I’ve just come back from a two day residential HR conference. Less than 5% of the attendees were over 40.
We know overall profitability improves with diversity of thought. Diversity must come in the form of age as well. The unconscious bias exists that older employees are considered less capable, diligent and lack passion and spirit at work. We know this. Observing at close hand, in the 2018 workplace, many older workers could positioning themselves to be hired and not held back.
Styling Out Being Older at Work Looks Like
• Being absolutely fine to work under younger managers with less experience (they might be sensitive about older ‘underlings’ too, remember)
• Dress for 2018 (big one, sorry) otherwise you reinforce the out-of-touch perception
• Keep up with change and innovation, you don’t have to code necessarily, just be able to get by and have a growth mindset
• The millennial generation love learning and can find anything on Google so if you can provide different perspectives you’ll get buy-in and kudos
• Keep an ear out for cultural references for around the water cooler and keep on top of what “the kids” like. Just to chat about…
• Keep abreast of new industry and tech trends – this is for everyone in an era where we hurtle towards new digital innovation daily
• Be energetic and passionate
• Do not be a surrogate mum
• Avoid “war stories’ that date you about when you did this job twenty years ago
• Avoid preachy advice. Lead by example and wait to be asked. Use your recent-ish work history for anecdotes rather than the early 90s
Demonstrate, wherever possible, that you possess the timeless market skills: being inclusive (oh the irony!) negotiating effectively, influencing people, selling concepts, comfortably challenging the status quo because you have seen things work a few different ways. You can handle diverse teams. That’s what you’ve done in every walk of your life, yes? You can’t avoid getting older, but you don’t have to get old.
These are still current best practices for business success. Highlight examples where you’ve been an agile learner. Where you’ve contributed to hard business results. Aaron Harvey of Ready Set Rocket says “seasoned employees have alot more to teach junior employees about business intuition. Business is much more than trends and technology. It’s applied intuition that takes years of experience to develop”.
Other Things I See Older People Do Well
• Work autonomously
• Stay calm under pressure
• Lead peers very naturally
• Ask their bosses the right questions rather than dumping “dead birds” (problems not solutions) at their door
• Handle ambiguity
• Guide younger staff. Show them how to have their long game perspective
Don’t Make Age an Issue (Unless you need to)
Try and avoid making it an issue, don’t talk yourself down but it you sense it is a problem you need to speak up. Your response matters. For all of us. We collectively need to fight the apprehension. But people will often take their cue on the ageing issue from you so don’t make it one. Ultimately the world WILL accept ageing as another form of needed diversity.