Issues in Age and Entering the Workforce


13 Apr 2018

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Problems Confronted by Mature Workers Re-entering the Workforce and Young Adult Workers Looking to Enter the Workforce after College

  • Brandi Thomas-Scott

Post University

Problems confronted by mature workers re-entering the workforce and young adult workers looking to enter the workforce after college

Whether just starting out in the workforce or returning to the workforce after being retired, finding a job in today’s market comes with some challenges. In today's economy it is difficult to find individuals who are not struggling to find employment or sustain the position they currently hold (Brown, 2012). The recession and massive layoffs have more than just hit the lower and middle class workers; an abundance of educated professionals and experienced retired professional are struggling to find stable employment (Brown, 2012). This paper will discuss why mature retired workers returning to the workforce and young recent college graduates are struggling to find employment, and why social standing and a post-secondary education does not always count when it comes to job security. The effects of a recession and a poor job market can be felt by the most experienced professionals, as well as by recent college graduates looking for opportunities to enter the workforce (Brown, 2012). Regardless of the motivation behind each of these groups search for gainful employment, they face various forms of resistance while trying to find and secure employment.

Retirees Returning To the Workforce

Since our country’s economic breakdown, there have not been enough jobs created for our population of workers, and even fewer positions are available for those of advanced age (Brown, 2012). Demographic and current trends suggest that the U.S. will be witnessing mature workers dynamically involved in the workforce, either due to financial need or their preference and ability to do so (Heidkamp & Heldrich, 2012). In fact retirement is beginning to no longer be a permanent event. Older individuals departing from the labor force is becoming more gradual, and countless workers are changing jobs before actually leaving the workforce completely, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Brandon, 2011). Many of these workers do not see themselves as older workers, while unfortunately society believes differently and this is where a majority of the problems faced by older workers begin (Brown, 2012). Many mature workers need assistance navigating a complicated labor market, identifying available career opportunities, and determining their education and training needs in order to improve their chance of employability and impact to the workplace (Heidkamp & Heldrich, 2012).

Many factors cause mature workers to re-enter the workforce, such as dis-satisfaction with retirement life, inadequate retirement savings, and aspiration to improve their quality of life (Brown, 2012). According to Pew Charitable Trusts (2012) , regardless of these reasons many mature workers are subjected to prolonged periods of unemployment, which makes it challenging for them to become reemployed (Heidkamp & Heldrich, 2012). Recent studies have also mirrored this sentiment and have reported findings that affirm that barely half of mature workers who lost their jobs and were actively seeking employment were successful (Li, 2010). Many employers are reluctant to hire mature workers due to their negative perceptions, which include the following:

  1. Mature workers are expensive to employ due to their wages, health insurance cost, and the cost associated with to training.
  2. Mature workers are less productive due to their age and produce lower quality work.
  3. Mature workers are unable to adapt to change at work (Walker, 2007).

Due to this type of thinking many mature workers are facing increased occurrences of age discrimination both before they are hired and while they are employed (Heidkamp & Heldrich, 2012). Even though the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects mature workers from age based employment discrimination, and pertains to both employees and job applicants; age discrimination claims still accounts for approximately one-quarter of the complaints filed with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) (Heidkamp & Heldrich, 2012). According to a survey conducted by AARP, “one-third to one-half of baby boomers had experienced age bias in a job search” (Heidkamp & Heldrich, 2012).

As a result of the misconceptions and challenges facing mature workers, one of the first tasks that career counselors must do is assist their client in “identifying and [eliminating] some of their own beliefs about themselves;” in order to counter any negative thoughts that were created by their discriminatory experiences (Brown, 2012, p 136). Counselors need to help them come to terms with the following facts:

  1. As people age their personalities do tend to become fixed, but flexibility in your youth usually tends to continue on as you age.
  2. Mature workers are just as productive as younger workers, and at time even more productive.
  3. Being overqualified for a position is very likely for mature worker and may cause angst, but depending on the reason they are working (ie. to supplement their existing income), it may not be an issue because the job may allow them to have a flexible schedule.
  4. Regardless of the age of a supervisor their characteristics are the only things that determine their relationship with employees.
  5. Mature workers learn just as well as younger workers.
  6. A decline in strength is not a direct result of old age, but lack of exercise.
  7. Although a decline in sight and hearing is a part of the aging process, many advancements in device technology that aide these areas make these concerns no longer an issue (Brown, 2012).

Even though finding employment at a mature age can be challenging, it is not altogether impossible. It takes the development of new skills, such as interviewing techniques, but mature workers may also require additional education and/or training that will help improve their employability in the workforce (Brown, 2012).

Young Recent College Graduates

We like to believe that a young adult as prepared to launch easily into the workforce and their careers, but the reality is that this transition in today’s economy is fraught with many difficulties (Brown, 2012). Young workers of today are no longer given the opportunity of job security; employment instability seems to be the new reality in our society (Kahn, 2010). Regardless of the extensive misperceptions by employers that young workers lack a work ethic, unlike mature workers, the truth is that many young workers in today’s economy are forceed to work several jobs and work longer hours in order to afford the rising cost of basic living expenses (Draut, 2006).

One of the main factors affecting recent young graduates entering the workforce is that they are coming out of school lacking workplace skills, which causes employers to be apprehensive about hiring recent graduates (Draut, 2006). Many employers believe that these young men and women are ill prepared for the workforce, and the societal shift in workforce values has employers expecting young applicants to come equipped with a fundamental set of basic understandings and the aptitude to apply their skills in their new place of work (Draut, 2006). These set of skills and understandings, also known as experience, is what is hindering this population from being hired. Employers have asserted their belief that recent grads lack professionalism and/or work ethic (Kahn, 2010). The data being circulated are showing that many recent grads today are having trouble keep up in the workplace, if they are even lucky enough to find employment (Grasgreen 2014). Employers surveyed consider recent graduates lack of readiness to be their most important issue that is keep them from being hired, 62 percent also believe that unprepared for the workforce can damage the “day-to-day productivity of their businesses” (Pianin, 2014).

Many recent graduates are finding it difficult to secure an employment, and those that are fortunate to find employment are often finding themselves underemployed and restricted to low-wage positions (Abel, Deitz, & Su, 2014). These facts have begins to make graduates questions if their college degree is even worth anything anymore (Abel, Deitz, & Su, 2014). According to the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll (Gallup. 2010a) “nearly one-fifth of employed [graduates] are underemployed” and not using any of the skills they have obtained from their post-secondary education (Brown, 2012, p 292).

Overall many of the issue facing young recent college graduates revolve around their lack of experience, preparedness, skills, and training (Pianin, 2014). According to an analysis done by Time, many employers are not motivated to hire recent grads due to their inability to navigate the office setting, and their lack of communication and interpersonal skills (Pianin, 2014). Recent grads just seem to unprepared for corporate culture and lack the experience to be effective employees, but these belief either true or a misconception is causing jobs to go unfilled and applicants forced to take what is available to them regardless of their educational background (Kahn, 2010). Many young recent graduates believe that these misconceptions are causing them to be looked over for employment, and in actuality they believed that they are being due to their age (Amour, 2003). It is the job of career counselors to assist young applicants in overcoming these misconceptions through employability training, internships, and occupational information that will help prepare them for what the workforce have become in a difficult economy (Brown, 2012).


Mature and young applicants face various misconceptions that are hindering their ability to secure gainful employment (Brown, 2012). Form the mature workers being categorized as over qualified, inflexible, less productive, and medically unreliable (Brown, 2012). While young workers are seen as being unprepared, lacking communication and interpersonal skills, lacking experience, and a solid work ethic (Draut, 2006). Both of these populations are believe to be unprepared for how the corporate culture works leaving both populations either unemployed or underemployed in today’s economy (Brown, 2012). Both groups are also experiencing instances of discrimination due to their mature age or their lack of maturity/experience, and both are believe to lack the skills necessary to be valuable employees regardless of their educational background, experience, or lack of experience (Amour, 2003). Employers and researchers seem to believe that there are individual out there that are in the middle of these two extremes that can fill these positions, yet positions are going unfilled (Abel, Deitz, & Su, 2014). This is where employee development and organizational development can be utilized to help both of these groups transform from a so-so employee to a skilled a valuable employee who helps increase organization growth (Brown, 2012.


Abel, J. R., Dietz, R., & Su, Y. (2014). Are recent college graduates finding good jobs?

Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 20(1). Retrieved from:

Amour, S. (2003). Young workers say their age holds them back. USA Today. Retrieved from:

Brandon, E. (2011). Why your retirement may not be permanent: Consider these increasingly popular alternative paths to retirement. U.S.News. Retrieved from:

Brown, D. (2012). Career information, career counseling, and career development (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Pearson Education, Inc.

Draut, T. (2006). Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-somethings can’t get ahead. New York, NY. Doubleday Publishing.

Grasgreen, A. (2014). Ready or not: Are college graduates prepared for the workforce? Only university administrators seem to think so. Retrieved from:

Heidkamp, M. & Heldrich, J, (2012). Older workers, rising skill requirements, and the need for a re-envisioning of the public workforce system. CAEL Publishing. Retrieved from:

Kahn, Lisa B. (April 2010). The Long-Term Labor Market Consequences of Graduating from College in a Bad Economy. Labour Economics, 17(2): p 303-16

Li, X. (2010). Extending the working lives of older workers: The impact of social security policies and labor market (Doctoral Dissertation). Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved from:

Pianin, E. (2014). The surprising reason college grads can’t get a job. CNBC. Retrieved from:

Walker, D. M. (2007). Older workers: Some best practices and strategies for engaging and retaining older workers (GAO-07-433T). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Accountability Office. Retrieved from:


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