Industry Expert Led Affordable Training for Polishing Skills and Landing Jobs

Institute for Career Transitions offers a novel approach to shortening periods of unemployment

By Sandra Atlas-Gordon

When you think of older workers, do you think: fewer choices, lower pay, and more rejections? This is the reality for many people age 45+. Recent data collected by the Federal Reserve shows that between 21 and 24 percent of retirees 64 and younger were forced to stop working due to a lack of employment opportunities.

To support these older workers as they transition to a new job, the Institute for Career Transitions (ICT) offers an innovative group program called the ICT Collaboratory. Deborah Burkholder, ICT Executive Director, explains, “Our ‘work-in-between-work model,’ which we introduced in 2017, is experimental and constantly evolving.”

ICT is a non-profit organization that helps highly skilled/educated professionals age 45+ who are struggling with long-term unemployment. In fact, the Collaboratory leverages ICT’s years of experience working with the long-term unemployed and their research examining the emotional toll of long-term unemployment.

Burkholder explains, “Searching for a job can be demoralizing, especially for people over 45, who often face age discrimination and longer-than-average search times.”

To help transitioning older workers, the ICT Collaboratory assembles small groups, or “cohorts,” that operate as supportive communities.


Each cohort meets in a co-working space three days a week over a four-week cycle to focus and make steady progress toward their goals.

Here, participants help each other strategize, identify roadblocks, and provide mutual support so they keep moving forward. Even after group meetings, participants often remain in co-working spaces to work and to stay connected with group members.

Burkholder says, “The co-working space offers people a safe place to talk about their transition and be part of a community. When people feel good and supported they’re in a better position to take the necessary steps to move forward successfully.”

Entrepreneurial mindset

Burkholder also encourages an entrepreneurial or agile mindset to enable cohorts to take incremental steps each day. For example during every group meeting members must deliver an update, ask for suggestions, and offer ideas to others.

Another way cohorts adopt an entrepreneurial mindset is to keep trying new things. This is essential so that members gain the confidence they need to make changes when something doesn’t go as planned. Burkholder says, “When people get stuck, the group offers them help and encouragement. This is important because we want everyone to make a lot of progress during the four-week session.”

At the close of the session, participants decide how they want to continue working toward their goals.

What’s next?

At this time, the Collaboratory is running several cohorts in Lawrence, Massachusetts. ICT’s goal is to refine the Collaboratory model and then offer it in other locations.

Burkholder notes, “Since we launched, our preliminary research findings show promising outcomes: improved motivation and feelings of well-being and greater openness to alternative sources of income. With each cohort, we make improvements to help participants better navigate their new career realities.”

Quick Tips from the ICT:

  • Don’t go it alone with your work transition. Tap into the wisdom of a group to collaborate and solve problems.
  • Spend two-to-three hours of productive time per day on your job search. Use the rest of your time to engage in other activities to recharge and free up your brain for new ideas.


Sandra Atlas-Gordon is a content-marketing strategist, freelance writer, and blogger. She has a special interest in writing about the changing labor market. She can be reached via LinkedIn or email.

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