The Aging Workforce and the Canadian Career Practitioner’s Role

Older gentleman looking at an eight-ball and wondering whether he's a victim of ageism.

By Sharon Graham.

According to Statistics Canada, our workforce is aging. A growing number of people in the labour market are choosing to work rather than to retire. Yet, new research says that across Canada we find deep-rooted societal and cultural discrimination against older workers.

A recent Revera Report on Ageism said that despite an aging population, ageism is the most tolerated form of social discrimination in Canada. As career practitioners, we need not stand aside on this growing concern. We must become advocates for our older clients.

The evolving labour market

In our new economy, knowledge is particularly crucial to employers. As business leaders look towards emerging markets, they are increasingly becoming aware that they can benefit from know-how and business acumen. Many positions in demand today require a greater degree of knowledge and on-the-job competencies than an entry-level professional can immediately bring to the table. This is important for older workers to know.

Older clients must understand their worth

Our responsibility, as practitioners, is to help our older clients understand their worth as highly experienced professionals. We must remind them of their diversity and breadth of experience. The credibility that comes from a career rich in successes can be invaluable to employers. When our clients realize the tremendous value they offer, they gain new confidence in tackling a job market that may initially seem against them.

There are ways that older experience and expertise can make a significant difference. Here are some of the tangible values that older workers bring to employers:

  • Personal connections across their industry that can turn into potential clients and new revenue.
  • Knowledge and best practices from working in other, similar organizations in the past.
  • The skills and expertise that come from working years in the trenches.

The older worker’s career is a gold mine. Advise clients to tap into their memory banks and sift through everything they have done. By weighing each competency, achievement, and credential carefully, they can determine what is valuable enough to share with employers. Of course, the accomplishments that each individual features must have relevance to the targeted position and the employer’s buying motivators.

Accomplishments from the past are valuable

As a general rule, many practitioners advise clients to focus on recent accomplishments, because recruiters and hiring managers might feel that much of what a candidate did prior to the current decade has little relevance today. However, are we disqualifying important experience that our clients bring to the job?

Rather than discounting the past, we must let our older clients tell their whole story. They are who they are now because of their experiences, what they learned, and what they achieved. When organizations are looking for professionals, they now attach a great deal of value to such diversity of experience.

We can help our clients to reinforce their value proposition by allowing them to articulate their early experience and deep expertise. But we can’t stop there. We must segue into a discussion about the transferability and application of this earlier knowledge into current positions. This strategy enables our clients to reassure recruiters and employers that it is worthwhile selecting an older candidate.

When our clients become comfortable articulating their worth, others will realize that they are well-rounded, experienced, adaptable, and have everything they need in the role.

Tools of the trade support career goals

By leveraging established methods to express our clients’ best offerings, we can tilt the scales in their favour. Here are some more considerations for older clients:

  • Secure acknowledgements from earlier engagements. Testimonials from different sources demonstrate that a candidate has been effective “on-the-job” for some time. Accolades and awards can establish the individual as an authority on a subject. This helps to validate and support the candidate’s message to recruiters.
  • Play to the target market’s complexities. Our labour market is vast and every sector has distinct needs. For example, some employers are sticklers when it comes to mentioning every job and every role that your client has ever held in the resume. This is most often the case in academia and in some government positions. Clients must be clear on the amount and type of information certain sectors expect so that they can act appropriately.
  • Freelancing is certainly an option for highly experienced older clients. Many employers support a contract model as it is beneficial to them in the current economy. This is a cost-effective option for organizations who do not want to invest in a long-term employee-employer relationship. If the candidate is in the market for a short tenure, this may be a good alternative to a full-time permanent job.

As Canadian Career Professionals, we play an important role in eliminating ageism across our nation. We need to make it socially and culturally unacceptable for anyone to be excluded for appropriate opportunities, solely based on their age. By improving our clients’ sense of worth and arming them with strategies to sell their value, we will change the overall perception of older workers in our labour market.

Thank you for reading my blog! Please email me if you spot any errors in this post.

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I agree totaly with your writing.

For more information on my group career counseling with the Career Legacy Circle Approach go to my website.
Please note that my training materiel for certification of CLC facilitators is now translated in english.

Best regards,

Well said, Eric! I use a similar approach in my career planning workshops with the public (the participant mix includes older workers) and also with the participants in my retirement planning workshops. Older workers have skills, knowledge, attitudes, and expertise mined from a lifetime in the workforce. These are still needed in the current labor market with its trending skill shortages. I’m on a mission to see older workers’ valuable skills not go to waste or be ignored.
Nell Smith
Creator and Founder: Retire to the Life You Design

I have done many lines of work since 15. I had not been hired for 9 years now!

This is absolutely wonderful, thank you so much! Sadly age discrimination seems to know no boundaries when it comes to different sectors of the workforce.
I work in the professional Music Industry and can assure everything you say here applies to people the arts such as myself. I really appreciate how well you are able to sum up all of the positive qualities older people have to offer. Inspiring to me as an older worker, and very helpful in advocating for all of us
I will be sure to share this with my colleagues, these is a lot of discussion in our industry on this topic and this wonderful article will be very much appreciated
thanks again