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Confidence and Motivation

Confidence and Motivation for People 50+

Developing Confidence and Motivation


Each customer you deal with is different and, as such, the levels of confidence will vary from person to person. In some cases you may be working with someone who outwardly appears confident, but may have some underlying issues affecting their confidence. It is, therefore, important to understand the key drivers affecting confidence among 50+ customers in order to take the most effective approach to help move them forward.

Underlying issues affecting confidence

The feeling of loss affects confidence and can be triggered by a number of different events. Losing a job is a traumatic, life-changing event that can severely affect an individual’s confidence, even more so in later life. Often, 50+ jobseekers think they are no longer of use, have no skills to offer or believe their skills are industry-specific.

Losing a job can also mean a loss of identity and status, particularly for individuals aged 50+. Many will be defined by their job and more likely than younger adults to have been in the same job/industry for a considerable number of years. This is particularly true for older men.

Dealing with significant personal change, such as being made unemployed, is a major event in an individual’s life. There are other ‘life’ events that can also affect confidence, for example: bereavement of a spouse/partner or parent, a serious personal illness, divorce/separation, family growing up and leaving home, and generally coping with the thought of getting older.

Financial security may be a contributing factor impacting on 50+ jobseekers, with many uncertain as to how they will continue to ‘make ends meet’ in later life.

Learning needs, such as dyslexia and literacy/numeracy issues, can go undetected particularly for workers aged 50+ who have been involved in more manual or physical jobs. Over the years they may have developed coping mechanisms which have hidden these underlying conditions.

Mental health related illnesses, such as depression, can be triggered by a life-changing event, such as being made redundant. In some instances this can go un-diagnosed and may not be immediately evident to you as an adviser.

Health can deteriorate as we get older. There is, therefore, a greater likelihood of an underlying health issue emerging which affects an individual’s confidence to continue working.

Job searching experiences are also likely to vary significantly. For some, it may be that the last job they had to apply for was 20 or even 30+ years ago (particularly 50+ jobseekers who worked in the public or financial sectors). For others, their experience may be more up to date. It is therefore important to understand the confidence issues around re-entering the labour market now compared to 20/30 years ago.

Barriers to do with re-training are often due to a poor self-perception of an individual's ability to learn new skills. ‘I’m too old to learn’ is a phrase many individuals have been telling themselves, or have heard from others, and are now of the mindset that they are past being able to learn or develop new skills. A key challenge is changing this mindset.

Prior educational and learning experiences are also likely to vary significantly. For many, their last formal educational experience will be secondary school, while for others training and development, or Continuous Professional Development activity, will have played some part in their working careers, although participation may have been imposed/directed by their employer.

Suggestions for improving confidence

Consistency of adviser / trainer: In order to build trust, rapport and mutual understanding, it is crucially important that the same person deals with the customer. This may seem a simple point; however, the value of building a relationship with your customer will be crucial in gaining their trust.

Empathy and understanding: A customer-centred approach (where the customer makes the decisions) where you employ effective listening and empathise with the situation of your customer is an important step in relationship building. You should try to appear non-judgemental, open and positive.

Reflecting on past experiences: By encouraging your customer to reflect on past work, learning and personal experiences, confidence can be greatly enhanced. Often, individuals will remember skills and learning experiences that they had participated in, which they had either forgotten or felt were no longer relevant.

Carrying out a skills analysis: A simple skills analysis which encourages your customer to write down and list the different skills they have gained over their working / personal life can be a powerful tool in building confidence. It also helps them to see the skills they have that can be transferred from one job to another. This visual representation helps them see the wealth of skills, knowledge and experience they have gained over a period of time.

Preparing a CV: The skills analysis exercise can also help your customer build a strong CV. For many, it will be the first time they have had to create one, so explaining the different types of CV, such as functional and skills-based, will be of real benefit to them.

Job searching techniques: You may find that some customers you deal with have recently left a job that they had been in for a number of years. It is, therefore, worthwhile establishing their knowledge of current recruitment practices. Explaining how to complete an application form for a position which has a person specification may be completely new, so spend the time to help your customer learn. Support in preparing for an interview can also help build confidence.

Identifying suitable learning opportunities: Finding learning and development opportunities that meet the needs of the customer is crucial to developing confidence. The consequences of matching the customer with learning that does not suit their needs or interests can lead to complete disengagement.

Volunteering: Volunteering can help 50+ customers gain new skills and feel they are able to make a contribution, thus improving their self esteem and building their confidence.

The following case study illustrates how a woman who had not worked for 30 years was helped to build her confidence and find a job.


Motivation is a characteristic that varies from person to person. Invariably, you will come across customers who are extremely motivated and others who have very little motivation. For the latter, it is important for you to understand the reasons driving the lack of motivation and adopt an approach that helps to re-motivate and re-invigorate your customer. You may also wish to refer to the section on Developing confidence, as confidence and motivation can often be closely linked.

Lack of motivation

Negative work experiences are often a factor in shaping an individual’s motivation to re-enter the labour market. Often, 50+ jobseekers who have been victims of poor management or ruthless employers can become disillusioned to the point where they think all employers are the same.

Poor educational experiences early on in life, as well as a lack of support and encouragement to learn, can also play a significant part in 50+ jobseekers being less motivated to learn and develop new skills.

Underlying health issues can severely affect motivation for re-entering the labour market among 50+ customers. Depression, in particular, can be a major barrier that can often go undetected and the thought of becoming older can affect people emotionally.

A lack of structure can also be a cause of poor motivation. When in employment, people have a clear structure to their day; however, unemployment can change this radically to the point where getting up in the morning becomes a challenge.

Dealing with personal family issues may also affect motivation to work among the over-50s, who are increasingly likely to inherit caring responsibilities for elderly parents or grandchildren. Bereavement of a spouse / partner can also severely affect motivation.

There may also be a poor perception of their own skill-base. Often, 50+ jobseekers believe they are ‘too old’ to learn new skills and find it difficult to see that the range of life skills and experience acquired can be potentially valuable in searching for a new job.

Skill/will matrix

One way of deciding which approach or style to adopt with your customer is to use a simple Skill / will matrix. This tool helps you to assess your customer’s level of motivation and tailor your style accordingly.

Skill and Will Matrix


Low will / low skill: The customer does not have the motivation to do anything and, in addition, has a relatively limited skill-base. A Direct approach may help in dealing with this type of jobseeker, where you have the hard conversation about where they are currently and what they need to do to move forward.

Low skill / high will: This type of customer will be keen and motivated to move forward but may not necessarily have the skill-base to achieve their aspirations. Providing Guidance on organisations or institutions who offer training and development that will help raise the customer’s skill level will help here.

High skill / low will: Here, the customer will be well skilled, but along the way has lost their motivation. It is important to try to re-ignite that passion and drive that the customer once had. Using techniques or practices that Excite the customer can often be successful. One way of achieving this could be to meet away from the office environment. For example, arranging to meet in a museum, an art gallery or even a park may help to engage the client’s imagination and begin the process of re-stimulating and re-motivating.

High skill / high will: With this type of customer, your role should simply be to Delegateresponsibility for job searching and sourcing training opportunities to the customer. For this to work effectively, it is important that you communicate clearly, set / agree clear objectives with the customer and regularly monitor and review progress.

Further ways of improving motivation

Understanding preferred learning styles:
 helping customers to understand how they prefer to learn can be an extremely effective way of improving motivation for learning. Many older adults prefer to learn by traditional means and find online learning a challenge. Through understanding their preferred way of learning, individuals are more likely to have a positive experience, thereby increasing the likelihood of them re-engaging with learning.

Exploring areas of interest: encouraging customers to think about subjects or topics that they gain personal enjoyment and satisfaction from can be a good starting point in building motivation, both for learning new skills as well as for identifying areas of employment.

Peer support: meeting and mixing with individuals who are of a similar generation and who have similar life experiences can help raise motivation. Encouraging customers to talk about and share experiences can lead to greater confidence and motivation.

Employer visits: arranging visits to employers for groups of customers can help raise motivation, particularly if it is an industry sector that the customer has always wanted to work in but never had the opportunity. This can be done in a non-threatening way where the customer is in control, particularly if it is arranged as part of a larger group of customers.

Highlighting transferable skills: The result of a skills analysis can help highlight skills that may be transferred from one job to another, regardless of industry sector, and build motivation for customers to explore new roles and opportunities.

Goal setting and action planning: Helps to provide the 50+ jobseeker with a purpose and structure, which can lead to a greater sense of achievement, thus enhancing motivation.

Recognising achievements: a highly effective way of increasing the motivational levels of 50+ customers is by acknowledging what the individual has achieved throughout his / her work life and personal life. The current generation of 50+ adults are considerably less likely to have achieved formal qualifications compared with the younger generations of today.

WHP is co-financed by the ESF

Co-financed by the European Social Fund