But ultimately I believe that a greater net good accrues from telling people the truth: It could help them realize they have to work harder than they thought to get a job. It could help them realize they need to focus on senior-friendly fields. It could help them better craft pitches to employers.
So, having worked with hundreds of job-seekers 50+, here's what I believe the truth is for them:
Yes there are a few fields in which people 50+ routinely get hired--for example, those that serve an older client base such as long-term health insurance, assisted-living facilities, even architecture firms, but in general, the job outlook for older workers is poor. Most employers avoid hiring older people. People 50+ are often perceived as:
- Often not current on technology or new best practices
- Having long-acquired habits making them more likely to be set in their ways
- Not learning as quickly
- Having a sense of entitlement: expecting additional respect and influence merely because of their age.
- Imposing high health-care insurance costs
- Working more slowly because of declining physical or mental health or reduced motivation.
- Less willing to put in long hours because they fatigue more easily or are less open to bosses demanding that they work evenings or weekends.
- Crankier and harder to deal with.
- Having a worse memory than younger people
- Tending to be long-winded
- Having difficulty multitasking
- Focused more on retirement than getting the job done
- Being too timid in proposing bold ideas for fear of being replaced
- Giving the workplace a tired image
Most successful job seekers 50+ get hired through their network, which often is more extensive because an older person has been around longer. If they don't get hired that way, they may go back to school but too often find that their degree doesn't make them much more employable. Or they answer many want ads but rarely end up with a decent job offer. Or they try self-employment, which for someone who by age 50+ hasn't heretofore been entrepreneurial, usually ends up failing.
Based on my experience with older clients, that's the unvarnished truth.