Suggestions for one to one sessions
One-to-one sessions form the bedrock of support you can give a jobseeker whatever age they are. There are a few practical issues you should consider.
- Where at all possible, you should see the customer each time they come. If it is often a different person, time is wasted while they go over issues previously covered and you will lose the ability to deal with recurring behaviour and avoidance.
- The one-to-one sessions should be supported by group sessions that cover the basics of job search, CV preparation, and interview training. These should also include skills identification. You are then left with the important issues, best dealt with on a one-to-one basis, of identifying the job / career routes your customer is going to follow, development of a self-marketing action plan, and specific interview issues.
- In a difficult job climate it is likely that your 50+ customers will be in the job market for a minimum of three months, and quite probably longer. If he or she attends a group session once a fortnight, you can usefully intersperse with a one-to-one session on the other weeks.
- Where possible, the meetings should be agreed with the customer to fit in with group sessions, job clubs and interviews that they want to attend. This will help to make the one-to-one sessions opportunities for help and encouragement, rather than check-up sessions.
The relationship with your 50+ customer will be similar to your relationship with all other jobseekers:
- to monitor their progress and encourage them to use all approaches to achieve their goal
- to help them assess what is working for them, and what isn’t.
However, the older your customer is, the harder they may find it to try something completely new, so think about allowing them time to make changes.
Ideas for groups and peer sessions
The great advantage of group and peer sessions is the chance, for those taking part, to share experiences with each other and to form friendships with an element of networking involved. They can be a good way for people to develop ideas and help each other build self-confidence and a resolve to succeed.
There is a debate as to whether mixed age group sessions or single age group sessions work best. It probably depends on how they are managed. Some suggest starting with single age group sessions when customers are new to the process and may be feeling insecure and then moving to mixed age group sessions. This case study provides an example of successful mixed age group sessions offered by one provider.
Case study 1: the benefits of mixed age group sessions (PPDG)
PPDG (Pertemps People Development Group) in Hull offers jobseekers referred by Jobcentre Plus a full day course on finding work.
The course, which is for people who have been out of work for a short period of time, covers four topics: the local labour market, CVs, letters and applications, and interviews. Up to 15 people of different ages and backgrounds attend. Typically it is around 11 or 12. Two trainers lead the day, usually Jayne, who is in her 20s, and Ray, who is in his early 60s. This mix helps engage both younger and older customers.
Jayne doesn't view her age as an issue when she leads the course: "If an older individual is dismissive because I am young, I put it to one side. People always have preferences about delivery staff, and they are not all related to age. For example, they may prefer a man to a woman, etc, and we always try to accommodate them. Barriers do crop up between customers and coaches. Lone parents, for example, may think: ‘You don't know what it's like to be a single parent if haven't been through it'. If I haven't personally experienced people's situations, I encourage them to talk. We aren't teachers - we are there to facilitate."
Ray says the first 30 minutes of the course are key to getting the group to gel and to engage everyone present. "First we have a bit of chat to get some background on the participants and find out what they want from the course. It is important to get to know the group. It is quite informal and relaxed. As an icebreaker we do an exercise: Tell two truths and one lie about yourself and then, as a group, we try to work out which is the lie. The exercise also serves as training in dealing with perceptions. The best way to deal with potentially negative attitudes is to make participants laugh."
He also stresses that interactivity is important throughout the day. He constantly asks questions. For example: ‘If you were an employer, what would you want?' People may then respond by saying they would want someone who is honest, experienced, etc, and by doing this they are already working on preparing their CVs.
In the last 30 minutes, in a round table session, the trainers ask course participants typical interview questions. And then they ask the participants to put interview questions to them and the trainers play the role of jobseekers at an interview.
Ray says that mixed age groups work well but they have to be well managed. "It's not a problem even if we have people with a range of skills because the sessions involve discussions in pairs or in groups and we put people together according to the best fit."
"Having a mixed age group puts things in perspective for both younger and older people. While older people often say that they don't get jobs because they are too experienced, younger people tend to think they don't get jobs because they don't have enough experience. Both of them have to sell themselves in the right way.
"A range of ages also helps group dynamics. An older person, for example, can stimulate discussion by talking about their experiences.
"Older people have often spent a long time in the same job or industry and aren't aware of the skills they have. They may not have had a job interview for a very long time, don't know how to apply for a job in the modern market and may be uncomfortable about ‘selling themselves' into a job. If this is the case, role play and psychometric testing can help although older people may find these tools alien. Interactive exercises such as: ‘What is the benefit of an apple pip?' (an exercise aimed at developing creativity) may give rise to reactions like: ‘I don't want to do this. I want a job'.
Having a mixed age group does help because it makes it easier to engage older people in such activities. In the end, when older customers overcome their initial reservations, they really enjoy these exercises and benefit from them. They develop a better idea of their own value and become energised."
Job searching is a lonely, boring and depressing job for most. It involves a lot of hard work with often no result as applications, phone calls, letters and emails go unanswered. Above all, the jobseeker is putting their head above the parapet, saying ‘Buy me!’ and, more often than not, getting completely ignored. Group and peer sessions can help your 50+ customers stay motivated.
A job club is one such approach, but jobseekers benefit from the opportunity to attend one- or half-day courses or workshops on specific issues that you can guide them towards.
Where possible, participants should be grouped into common interest groups, as determined by age, level of job or even sector (eg IT specialists).
Here are some examples of such workshops.
1. Identifying Your transferable skills: Using one of the recognised processes to help participants determine what skills and experience they can offer employers, and job routes open to them.
2. Marketing yourself: A practical workshop aimed at developing participants’ approaches to advertisers, bureaus and agencies, networking and direct or speculative approaches.
3. A CV workshop: Looking at different sorts of CVs, and determining what best meets participants’ needs taking into account that many people need more than one CV.
4. Interviewing workshop: This one probably needs to be a full-day event and include a practice interview, ideally with CCTV. It should cover the principles of being interviewed and researching the interview, impact and body language, and dealing with difficult questions.
5. Networking and telephone techniques: A workshop, ideally with telephone practice, that helps participants develop their telephone skills for both networking and direct approaches. It should cover getting through to the right person, and developing conversations.
6. Job search motivation and stress: To help those for whom job searching has become too much and are in danger of giving up.
7. Word and Excel improvement: Many 50+ jobseekers have developed their IT skills through learning just what they had to in order to do their job. They may know quite a lot but have gaps that need filling. This workshop would be aimed at brushing up those skills and needs to be preceded by a questionnaire that identifies participants’ needs.
8. Sector workshops: where there are a number of clients all from the same sector (e.g. IT, retail, telecoms) there is value in putting on a specialist workshop for that sector to look at opportunities and approaches.
This case study describes the benefits of group coaching helped build the confidence and self esteem of an individual customer and other group members.
Case Study 2: Group Coaching (Best)
Our customer had been had been unemployed for two years, when he came to BEST. He had previously worked in a warehouse for 30 years. We identified the barriers that he was facing, including a lack of communication skills and self confidence, a health issue, limited IT skills and the familiar “No one would want to employ an old man like me” mind-set. We invited him, as part of his New Deal programme, to take part in a six week course run by a life coach from an external organisation Creative Pathway.
The focus of the course was to build self esteem and confidence. To achieve this, the group:
undertook “mind mapping” which included identifying some of their many achievements in life as well as in work
identified their transferable skills revealed by the mind mapping
considered the advantages to an employer of taking on a more mature worker (reliability, experience, good social skills, conscientiousness for example).
The course also built assertiveness and rapport building communication skills and identified positive and negative ‘self talk’ and the effects of both. Participation in this course and in our own group sessions for more mature jobseekers helped our customer improve his communication skills and confidence, gain basic computer skills and work experience working as a retail assistant. The great news is that he then found work as a retail assistant in a shoe shop, where he continues to work.
We also noticed the benefits of the course on other members. The learners seemed more confident and became more sociable. They helped each other use computers and look for jobs. They supported and encouraged each other in other ways too, for example by accompanying fellow group members to work placements. We are confident that given the same support and guidance, many older jobseekers can be helped to find and stay in work.
Setting up work clubs and group activities
The Department for Work and Pensions launched a Great Britain wide initiative Work Clubs (opens in new tab or window) to help people make the most of local knowledge and resources to help unemployed people in their communities gain employment. Work Clubs will provide unemployed people with a place to meet and exchange skills, find opportunities, make contacts, share experiences and receive support.
The term 'job club' is frequently used to describe groups who get together to help and encourage each other to find work. We use the term 'job club' below when describing examples of clubs set up by private or third sector organisations who themselves call their groups job clubs.
These are some questions to consider if you decide to set up a club:
Who is it for?
You need to tailor your club’s format to the needs of its membership. For example, a club aimed at graduates and professionals would have a different format from one for manual workers.
In the case of a club for graduates and professionals, it is probably best to have a series of meetings within a reduced time span, such as four to six meetings over two to three weeks. For manual workers, much more support is needed and the issue of poor literacy and limited IT skills may arise. This is often more of a support centre with access to computers, the internet and local adverts and job vacancies if needed.
Ideally, but this will depend on the availability of advisers, the club format will consist of a series of group sessions, followed by individual one-to-one work.
Ideas for Group Sessions
What sort of job(s) are you going to go for?
One-to-one help with skills analysis and determining options
The sort of CV that sells you
One-to-one help with finalising a CV
Getting a job
One-to-one help with developing an action plan
Coping with the different types of interview
One-to-one help with interview preparation and practice
Further meetings: review and changes in approach
How often and where does it meet?
It makes sense to have club meetings once a week, so that it becomes a habit. If it is going to be more often, then it needs to take the shape of a support centre where jobseekers come in to work on their job search. In this case, the centre needs to be set up with all the facilities to help jobseekers with their job search and with job advisers ready to give assistance.
The location of the club depends on the members. If they mainly come by public transport, it is best in a town centre; if they normally drive, an out-of-town venue with car parking suits better.
Your club should consider including:
networking time and mutual sharing
what support can / should be supplied
helping members improve their job search approaches
maintaining motivation and helping deal with rejection
one-to-one sessions to deal with individual situations and issues
specific help, such as CV writing or interview practice.
Who will run it?
It is very important that the person or persons running the club have credibility and broadly the same background as most of the club members, coupled with a broad understanding of how the job market works.
Overall, it is important for any club to build on the other support being provided to jobseekers, particularly in terms of one-to-one support.
You may find this example of the experience of setting up clubs of interest.
Case Study 1: Three Clubs in the Thames Valley Area
The aim of the clubs was to inform and motivate.
The three job clubs were all aimed at managerial, professional and executive jobseekers because this seemed to be a group that Jobcentres were finding difficult to help. In practice, while there were no exclusions, the clientele was predominantly older and the average age never dropped below 50.
Younger jobseekers and those who had held manual jobs, while they attended the club, said they found it helpful but tended to self-select themselves out of it. This seemed to be mainly because of the differences in age and experience. Newly qualified graduates are selling their qualifications while older professionals are selling their experience. The two groups’ perceptions of the job market and how they approach it are different. Manual workers can feel inferior and find much of the discussion irrelevant, particularly if the club has a larger number of managerial jobseekers and if they are older.
One of the clubs had ‘escapees’ from other clubs, one run by a retired schoolteacher, and one by an ex-public sector recruiter. Both were too narrow in their approach to redundancies in the financial and IT sectors.
We ran four-hour sessions comprising an open networking discussion or activity, a led discussion and a discussion on a relevant job search topic, and one-to-one sessions as time allowed. Members came and went as they wished or needed to, and there was a weekly email letter to all members.
This case study provides another example of job clubs for unemployed executives.
Case Study 2: Job Clubs (Foundation for Job Seekers)
Foundation for Jobseekers
The Foundation for Jobseekers job clubs assist unemployed executives (average age 50) to return to work by equipping them with modern job search and self-marketing tools and providing the motivation which derives from a peer support environment. There are currently five executive job clubs in the Thames Valley.
Unemployed executives have often not been made redundant before and are usually unfamiliar with current recruitment methods or the public employment system. They need time for re-orientation and re-motivation. The job clubs meet this need through being run by people who have experienced similar situations. The job clubs are volunteer-delivered by people with a sympathetic understanding of redundancy: most have been made redundant themselves in the past.
Each job club meets once a week for programmed job search presentations and one to one help with CVs; career decision-making; networking and self-marketing; interview coaching; and signposting to other agencies. The job club setting also promotes camaraderie among the members and, as well as the practical job seeking support, there is a considerable benefit in terms of the members’ mental wellbeing and continued connection with the jobs market.
This volunteer based approach, provided in a group setting but with significant opportunities for one to one support, is a very cost effective way of supporting higher skilled unemployed people, potentially over lengthy periods of time. Because of volunteer delivery, the cost is £230 per known job outcome. One third of members do not report what has happened to them when they leave but, if the same proportion gets into jobs, the actual cost per job outcome would be nearer to £150.
This case study is an example of a successful job club for people from a range of work backgrounds.
Case Study 3: Job Clubs (Age UK Milton Keynes Employment Service)
Age UK Milton Keynes Employment Services run a regular job club in a meeting room over one of our furniture shops in the centre of Stony Stratford. The venue is attractive and easily accessible with free parking and nearby buses. The club is open to all of our employment service customers who are on Response to Redundancy, Routeways or Nextstep contracts. Many customers are referred from Jobcentre Plus, but we also have many customers who self refer based on our reputation locally. All our employment services are focussed on the over 50’s, but there is some flexibility. The club normally runs every two weeks.
The numbers who attend each job club range between 10 and 25. The club lasts for two hours. People come from a variety of backgrounds ranging from managing directors to manual workers. We originally considered separating out an executive group, but the club worked so well that we decided against it. Some participants have learning difficulties, many are lacking in confidence, some are newly redundant, others have been unemployed for more than two years. But they all have a common need, which is to find work. They gain a tremendous amount from interacting with each other, and often the more confident individuals help people with less confidence. It is great to watch them do this.
The session is run by an experienced manager, and we usually try to have two or three advisers there to help. An aspect of job search skill coaching is always included. We have found that one of the most popular is panel interview practice. The interview panel is made up of job club participants, and they are given carefully and appropriately selected questions to ask the ‘interviewee’, who is also a participant. Supportive feedback is given by the manager running the session. The improvement in performance over a few sessions is clear to all, as is the increase in confidence. Everyone who participates volunteers to do so, no-one is forced to do anything. We also practise people networking skills, answering difficult interview questions, completing application forms, and writing covering letters, etc.
We often have outside speakers, who give their services for free. Sometimes this can focus on a sector, eg the Care Sector, with the speaker telling people about the different types of role available, training, and other requirements. We also invite ask representatives from other third sector organisations to tell people about possible voluntary work and training opportunities within this. We always allow time for participants to network with each other over a cup of tea of coffee.
We collect feedback sheets from everyone and ask for ideas of things to cover. Feedback has been 100 per cent positive. For some it is clearly the highlight of their week. One of the nicest things is watching people grow in confidence and self-esteem, but the very best is when we have a message that someone cannot come because they have found a new role! This is a regular event and gives everyone else hope.