When the dream of retiring for their "golden years" comes true, most people find the reality a little tarnished.

"When I retired, I was looking forward to some time for myself," Arnie Payne, job counselor at the Career Guidance Center, said Friday. "But after awhile, I couldn't find enough to do."Studies show that over 50 percent of the people who retire wish they had not. And once they get out of the work force, it is very hard to get back in."

Payne addressed a small group of retired workers who want to find new jobs, but who feel blocked by age discrimination or other barriers.

"Older people, even if they can economically get by, want to do something meaningful; they want to contribute. And it makes financial sense for the country and adds meaning to older people's lives."

But it can be difficult to re-enter the job market.

"I realize you are not supposed to be discriminated against because of your age, but many employers find ways to sidestep the law. They can say you are underqualified or overqualified."

He said many employers do recognize the value of workers over 55. Payne said research has shown older workers are equally productive on most jobs, get along well with their co-workers, have very good attendance records and are willing to learn. They also have fewer accidents and are more available for part-time work and flexible schedules, he said.

Irwin Purcell, another job counselor at the center, said lack of confidence often keeps would-be workers from promoting themselves.

"If you can type 60 words per minute for a church job, you can type 60 words per minute for an employer. Working at a job, at home or doing volunteer work will all give you valuable skills."

One problem some older workers must overcome is their own inflexibility, said Shelly Smith, counselor at the center. With all their life experience, it is hard to keep opinions to themselves on how a job should be done, she said. But any worker should spend the first six months of a job observing, not trying to change procedures.

Smith added that an enthusiastic attitude and updated wardrobes can make applicants seem younger. "And if you don't have the confidence to get the job, fake it."

Payne said many older workers find permanent jobs through temporary agencies. Others work for the Forest Service, maintaining campgrounds. Utah Valley Regional Medical Center has a taped message on job openings (call 379-7036), as does Brigham Young University (call 378-4357).

The Career Guidance Center offers private counseling for a fee, and provides low-income earners who meet certain requirements with free counseling through the government sponsored Job Training Partnership Act program. Job-seekers 55 or older, regardless of income, may attend the center's job skill training seminars. Call 377-7476 for information.