CareerWise Canada: Working with Mature Clients


This article covers several challenges mature workers face and how career pros can address them.

Career professionals have a broad range of tools for success when working with mature clients who have been in full-time management or administrative roles for 10+ years with the same employer.

Many of these workers are dedicated professionals who were known and respected in their recent workplace for their strong knowledge of the organization and its processes. Often you can hear them say, “I don’t know how to put this on the resume, but I just get things done. I’m very reliable.”

Mature workers who have not had to look for work in several years need help understanding ATS, networking, follow-up and ways of articulating their professional differentiators. The added challenges of post-COVID hiring may include higher competition, more agile businesses and more reliance on technology. In the current climate, mature workers may also need some assistance with highlighting their technical skills and their ability to work remotely.

Understanding the Agile, Contingent Workforce of Today

Competition is high, many roles are temporary, and businesses are trying to be agile and save resources. COVID-19 is introducing new remote ways to do business, use more technologies and delegate tasks to workers (in any location) who can be productive in a remote setting.

If your client was used to stability and long-term employment in their previous organization, they may first consider acknowledging the current situation to position themselves as a candidate who offers both stability and adaptability.

To support mature workers:

  • Prepare them to leverage their experience and years of dedication to previous employers while expressing their adaptability to most recent changes in hiring.
    • They can speed up their hiring process by being highly articulate about their measurable results, technical skills and soft skills – the combination that makes them stand out.
  • Train them to highlight their hard skills as well as demonstrate confidence, competence, resilience and strong communication. A candidate with a calm, executive presence is seen as a reliable employee able to handle challenges.
  • Articulate their value for them: focus on their ability to build consensus at all levels of the organization while listening to employer’s needs and solving problems.
  • Help your client identify their top 3-5 differentiators that make them competitive.
    • You may recommend that they write down a list of their top 10-15 strengths and pick 3-5 from this list when applying for a specific role.
    • You can help them adopt a positive attitude of sharing, in concise terms, their unique professional value with a focus on employer’s needs.
    • You can emphasize the necessity to research a target company, follow up, reach the hiring manager and build their LinkedIn network.

Understanding the Achievement-Based Resume Structure

As with all other applicants, mature workers may focus too much on job duties in their resumes.

To support your clients:

  • Explain how the resume logic evolved with a focus on readability (documents must be easy to skim) and measurable results (‘problem – action – result’ format).
  • Train mature workers to think in terms of how they solve problems and what outcomes they deliver (vs. process and experience).
  • Ask specific questions or develop questionnaires to help them articulate results.
  • Encourage them to prepare for interviews following the same achievement-based approach and think in terms of how they can help employers save money, make money, improve operations or address difficulties.

Understanding Current Job Application Cycles

Submitting a resume alone is not enough. Many mature workers may favour a resume spray approach where they send applications to 50+ open positions online, without prior knowledge of companies. Help them understand a job search strategy as a more focused, yet varied effort.

To support your clients:

  • Help them inform their immediate network (service providers, community organizations, extended family, former colleagues or clients, religious, sports or recreational affiliations, etc.) that they are looking for a new role.
  • Encourage your clients to create a list of 20 target employers and research them, follow them on social media, identify decision-makers and connect with them on LinkedIn.
  • Provide your clients with examples of networking messages that are brief, clear and authentic.
  • Help your clients understand the full cycle of the job application process:
    • customizing the application for each specific role
    • following up
    • networking online
    • building relationships while interviewing (for future opportunities)
    • “closing the sale” after in-person interviews with some form of 30-60-90-day plan or a list of their action items for the first month if they were to be hired.
  • Inspire your clients to be proactive at every stage of the application vs. waiting for a response. Help them understand that an online job application puts them in the pool of 100-200 other applicants and an interview invitation puts them in a pool of 2-6 other competitions. What will they do to keep standing out?

Throughout the process of working with mature workers, remind yourself of where they are coming from and how this informs their current motivation, approaches or challenges. By showing your understanding and acknowledgement of their current state, you can help them adopt new ways of looking for work faster, while finding the best approach for each individual.


Tanya Mykhaylychenko is a resume writer with a background in university teaching and IT staffing. She is a member of Editors Canada and Career Professionals of Canada.

Pandemic Forces Early Retirement in Over 50s
August 17, 2020

An estimated 198,000 workers over the age of 50 dropped out of the workforce entirely between March and May this year, suggesting that economic pressure on employers is forcing many into an early retirement.

In analysis of the latest ONS data, recruitment firm Rest Less found that the over 50s, of all other age groups, experienced the sharpest rise in economic inactivity for this period.

This means that rather than being unemployed, people had left and were no longer seeking work due to leaving to care for someone, studying, illness or retiring.

For December 2019 to February 2020, 13.9 million people over 50 were regarded as economically inactive by the ONS. Between March and May this year, this number rose by 1.4% to 14.1 million.

By comparison, the economic inactivity level of those aged 25 to 34 declined by 1% to 1.6 million in March to May 2020, and inactivity in 18 to 24-year-olds declined 0.8% to 1.6 million.

The data adds to concerns that the government’s support schemes are overlooking other key areas of the workforce. ONS analysis from May this year also showed an increase in the number of over 50s making Universal Credit (UC) claims.

Over 50s that have left the workforce will be unable to claim their state pension until the age of 66, and an unstable job market may leave them with little options for employment, so UC or independent savings may be the only options available to them.

According to other recent findings from the Aegon Center for Longevity, 73% of UK employees are offered a retirement plan by their employer yet just 30% have a backup plan.

Rest Less founder Stuart Lewis said: “In the wake of the toughest job market in decades, there has been a significant rise in the number of workers over 50 who have lost hope in finding a job and feel forced into an early retirement that many simply cannot afford.”

He warned that, with the furlough scheme ending in October, the situation for the over 50s could be worsened in months to come.

He added: “Sadly, these numbers are simply the canary in the coal mine, we expect this to leave a permanent scar on this generation and their employment prospects.”

Speaking to HR magazine, Lewis urged people leaders to consider the benefits of employing diverse age groups.

He said: “Workers in their 50s and 60s bring a huge amount to the workforce, such as knowledge, experience and great people skills. We see tremendous benefit in having age diverse teams of both young and old working together. This leads to great diversity of thought and experience, but also improves overall workplace happiness.

“Over the last 10 years, the over 50s have been the driving force of economic growth, responsible for nearly 80% of all of the UK’s employment growth. Losing them early from the workforce means we risk losing essential skills and a key growth dynamo to help drive us out of this recession.”

Jamie Mackenzie, director at Sodexo Engage Topic, said it’s important that employers do not forget the value over 50s bring to the workplace.

He said: “They’ve had the years to build knowledge and expertise that can support both the leadership and wider team – particularly at a time when companies need to stand out in a challenging market.

“They are known to be more committed and loyal, so from a business continuity standpoint, it makes sense to not overlook this age group when recruiting. It’s also important to take a look at any biases currently in the system, meaning that older employees are at a disadvantage.”

The Centre for Better Ageing found in 2018 that nearly a quarter of businesses (24%) are under-prepared for the challenges of an ageing workforce, and only about one in five employers are actually discussing their strategies for managing these workers.

Mackenzie added: “To unlock the potential of employees regardless of their age, businesses must look at understanding how their current policies are meeting the needs of staff, so that everyone can come to work as their best self and be as productive as possible.”

Older Women Staying in Work Because of Pension Age Rises
March 18, 2020

The number of women aged between 60 and 64 in work has increased by 51% in a decade.

According to research by over-50s jobsite Rest Less, between October and December 2019 there were 976,376 women aged between 60 and 64 in work, compared to the 644,674 women in work in the same period in 2009. 

From 2009 to 2019 there was an increase of 331,702 (51%) female workers between the ages of 60 to 64. 

This contrasts with an increase of only 127,882 (13%) in the number of men in work aged between 60 and 64 over the same period. 

The analysis also showed that the number of women aged 60 to 64 in work has increased dramatically in the 20-year period since 1999, increasing by 610,673 from 365,703 (a 167% rise). 

Stuart Lewis, founder and CEO of Rest Less, said the rapid increase in women’s state pension age since 2010 has had a profound impact on women in their sixties. 

Until 2010 women could receive their state pension at 60. The Pensions Act 2014 started the process of equalising men’s and women’s pension ages, and of raising the eligibility age to 66 for everyone. 

In 2016 women had to be 63 to receive state assistance, moving to 65 in 2018 and 66 in 2020. 

The state pension age will then rise for everyone to 67 by 2028.

“As well as adjusting to the financial implications of the new state pension age, the added frustration for many comes from the continued challenge to find meaningful work in their sixties when age discrimination in the workplace remains all too prevalent,” said Lewis. 

Patrick Thompson, programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “For the first time in the UK there are more women aged 60 to 64 in work than not. This is a seismic shift, with profound implications for the economy and for women in later life. 

“For many women this will be a positive choice with work providing financial independence, an opportunity to save for retirement, meaning and purpose. 

“For others this will be the culmination of inequalities that have built up over a lifetime, remaining in low-paid, insecure or poor-quality work and delaying retirement through financial necessity. 

“The rising state pension age has clearly had an impact on women’s working lives. But while longer lives and changing patterns of work mean many of us can expect to work for longer it’s vital that people are able to be in work that improves their current and later lives.” 

The data analysed was provided by the Office for National Statistics in February 2020.

By Emma Greedy: HRMagazine

International Women’s Day: How Rolls-Royce is Helping to Build a More Balanced World
March 13, 2020

This three-minute read was published by the Rolls-Royce media team.

International Women’s Day is an event to mark the achievements of women across the world and it’s also a reminder to us all that we are not at our best when there is a gender imbalance. 

Rolls-Royce is committed to being fair and inclusive and we already have many incredible women across our business, but we are actively working towards greater business diversity, with a keen focus on gender balance.

There is a global requirement for more women in STEM, to meet the world’s demands for talent. To help build this talent pipeline, our community investment and education outreach teams engage children as young as three and actively target under-represented groups around the world to encourage and support them to study and develop careers in STEM. Since 2014, we’ve reached 6.8 million people. You’ll find stories about this here.

As a leading business within the aviation industry, we have also just signed up to IATA 25 by 2025, which is a commitment to improve female representation in the industry by 25%, or up to a minimum of 25% by 2025. We are proud to be part of this campaign and we are committed to increasing the number of women in leadership positions to a minimum representation of 25 % by 2025.

But gender balance is more than just numbers; it’s about creating a culture and environment that’s inclusive and that brings out the best in everyone. We’ve made this a priority in our business and it’s reflected in our values and behaviours and in our policies, from flexible working through to shared parental leave.

“It’s well known, and there are lots of studies that back this up, that more diverse teams get better business results.” says Chris Walker, Co-chair of our UK Gender Diversity Network. “Not only should we all want a good gender balance because the world is balanced and we want to represent the people we serve (both customers and employees), but because it will make Rolls-Royce better, as a great place to work, as a top performer in our industry, and as a company that makes us proud to tell our families about.”

Often the task of getting a better gender balance falls to women, but becoming gender balanced should involve us all. We can each play a part in creating more inclusive and diverse teams, whatever role we have in our companies, and in our communities.

In the weeks flanking International Women’s Day, at Rolls-Royce, we are marking the occasion by celebrating women’s contribution to the workplace and the world, and by exploring how becoming gender balanced can, and should, involve all of us, whatever our gender.

“There are some great activities taking place across the business globally and there will be many more,” adds Chris. “We’re encouraging all our people to get involved and find out what they can do, whatever their gender, to make a difference. We’re determined not to leave this to the minority to fix.”

Here is a flavour of our activity taking place across many sites:

  • “Wall of Women” celebrations: teams at many of our sites in different countries are recognising role-models at Rolls-Royce by building image walls.
  • Appreciation boards, panel discussions, lunch & learns, insight hours and working sessions about relevant topics, for example: confidence in the workplace.
  • Daily video challenges of how we can make our workplace more inclusive.
  • Speed debating about why gender balance helps us all and what we can each do. 
  • Supporting events, such as The Association of Project Management discussion on how project management and improving gender balance go together.
  • Gatherings of some of our amazing women, as illustrated by the photo which shows our services team with global guests in Derby. 

We wish everyone an uplifting International Women’s Day!

Case Study: Superdrug’s Everyone Matters D&I Strategy
March 6, 2020

Superdrug has worked hard over the past 18 months to become a more diverse and inclusive workplace, with plenty of positive resultsIn this five minute read, they share the work they have done to embed diversity and inclusion into their business.

The Organisation

Superdrug is the second-largest health and beauty retailer in the UK. It was founded in 1964 by brothers Peter and Ronald Goldstein. As well as selling a variety of branded products it has its own lines and offers various other services such as prescription filling, opticians, nurse clinics, and eyebrow threading. Superdrug has 830 UK stores, as well as distribution centres in Dunstable, Bedfordshire and Pontefract, West Yorkshire. It is a subsidiary of the AS Watson Group, which is in turn part of Hong Kong business CK Hutchison Holdings. It maintains strong links with sister companies Savers and The Perfume Shop, which are also owned by the AS Watson Group.

The retailer has focused heavily on vegan and cruelty-free products in recent years, particularly in its own-brand offerings. Superdrug’s own lines have been approved by Cruelty Free International since 2010.

The Problem

As the brand has gone from strength to strength and both store and employee numbers have increased, the retailer needed a solid people strategy. As part of the work done around this it came to the business’ attention that more could be done around diversity and inclusion.

Although the organisation had already set up some employee networks it was felt more people could be represented.

“We already had our gender equality and wellbeing networks up and running, and we had such great interest in them and a huge level of engagement from people in both those networks,” explains Jo Mackie, Superdrug’s customer and people director.

It was clear that efforts could be pushed further though, and so the brand’s desire to be more inclusive and engaging for both staff and customers was shaped into its D&I strategy Everyone Matters around 18 months ago.

The Method

Everyone Matters is made up of six pillars – gender equality, LGBTIQ+, BAME, wellbeing, social mobility (known as Access All Areas), and flexibility at work (called Make Work Work). These were formed from a combination of employee feedback, external research on what other organisations were doing with D&I, and discussions among the leadership team.

“So we could understand what people wanted and what future employees wanted we did surveys, some listening groups, and looked at what best practice there was around. And we ended up with six networks at Superdrug and Savers based on our employee base,” Mackie says. “These really seemed to resonate with the business, and they’re all areas we’re passionate about, that colleagues are passionate about, but also that we knew we could do more to push forward.”

Each pillar is made up of a director sponsor, a steering group comprised of employees from across the business, and a senior member of the HR team.

Getting executive buy-in was very straightforward as there was a lot of energy from the C-suite around the pillars and the strategy as a whole. HR ran engagement sessions, unconscious bias testing and one-to-one meetings with the executives to ensure they were truly on board and establish who might be a good fit for each pillar. Mackie herself leads Access All Areas.

“Each pillar is now headed up by a director sponsor and they are actively involved in the steering groups and support the networks. Not just as a figurehead, but also working with the teams to help them and direct them,” she explains.

Superdrug CEO Peter Macnab is particularly passionate about Everyone Matters, and even creates podcasts to help inform and engage the workforce around D&I.

Steering group members have a range of roles within Superdrug and come from retail, back office and the distribution centres. While most members volunteered to be part of a pillar’s steering group, Mackie says they “tapped a few people on the shoulder” if it was felt they could particularly add to a group’s effectiveness. To get the word out to all business premises and gather volunteers Superdrug used its internal communications platform The Hub. Mackie admits that although all areas of the organisation are represented in the steering groups they are (understandably) retail dominated and more needs to be done to even things out.

Steering groups “manage the overall direction and what that particular pillar wants to go after,” Mackie says.

“Last year we put in a senior inclusion manager as part of my team who now pulls all of that together. It was getting a little bit unwieldy; there was so much going on we knew we needed to pull it together so that the groups not only go and do their own thing but it then forms part of the overarching strategy.”

The groups put on various events and campaigns and celebrate key dates to raise awareness of their pillar.

Some of these include a panel for International Men’s Day with a mixture of colleagues and external influencers; a session for National Coming Out Day, where LGBT employees talked to a group of 40 senior leaders about their experiences and what inclusion means to them; Summer work experience for care leavers as part of Access All Areas; and a store manager social mobility pledge.

“We’ve had 100 managers sign up to our social mobility actions, which are things like giving additional interview feedback to candidates to help them when they next apply for roles, or providing quality work experience and making sure that there’s good feedback on the back of that,” says Mackie. “We’ve done quite a lot with different activities in the pillars. And then we’ve also got some partnerships with external organisations.”

Some of the external partnerships are with organisations such as the LGBT Foundation, Carers UK, Drive Forward Foundation, and Retail Week’s ‘Be Inspired’ campaign.

“They’ve been incredibly useful in two areas. One they’ve given us credibility in what we’re trying to do, but they’ve also been able to offer us advice and support in how we move things forward,” Mackie says.

Superdrug has been making good use of internal resources as well, for example its nurses attending employee events to give health checks such as blood pressure tests as part of the wellbeing pillar. Mackie says many employees have made changes to their lifestyles as a result.

The Result

Everyone Matters has been received extremely well by staff. Feedback from managers and assistant store managers has all been positive, and in the latest employee survey engagement was at an excellent 82%. Other impressive figures include getting 500 apprentices into the business and having 70% internal succession.

The strategy has been recognised externally too. In a Europe-wide ranking of 700 companies by the Financial Times Superdrug came fifth in retail and 52nd overall, beating businesses like P&G, L’Oréal and Sainsbury’s.

Going forward, Superdrug has a full calendar of D&I events for 2020, with more than 100 days of celebration and recognition planned.

“We’ll do more inclusion leadership training for our store managers and more employee panels. We are also doing more around getting people from disadvantaged backgrounds into work as we go through 2020. And then we want to explore around what we do with race and ethnicity and disability. We’re looking at and considering the Race at Work Charter and basically looking at other schemes to see what else we could buy into,” shares Mackie.

The business also wants to analyse how it can measure the reach and efficacy of Everyone Matters and is considering introducing pulse surveys. It has an eye on potential future legislation such as ethnicity and disability pay gap reporting too.

Mackie says: “We want to be prepared for either of those coming through. We’ll carry on listening to our colleagues and making sure what we’re offering is what they want. Just to keep building on Superdrug and Savers being an inclusive place to work and open to everyone with opportunities for everyone.”

This piece appeared in the February 2020 HRMagazine.

BAME Millennials Have Less-Stable Working Lives?
March 5, 2020

A two-minute read. Millennials from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are at greater risk of being in unstable employment than their white peers, according to a report.

The Race Inequality in the Workforce report from the Carnegie UK Trust stated BAME Millennials are 47% more likely to be on zero-hours contracts and also have a 10% greater chance of having a second job.

BAME Millennials are also 5% more likely to be doing shift work and are 4% less likely to have a permanent contract than white workers.

Millennials from BAME backgrounds were 58% more likely to be unemployed than white peers according to findings.

Each ethnic group studied showed varied work experiences. Those from Pakistani (9.1%), black African (8.7%) and mixed-race backgrounds (8.2%) were more likely to be unemployed than those who were white (5.1%).

However, Indian, Bangladeshi and black Caribbean adults were no more likely to be out of work than white peers.

The findings held even when other factors that could affect labour market success were taken into account, including gender, family background and education.

Douglas White, head of advocacy at Carnegie UK Trust, said:

“This report highlights that young people from BAME communities are particularly likely to enter into precarious forms of work. We need policy and practice to recognise and respond to this to ensure that good work is available to all.”

The report outlines 13 recommendations for action, including employer audits of race disparity and greater government efforts to improve access to good work for BAME individuals. The report also suggests employers should identify priorities for tackling race inequality in their organisation and report regularly on progress.

The continued implementation of the UK government’s Good Work Plan is also recommended to ensure good quality work in the UK: for example new legislation to improve clarity on employment status.

Responding to the report, Conservative life peer Ruby McGregor-Smith said: “These new research findings paint a familiar pattern that I discussed in my government review Race in the workplace: persistent race penalties at the lower pay scale. A key solution we recommended, and which remains valid, is the introduction of ethnic minority pay reporting. Until organisations publish data and put plans in place to reduce pay gaps nothing fundamentally changes. It is time for action rather than words.”

The report is by Carnegie UK Trust, the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies and Operation Black Vote. It is based on research from more than 7,700 people in England born between 1989 and 1990. Researchers compared the employment status of 25-year-olds from different ethnic backgrounds.

Neuroscience: The Power of Brain Gender Difference in the Workplace
January 29, 2020

Existing workplace culture is primarily geared towards getting the best performance from a typically ‘male’ brain. By harnessing brain gender diversity better, employers can get the best performance from all their employees, regardless of gender.  By Kate Lanz CEO  Mindbridge

People are generally one of the most expensive assets that a business possesses, so to be under-leveraging the brainpower that you have spent significant amount of time recruiting, training and promoting makes no commercial sense. In our research with senior leaders across a variety of businesses, we have found that there is latent brainpower inside organisations that is simply going to waste.

Research demonstrates that it is quite often the case that workplace practices and overarching culture generates a ‘thrive’ state more of the time in those with more ‘male’ brains.

Why does this brainpower wastage occur? Our research also shows that it’s because organisational culture and specific work practices – meetings, performance reviews, coaching conversations – are often more geared up to suit a ‘male’ brain than a ‘female’ brain.

Thrive or Survive

Looking at certain key executive communities, I measured how much of the time those brains in the business are in a productive ‘thriving’ state, experiencing the kind of neurochemistry that produces results with the prefrontal cortex fully active (the part of the brain responsible for clever thinking). We can compare this with the amount of time the brains in the business are in a ‘survive’ state, with the neurochemistry that is less conducive to performance, and experiencing interference prohibiting the prefrontal cortex from fully functioning.

My company specific research demonstrates that it is quite often the case that workplace practices and overarching culture generates a ‘thrive’ state more of the time in those with more ‘male’ brains, compared with people who have more ‘female’ brains. The average loss of brain potential can be up to 30% in a working day. That is a significant amount of productivity loss for most businesses.

Brain sex

To help us solve this productivity predicament, it’s important to understand that the three dimensions of brain structure, neural connectivity and sex hormones are all a function of biological brain sex. Modern neuroscience is beginning to reveal how these differences combine with the fourth dimension, our social development, to shape the individual brain that we each possess.

There are some key differences in what male and female brains pay attention to.

While there is still much to uncover and understand, it is true to say that there is more than sufficient science available to us now to enable business leaders and executives to know how to intelligently access the best of differently gendered brains.

Attention and Communication

What we pay attention to determines what we notice about our world and environment. This, in turn, determines what action we take in that environment. There are some key differences in what male and female brains pay attention to. In spite of our mosaic brains, whereby the blend of male and female attributes from both nature and nurture make us uniquely who we are, there are sources of difference that impact attention and communication in the structure and neurobiology of the brain – especially the way it connects information together. Understanding these differences and leveraging them is demonstrably good for business.

For example, testosterone (T), the macho king of the hormones, promotes the behaviour of dominance and competition, fuelling a focus on the importance of hierarchy and protecting one’s turf. So even a low T man is likely to care more about his place in the pecking order than the average woman, or at least he may care more about being further from the bottom of the ranking than a woman, for whom her ranking may not matter at all. This neurobiological fact has a huge impact on workplace culture.

Gender Difference

With lower and less potent T levels, women generally care less about their place in the pecking order at work. Women activate and use their power in the organisational system, but they do it through relationships to a far greater extent than men. When we are being ourselves, we feel as if we are functioning at our best. Being the best woman you can be is a great confidence booster, just as it is for a man to be the best man he can be. Combine leveraging generic brain sex difference with understanding and tapping into individual brain difference and you really do have access to all the brains in the business.

The business case for the positive impact of brain gender balance on performance is clear. Businesses that choose to understand and leverage brain gender difference will create a rich sustainable future.

Even a man with a more female brain will have more T than a woman and, due to his biological sex, will be far more likely to find a more male-biased work culture easier to fit in with than will a woman. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule; everyone has their story of the female boss who was more alpha than most alpha males. That alas, is probably why she made it and a lot of what one sees in such circumstances, is, in my experience, trained in rather than innate for those types of women leaders.  

Sustainable Future

This is not about which sex brain is ‘better’. There is no such thing. We have evolved over millions of years to complement each other. The potency comes from seeking to acutely understand the differences between all the brains in the business such that any dominant culture does not inhibit the optimal activity of the brains within it, especially when they are counter cultural.

The business case for the positive impact of brain gender balance on performance is clear. Businesses that choose to understand and leverage brain gender difference will create a rich sustainable future. Harnessing brain gender diversity is the smart way to get the best of all the brains in the business. Knowing as much as you can about your own brain, and the brains of your team and colleagues is the way to enable the conditions that create optimal energy flow through all the brains and therefore through your business.

This article is an extract from All the brains in the business, the engendered brain in the 21st century organisation by Kate Lanz and Paul Brown.

Kate Lanz, CEO of Mindbridge
Kate Lanz

Kate Lanz specialises in consulting and coaching at senior levels including the Board. Kate has had a successful international corporate career, notably as an International General Manager with Diageo. She has successfully established single country companies and multi- country businesses, in both the branded spirits and beer sectors. When she stepped out of the corporate environment, Kate undertook a degree in psychology with a view to specialising in leadership consulting. Kate has a degree in modern languages, post graduate in international commerce, an MBA and a BSc. in psychology. She is also a qualified coaching supervisor.

International ViewPoint: Strategies for Working Effectively with Clients Who Have Disabilities
September 20, 2019

The following article by Malou Twyna – a Career Counsellor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, was first published by CareerWise who helps people working in career development across Canada stay up to date on the top news and trends.

As an Employment Specialist working with people with disabilities, I will always remember my first client who had schizophrenia.

Before we started our work together, I was excited and anxious as well. I had worked with clients with a variety of mental-health concerns before, but schizophrenia sounded serious, challenging and, honestly, a bit scary. The many stereotypes and stigma surrounding the illness made me wonder if this would be a good experience for either of us or if I would even be able to help him find a direction and implement a plan.

Malou Twyna

Despite my lack of experience and nerves, and his differences from my other clients, we concluded our work together when he was hired by his preferred employer and transitioned well to his job. I credit most of our success to his drive to succeed, passion for his chosen area of employment and ability to take advice and implement action steps. In the intervening 15 years of experience working with people with disabilities around career and employment, I realize how much I have learned about being human and helping others professionally.

In my current role as a Career Counsellor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, I join my colleagues in Accessibility Services one day a week as an Integrated Counsellor. Working with students receiving academic accommodations due to a wide array of disability concerns continues to be stimulating and eye-opening. As we move through the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) compliance process and embrace a more inclusive and equitable world of work, I hope some of my insights on ways to help people with disabilities around career and employment will be useful to you.

The elephant in the room?

Disability in the counselling space can hover around the edges of a conversation as an awkward, taboo subject that neither party feels comfortable broaching. As was the case with my client with schizophrenia, social stigma can reside in both the counsellor and client. Knowing if a student has a disability and how it affects them can inform all aspects of career work such as:

  • Helping to set job goals based on strengths
  • Co-developing workable strategies to build skills and experience
  • Teaching job search skills and customizing approaches to attaining opportunities
  • Supporting clients in adjusting to new work situations

Open discussions around these issues can be key to seeing a client with a disability achieve career success. Despite this, it’s hard to know whether to and when to signal our openness and comfort talking about it, and (more importantly) gauge if and when the client is. Here are some strategies to navigate the sometimes-tricky waters of conversations around career and disability.

If possible, have a frame

Sending an overt signal through marketing your service that you are open to these discussions is very useful. My frame of “Career Counselling for students receiving Accessibility Services” sends the message that I am comfortable and that this area of discussion is welcomed. Signals can be less overt than this such as: creating positive marketing messages to clients with disabilities and their allies, displaying a disability-positive poster in your space (here are some posters focused on post-secondary students), and making your space accessible and welcoming to those with disabilities. Make sure your program registration info and your email signature invite requests for accommodations. These small signals can set the tone for more direct and comfortable conversations around disability issues.

Accommodate your client’s needs

Making people with disabilities comfortable and helping them to get the most out of your services starts with asking them if they need any accommodations. I have found many have been reluctant to get what they need as they don’t want to make waves or get special treatment. Considering they may not have disclosed a disability yet and that moving to this topic immediately is not the best way to build a solid rapport; asking in a more friendly and informal tone can work better. For example: “Before we begin, is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable here or meet your needs better?” As you get to know the client, observe what seems to be working for them and what might be a problem. Examples include: “I noticed you seem to squint a bit when we are using the computer together. Can I move the monitor closer or magnify the text?” or “I noticed you seem less comfortable as our appointments progress and are holding your back. Do you need to take a break to stand up or move around?”

Once a client knows what you mean by accommodations and are serious about providing them, they may be more likely to ask for what they need. If they have disclosed a disability impact but they are unsure of what accommodations might be useful in session or in their community-based activities, check JAN’s SOAR (Searchable Online Accommodation Resource) to learn more.

The relationship is everything

Meaningful conversations around disability, and any barriers and concerns it might present, depend on developing a positive and trusting connection with the client. The best way to do this is to go back to counselling basics: unconditional positive high regard; non-expert stance; transparency about the steps and actions that could be taken; affirming the client’s strengths; and promoting client agency and control over the process. From this solid foundation, a wider variety of topics can be opened and more direct questions can be asked with little risk of damage to the counselling relationship.

Always ask

What are the best questions to ask someone with a disability? The kinds of questions you’d ask of anyone trying to find their career path! You know: questions about the kind of life they envision for themselves, what they value in a career, and what is meaningful and interesting to them. Ask lots of questions about their strengths and achievements – identifying and affirming strengths is especially important for clients with disabilities to counter any stigma on both sides.  Celebrating strengths can be part of establishing trust and for them to know that “you get them” and appreciate them as people first and foremost. I

In most cases, exploring whether discussions around the client’s disability are relevant would come later. If you want to probe if disability concerns are present for the client, I’d recommend asking: “Do you have any concerns about the impact of your disability on your career success (job search, interview etc.)?” and/or “Would it be helpful for me to know more about this / how your disability impacts you?”

Forget what you know

No two people with the same disability have the same experience. Your previous experience with a client with a particular disability may not be very helpful to the next client with the same diagnosis and could be counterproductive. Using previous client situations as a template may result in incorrect assumptions that can limit rapport and shut down dialogue. When taking a referral from another counsellor or organization, try going in with fresh eyes and do not review the client’s case notes substantially (if your organization’s process permits this). Being curious about their lived experiences and being direct can be respectful – if you are confident and ask good questions.

Talk about disclosure

If your clients seems uncomfortable with questions around disability barriers, affirm their right to non-disclosure. This is a great opportunity to explain more about disclosure and accommodations and their right to not disclose in your work with them and beyond.  Becoming knowledgeable about this topic can signal to the client that you can support them to make disclosure and accommodations decisions as a jobseeker, student or employee. A great resource for this is in the UTM Career Centre’s Accessibility Pages.

Get their feedback

Periodically, inquire if the help they are getting is in line with their goals and expectations for coming to see you. Ask them to give some honest feedback on how the sessions could be more helpful to them. Encourage their agency and efficacy by asking them to set the focus each session on what they want to accomplish. For those who have issues with executive functioning, organization or memory, spend some time together before the start of the session brainstorming what they want to accomplish. Providing a copy of your session notes with steps agreed on can enhance client agency and demonstrate your commitment to transparency.

Reflect and debrief

Working with people with disabilities adds levels of diversity and intersectionality that can present great potential for skills growth and profound sense of accomplishment for both the counsellor and client. That being said, sometimes it can be very straightforward, too! That is the beauty of it – it keeps you on your toes and open to whatever the client brings. Returning to the theme of ‘counselling skills 101’, self-reflection on successes and less than successes and learning from them (either alone, with a supervisor or mentor, or in a staff debrief situation) is the key to working well and helping your clients reach their next level of wellness in their careers and life journeys.

Malou Twynam, Career Counsellor. Twynam earned her Master of Education in Counselling Psychology in addition to a previous Master’s Degree in Sociology. Prior to joining the team at the University of Toronto Mississauga’s Career Centre, she worked for 10 years in career services in the not-for-profit sector assisting persons with disabilities to achieve their career goals. She has also worked as a vocational rehabilitation consultant and has provided psychotherapy to post-secondary students and adults in community and private practice setting. Twynam enjoys helping people discover their unique gifts and strengths, explore career possibilities to make confident career decisions. Her greatest satisfaction comes from seeing someone surpass their own expectations and achieve what they assumed was not possible for them.

Businesses Urged to Employ More Older Workers
July 3, 2019

Council of advisers set up to help UK seize economic opportunities of ageing society, and Business Champion for the Ageing Society Grand Challenge announced.

A new council of specialists from across society, the UK Longevity Council, will advise how best to use innovations in technology, products and services to improve the lives of our ageing population.

With the number of people aged over 65 set to nearly double to more than 20 million in under 50 years, the government’s Ageing Society Grand Challenge – a key part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy – is designed to harness the power of innovation to meet the changing needs of an older society.

It also aims to ensure that people across the UK enjoy an extra 5 years of healthy and independent living by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and the poorest.

The UK Longevity Council is a vital part of this. It will bring together business leaders, health experts and others from society to advise government on the steps we can take to help everyone lead healthier lives, while exploring how the UK can position itself to lead the world in the growing market for age-related products and services.

The council will act as a forum for interactions and discussions between policy makers, industry, researchers and the public in the area of ageing, and will advise on:

  • how we can think differently about work, finances, housing, communities and health, and explore new technologies, products and services that will benefit and enrich our older population
  • what the government’s high-level priorities should be in relation to demographic change
  • supporting both local and international work to ensure the UK is a global leader and UK businesses can capitalise on global opportunities

Andy Briggs, business leader and insurance industry expert, has been appointed as the government’s new Business Champion for the Ageing Society Grand Challenge and will co-chair the UK Longevity Council with Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock.

To support the Grand Challenge, the government will shortly open the competitions for the £98 million Healthy Ageing Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to develop attractive products and services that help people of all ages to live better and more independent lives as they grow older.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said:

Keeping people healthy and independent is absolutely central to our vision for our healthcare system. Living longer should be celebrated but we need to think seriously about how we can adapt society more widely to meet older people’s needs. We must use our industry’s incredible abilities in technology, design and innovation in new, thoughtful ways to support everyone to age well.

Business has a vital role to play in providing inclusive products and services that are attractive to our older population and can enable everyone to stay living at home for longer and keep active. I look forward to working with Andy Briggs and the rest of the Longevity Council to help the UK lead the way in thinking creatively and originally about ageing.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

More than 10 million people in the UK today can expect to see their 100th birthday, compared to 15,000 current centenarians.

As more people live longer, we must ensure people can live independently, with dignity and a good quality of life for longer by harnessing the best technological innovation and advances to help.

Having a dedicated Business Champion in Andy Briggs, working with the new Longevity Council, will ensure that UK companies remain at the forefront of these developments. This is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of these new and emerging industries.

Andy Briggs, Ageing Society Business Champion, said:

Britain has an ageing society, along with many other developed countries, and this provides challenges as well as opportunities.

I encourage all businesses to embrace this excellent opportunity, both by developing world-leading products and services, and by employing more older workers.

Unemployment Falls but Wage Inequality Rises Reports HR Magazine
May 16, 2019

While UK unemployment hits another record low, the TUC warns of wage inequality between sector

UK unemployment dropped to 3.8% in the first quarter of 2019, marking the lowest rate since 1974, according to the latest labour market statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, trade union the TUC has warned that wages and productivity remain low and wage inequality is on the rise. Its analysis of the latest ONS data found that wages in most sectors are still worth less than before the financial crisis, and overall real wages are still £17 a week lower than a decade ago.

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