career counseling

Age Discrimination in the Workplace: Tips and Tricks to Help Protect Your Clients

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Age discrimination in the workplace involves treating an applicant or an employee less favorably because of his or her age. Fortunately, according to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), human resources, and employment attorneys, clients that feel they have been discriminated against have protection. However, age discrimination happens all too often and in many cases, is difficult to prove there is guilt on the side of the employer. As a result, it is important to assist our clients in protecting themselves against discrimination so they have equal opportunity in having access to gainful employment.

For therapists working with clients who are going through career-transition, the world of work can cause obvious emotional stressors as a result of not receiving a paycheck, not having health insurance, and lacking other retirement benefits. In fact, these stressors can be compounded if that individual does not have adequate financial resources in which to fall back on if they are out of work for a long period of time. In addition, to add insult to injury, if those clients have previously have been employed for a decade or more, they may be unaware of the current job-market and what it takes to get employed again.

The good news is that there are simple ways to assist your clients in protecting themselves from age discrimination and making sound career choices for the future.

1) Revamp Your Resume

Make sure that your clients are adhering to the latest trends in how resumes are constructed. Advise them to only go back 10 years in their work history and eliminate all dates of graduation from Universities they attended. Now this is true for every job applicant regardless of age; however, it’s paramount to individuals who fear age discrimination in their search.

2) Use Updated Email Addresses

Now this may seem silly, but using an email address from Hotmail, AOL, or even Comcast is a dead giveaway. Have your client switch to Gmail. If they still want to keep that old email, just have them forward their Gmail address to their old account.

3) Get on LinkedIn

Yes, they must go digital! Almost every future-employer is going to Google them. Age discrimination happens for a variety of reasons, but one of the main factors is the belief that “old” people are not tech savvy. Well, obviously that is not true and just being on LinkedIn won’t solve all of those concerns; however, it will show employers clients are willing to engage with technology. Also, a profile picture could be a giveaway of age - just make sure it is updated and professional.

4) Network, Network, and Network Some More

Encourage your clients to re-engage with past colleagues, go to career fairs (even your alma mater!), do informational interviews, join professional associations, and job-search groups. Most good jobs (85% of them) are found through colleagues or colleagues of colleagues. All too often, it is who you know and participating in an active job search is a better utilization of their time versus solely applying online. Advise them to seek people out one-on-one, especially if they have a preference for introversion.

According to AARP research, age discrimination is first being reported or “felt” around age 50. Yes, that’s right - 50! And, not that this is a big shocker, but given societal stigma, women tend to feel or report it more frequently over men. Sadly, although it’s hard to gather metrics around these happenings, this scenario is most likely true. Not that we can control external variables about how employers choose potential candidates, we can control how our clients view themselves and we can assist them in making competent future career decisions. Here are a few practical ways to engage with clients that often lead clients to a better sense of clarity around their strengths, desires, and congruence with a future employer.

1) Strengths

First off, have them take a strength-based assessment like the StrengthsFinder. There are many out there, but this one is low-cost, quick, and will provide clients with their top 5 strengths. We do know that working from a place of strength will warrant far better results versus trying to fix our deficits. Have the client tell you stories about how they agree or disagree with each of the top 5. This will allow them to connect with their intrinsic motivators and help them market themselves with strengths + instances of past success when they get that interview.

2) Values

Talk with your clients about their values. You can use something like the Values Cardsort from Knowdell. When was the last time they did an inventory on their values? Chances are that it has been long time or….never! Taking an inventory of these will help them engage with what they want and need in career and life. We are different people at every age and stage of our life so connecting with these systems allows the client to see if there is a congruence between the company, the corporate culture, and if they would be a suitable fit.

3) Fit

Talk to your client about company fit. In many cases, you can tell a lot about a company in how they onboard their employees. How was the application process? How was the introductory email, the call from the hiring manager - the recruiter, how was the phone screen, and how did the in-person interview(s) feel? If the company is unorganized on the front end or if they are rude, it is most likely not any better after they get hired. I know it can be tempting to get a job quick especially if your client needs money; however, if they are looking for optimal fit and happiness, turning down a potentially toxic work environment is the right call. Taking a job and quitting quickly never reads well on a resume.

Age discrimination is likely to almost always occur as long as future employers harbor false beliefs about the abilities of this segment of the workforce. As a result, helping your clients protect themselves, giving them resources about their rights, and helping them to connect to their strengths and values will ensure that they are interviewing the future-potential company just as much as they are being evaluated. According to another AARP study, contrary to many stereotypes, workers aged 50 and above are the most engaged members of the workforce. They also have lower instances of turnover and greater levels of experience. For therapists, guiding clients around issues pertaining to negative self-beliefs and establishing clarity around value systems is in many ways, more important than the nuts and bolts of job search.

Guest post written by Brad Graham, M.Ed., LPC

Guest post written by Brad Graham, M.Ed., LPC

Brad Graham, M.Ed., LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works with individuals of all ages and stages in the midst of career-transition. In his Boulder, CO practice, Collaborative Careers™, he combines the use of counseling interventions with career-related assessments to help bring clarity, direction, and action within his clients. He takes a process-oriented, holistic approach and honors his clients for taking ownership over their lives and their relationship to the world of work. Brad can be found on the weekends running the trail systems, cycling the roads, or fly-fishing in Colorado's beautiful rivers. More can be found on his website about his work.      

Pursuing Purpose: Engaging in Exploration


Purpose. Impact. Fulfillment. All are meaningful words for a desired way of living your clients may want to maintain in pursuit of a quality life. Society may tell them to find what they love to do and do it for the rest of their life. Individuals tell your clients to never settle and keep pursuing their dreams. Regardless of how it’s described, pursuit of purpose, passion, or fulfillment can be seen as the driving force behind behaviors and identity within the world. And when it becomes hard to grasp or remains unfound, it can create distress that engages your client in seeking support to find answers. Influential author and speaker Simon Sinek calls this quest for meaning, “finding your why.”


Learning Through Literature

So how does one start the journey in finding their why? For some, it’s engaging in reading material such as Simon Sinek and David Mead’s book, Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team, or exploring your leadership style with Tom Rath and Barry Conchie’s Strengths Based Leadership. Perhaps you explore your client’s personality through the Enneagram, which is increasing in popularity over the Myers Briggs Personality Test in its ability to develop insight into how one interacts relationally with others from reinforcement in childhood experiences. Any of these sources could support increased awareness not only of strengths, but awareness of the psychological driving forces behind motivation and resulting behaviors. A free version of the Enneagram quiz called EnneaApp can be found through the App Store with additional information and the formal assessment can found at the Enneagram Institute ( Engaging clients in processing the results of the Enneagram quiz can support insight into how they best relate to others when engaging in collaborative activity or to identify strategies for strengthening of their relationships.


Vetting Values

In addition to reading or other homework regarding the Enneagram, another approachable option for exploration of purpose and self-discovery can occur through values exercises. Ranking a series of values by level of importance can allow further insight of what motivates a person. By engaging in a values exercise, it allows one to check in on how important values are being experienced both in the present moment and how they can be improved in the future to support feelings of fulfillment.  A free, online resource to engage in exploration of your values can be found by completing the Life Values Inventory ( As a helping professional, you may also invest in making or buying value cards that are easy to sort as part of therapeutic activity. The act of sorting presents as a low risk activity and encourages clients to remain aware of their gut reactions rather than finding themselves in analysis paralysis, which allows authentic processing outside of society pressures or others’ values influence.


Core Beliefs and Cognitions

Engaging in the progressive work of processing behavior patterns and values can also be explored through therapeutic work. Identifying negative thoughts or core beliefs can create new connections and awareness between actions and reactions. Core beliefs can be described as our deepest, sometimes darkest fears or beliefs about ourselves, usually focusing on negative traits such as feelings of unworthiness, being unlovable, or feelings of failure.  When experienced, core beliefs can engage visceral reactions in the body including intense feelings of shame and fear. When explored through trauma therapy modalities such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), healing can be accelerated and supported to re-write client views of negative beliefs to something more positive, thus improving self-esteem, functioning, and relationships with others.


Career Counseling

One final therapeutic element that can support clients in pursuing purpose is career counseling. Career counselors, by trade, support individuals in discovering their strengths, possible career paths, and can support clients in preparing for career interviews, resumes, and choice of higher education if desired.

Whether you engage your client in the above-mentioned exercises to improve self-esteem, discover purpose, or develop new insight, reassuring your clients that self-discovery is an exciting, sometimes lengthy process to uncover passion and motivation can set realistic expectations for your therapeutic work.  However they go about engaging in “finding their why,” it is the hope that they enjoy the process and engage fully to uncover their recipe for success and achieve feelings of fulfillment!