Career Counseling for 50-Somethings

In the last year, I have had as many career counseling clients over 50 years old than under 30 years old.

That surprised me. Then, I laughed at my faulty thinking.

While I had the correct notion that those under 30 do not understand the world of work, I had the mistaken view that those over 50 did.

I’m writing a book on the new world of work. Why would I think that 50somethings understand this world?

The current world of work is not the work that my contemporaries in the approaching 50 club and those in the over 50 club entered either.

Most all of my 50 something clients face the same challenges as those in their twenties. They have no idea how to find their place in this new work reality.

I also realized that I know so much about this world not only from career counseling and research/writing about the new world of work but also because I unintentionally “lived the new world of work.”

A couple of decades ago, I was the embodiment of a cliché: the attorney who “wanted to make a difference” who then “discovered” (even though mountains of evidence were in plain site) that private practice did not suit such idealism.

I followed my calling into education and counseling. But, I did so through creation of a business centered around my vision.
I quickly discovered that I had to create my own work. This turns out to be what most everyone needs to do in the new world of work. In doing so, I was forced to develop what I call entrepreneurial wisdom, which encompasses work know-how in ways far beyond starting a business. To be clear, my wisdom was not derived from sitting under a tree and figuring out futuristic insights. I was just trying to ensure that I could pay the bills for my wife and three children. The fear of failure forced me to become wise in this very precise area.

When I speak to my friends who are approaching or have past 50, I realize that in broad strokes they fit into three camps:

(1) those who have only a theoretical understanding about the new world of work. These friends have had the good fortune of being unaffected by the tumult of the economy. In thinking about the issue, I realize that almost all of these friends work in the government.

(2) those who have a concrete understanding about the new world of work. Almost all of these friends (and career counseling clients) have been rocked into comprehending this reality due to being laid off.

(3) those that are in denial. I have friends (and career counseling clients) who can theoretically discuss the new reality of the work place and are actually facing potential work crises. But, for whatever reason (fear, avoidance, blind optimism), are doing nothing to prepare/adjust to the new reality. The most common case is the friend (and career counseling client) who has had a steady job in the same company for many years. Frog in the gradually boiling pot.

I like helping everyone who enters my office. But, perhaps because of self-reflection, I get particular joy from helping my 50something clients with their career counseling needs.