of your counselor. Remember, you are in competition, so you need all the pointers you can get in preparation for your next interview.

Learning from Interviews

While your expectation of each job interview should be to receive an offer, keep in mind you are playing a numbers game. The more interviews you go on, the greater your chances are to receive an offer.

Interview Takeaways

It helps to view each interview as a learning tool that you can build on for the next interview until you receive a job offer. For some people, that first interview will reap a job offer, but for the majority, it will take a couple or more interviews. Your counselor will help you assess each one, provide feedback, and determine the takeaway from the interview to help you have a better one next time.

Post Job Interview Etiquette Tips

Another role of your counselor is to advise you on the proper post interview etiquette. This is usually a standard "Thank you" note or email, but your counselor will know which form you should use, as well as any special etiquette expectations a company may have.

Receiving a Job Offer

Your counselor will advise you on how to receive a job offer and what to say and what not to say. Most importantly, you may want to discuss the offer with your counselor before replying to it. This is especially true if you are unfamiliar with the career and area of industry. Your counselor can help you assess the offer. If you wish to negotiate any parts of the offer, such as salary, vacation time, etc., your counselor can advise you on the best approach. Ultimately, it's your decision to accept or reject a job offer.

Senior entrepreneur using mobile phone

Accepting a Job Offer

Once you accept a job offer, your counselor will want to meet with you, first to congratulate you and second to go over some tips to help your transition into your new job go smoothly. Pay close attention to your counselor, especially if he/she is familiar with the company culture and can offer you valuable insider tips.

Assessing Potential Career Counselor for Older Workers

There are a few things you want to look for in a career counselor for older adults. You don't have to choose the first career counselor if you feel this person doesn't understand your goals or you don't connect with them. Things to look for in a good career counselor for older workers include:

  • Understands your career goals and devises a plan of action
  • Knows the current job market for older workers
  • Offers an in-depth assessment of your skills and potential career paths
  • Appears to have relationships with potential employers or at least within the community
  • Knowledge of job opportunities, agencies, and programs for older adults
  • Provides actionable information about jobs and preparation for job interviews
  • Understands your value as a potential employee
  • Counseling certification and state license (most states require)

Potential New Careers and On-the-Job Training

Your career counselor is aware of on-the-job training programs that you could potentially qualify to fill. These can vary from one industry to another. Some communities have second career training programs through various government and privately funded agencies.

Job training with a senior

Working with Company Hiring Programs

Some companies have recognized the value of older workers and participate in an older employee hiring initiatives. Your counselor will know which companies to contact and will be able to advise you on the positions available.

Fee Paid Career Counseling for Older Adults

Before you agree or sign a contract with a career counselor, make sure you understand the fee structure. Most career counselors charge between $100 to $250 an hour. Your time will either be 30- or 60-minute sessions with a total of six to 10 sessions. You schedule may be one session a week, every two weeks or one a month, depending on what you and your counselor agree to pursue. You should never pay any fee upfront. You will be paying for a service that isn't tied directly to you getting a job offer.

How to Find a Career Counselor

There is no official regulation for career counselors, especially ones for older workers. There are a few ways you can find a qualified reputable career counselor. Professional organizations that offer certifications for career counselors are a great place to start.

Institute of Career Certification International (ICCI)

Institute of Career Certification International (ICCI) offers certification for career counselors for management professionals. The website offers a portal for finding one of their certified counselors by scrolling to your country and the area of specialty you wish in a career counselor.

National Certified Counselor (NCC)

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) has a certification for counseling flagship, National Certified Counselor (NCC). You can look for this certification when seeking a career counselor, but the website doesn't offer a directory for you to search.

International Coach Federation (ICF)

The International Coach Federation (ICF) is a global certification for coaches. The website offers a coach directory with several search criteria you designate.

Government and Non-Profit Career Counseling Services for Older Adults

You can take advantage of various government-sponsored programs, some administered by non-profits as well as government agencies. Most are not a fee-based service but provided free to those who qualify.

National Older Worker Career Center

National Older Worker Career Center (NOWCC) is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit. The organization is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia and has a field office in Lakewood, Colorado and Dallas, Texas. The group works with government agencies for hiring people 55 and over.

Senior woman gardener working in Garden center

Administering Government Services

The organization administers the Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services (ACES) Program for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and for U.S. Forest Service (USFS). In addition, it also administers the Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) Program for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) in partnership with the AARP Foundation for U.S. Department of Labor.

National Council on Aging

The oldest program of the National Council on Aging (NCOA) is the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) that helps unemployed, low-income people 55-year-old and older find jobs. Part-time, paid training programs with non-profits provide these individuals with skills that can be used within private industry. The program is funded by the US Department of Labor.

AARP Foundation

The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) features Back to Work 50+ partners in various US locations. The organization also offers free strategy tips and a 50+ jobseekers guide. You can all 1-855-850-2525 to receive both and inquire if there is a workshop in your vicinity.

Other Ways to Find a Career Counselor

You can join various online groups dedicated to individuals 55+ and ask for referrals. Most of these forums/groups are open dialogues, although some have specific topics for discussions. Some favorite forums include, Silver Surfers, Over50Forum, or join a LinkedIn group, or even start one yourself.

Colleges and Universities

Some colleges and universities offer career counseling services for alumni. You can check with your alma mater to see if it offers this service or check with local community colleges/universities for community programs to senior citizens. Some may also provide a list of reputable career counselors.

United Way

Some United Way offices offer monthly appointments with volunteer career counselors/coaches. You can check with your local United Way to see if this free service is available in your area and how to sign up.

Understanding Career Counseling Options for Older Adults

Older people have quite a few options when it comes to finding a career counselor. Some options involve paying a fee while others are free services offered by government agencies. A counselor can help you find a new career path.

Career Counseling for Older Adults