Maybe it is because of my many gray hairs or because of the age of the people with whom I hang out, but for whatever the reason, discussions often center on the older worker. I used to think of the older worker as those over 40 folks who were everybody’s boss and just hanging out waiting for the golden years of retirement and traveling the US in their RV. But now that I too am in that over 40, and indeed the over 50 category, my views on and appreciation for the older worker has changed. So hang on you pierced, tattooed GenX-er…here we come again!
During the last hiring boom at the end of 2000 the overall employment outlook suggested that there would not be enough workers to fill the then available positions and the new positions being developed daily. Then the bottom fell out of the market and guess who got “laid-off” first…often the older, experienced and highly compensated worker. Many companies downsized and lost much of their company knowledge pool and employees possessing the experience doing many jobs within the company.
Networking functions around the country are filled with talented older workers who are not ready for that full-time Airstream Adventure and desire to be gainfully employed and contributing team members and leaders. Much of my career coaching practice involves the older worker involved in the re-employment process. What do I hear and how do I respond? Listen up!
Age discrimination seems to enter about every discussion and you know what, it doesn’t matter, and in most cases it’s not worth the time and energy to even go there. In Colorado employers can terminate you with or without cause so why bother. Will hiring managers discriminate based on age? Maybe, but all hiring managers have their prejudices and age is only one form of discrimination. If you are concerned about the age factor, my advice is to tailor your search to the small to mid-sized company. Small and mid-sized company employers often seek out the older, experienced worker who possesses a wide variety of skills, often referred to as a generalist. The generalist brings to the workplace the knowledge and skill set enabling them to do many jobs within the company so that the employer can save money by not having to add several specialists to the company’s headcount.
Pay usually is the next issue. Many older workers have an excellent career history and have been well compensated. The discerning employer should recognize that the market has changed and salaries have changed accordingly. Guess what, the older worker understands that too. For many older workers pay is less important than being valued by a company and feeling fulfilled by their productive employment. Many older workers are looking to make a difference (significance) and are less consumed with job title, upward mobility and big bucks (success). Employers and job seekers alike should understand the concept of paying what the job is worth, not for the experience being brought to the job. Money isn’t what most older workers accept jobs for. After all, our Mustangs and Corvettes are already paid for.
The older worker is often the untapped resource that savvy employers should always look to when filling a job. Along with the gray hair often comes the desire to work hard, mentor others, share past experience and be a responsible employee aiding the employer in achieving his or her business success.