Combat Workplace Ageism: discover how to stay relevant and needed
Workplace Ageism and Discrimination are alive and well!
While there is increasing awareness that the workforce is ageing and employers want to do the right thing, many of them simply don't know how to engage and best utilise the skills and experience of older workers. Where once retirement at 55 - 60 was common, many skilled professionals are now working into their 70s.
If you're over 45, future-proofing your career is something you need to be actively working on now.
One of the biggest dangers mid-career professionals face is being left behind, overlooked and ultimately no longer needed. The early signs are subtle and often not immediately noticeable. Maybe you’re not invited to join a meeting or if you are, no-one actually asks your opinion.
Before long you’re missing out on jobs which go to ‘better qualified candidates, with more relevant experience’. Trying not to take it personally, you’re confused. With a resume showcasing vast experience and many achievements over 20+ years, you thought you were a shoe-in for the role.
The problem isn’t that your experience isn’t impressive. It’s that some of your key skills, areas of expertise, attitudes and language have become outdated, irrelevant and redundant.
While being ‘made redundant’ could be a sad and inevitable outcome, becoming redundant is different. The cold hard reality is that some of what you say, do, have and contribute is no longer making the difference it once did.
Before your self-confidence plummets, your shoulders sag in resignation and you start to believe you may be reaching your ‘use by’ date... STOP!
There is a simple way to fix this and future proof your career for many years to come.
How to Stay Relevant and Needed After 50
1: Research What's 'Hot'
Get curious about the latest trends, thinking, skills, language and truths in your profession. You may be surprised that what you thought was current has actually been replaced by a new way of working.
Change may not be as drastic as you fear. Quite often ideas that were ‘hot’ years ago have simply been rebadged as something new (think Lean, Six Sigma, Total Quality Management).
Clever marketers have brought back retro and fashion is a great example of an industry that continually reinvents itself by adding a fresh twist to an old look.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that what you already know is enough. Learn what’s new or changed and use the words respected authorities use to talk about the latest 'shiny new thing' in your industry.
2: Spring Clean Your Toolkit
Many careers ago I took a shorthand course and learned how to touch type on a manual typewriter with clunky keys.
Apart from the odd symbol when I’m taking notes, I never used the shorthand. Yet I spend hours on a keyboard every day and am forever grateful I can type fast, without looking at the keys.
Do an objective ‘head to toe’ review of all your skills, knowledge, expertise and attitudes. Yes, even our beliefs have use by dates!
If there’s something there you haven’t thought about, referred to or successfully used for over a year, chances are it’s no longer relevant.
Let it go...
3: Take Your Strengths in New Directions
Discover what you’re good at, enjoy and are passionate about and build on it. Seek new opportunities to adapt what you have and know to what’s needed now. Being flexible about what you can and will do shows those who matter that you're not afraid of change.
Don’t avoid applying for an exciting new job because you’re not a perfect match. Park your assumptions and take time to understand the role by asking lots of questions before the interview.
Then make it easy for the recruiter to ‘join the dots’ between what’s needed and what you have to offer. Provide examples of where you’ve achieved something similar in the past and demonstrate how you’ll pro-actively fill any skill or knowledge gaps.
Even if you’re not successful this time, that you applied demonstrates you’re ready, willing and able to step outside your comfort zone into something new.
4: Be a Mentor, Not a Teller
One of the hazards of having been around for a while is firmly entrenched beliefs. Next time you’re in a meeting where a long termer is banging on about the right way to do things, notice how quickly others around the table tune out.
Rather than being the expert on everything, adopt a more subtle approach. Be genuinely interested and curious. Ask leading questions to share your wisdom, challenge the status quo or float an idea.
Trust and respect are high value currency for warding off professional obsolescence. One of the greatest sources of later job satisfaction comes from developing others.
Doing this consistently, with humility and generosity, has the potential to take you from ‘old fogie’ to legend status!
5: Stay Ahead of the Game
Commit to consciously learn something new every day.
We might not learn as quickly as we once did and marvel at how quickly children master the latest smartphone or app.
But stubbornly hanging onto your old Nokia screams ‘old school’ and says you’re stuck in the past, even if you’re not.
Rather than fearing change, embrace emerging technology. Anticipate what’s around the corner for your chosen profession and do whatever it takes to be ready.
Better still... get on the front foot, take risks and be innovative. Build confidence and courage to be a problem solver, thought leader and trend setter. This is a great way to significantly increase your influence and value.
Most of us will be working for many years longer than our parents. If you’ve still got a decade or more of work ahead, you want to be challenged, fulfilled and needed.
The pace of change is only going to get faster and that’s exciting! New roles are being invented every day creating limitless opportunities for anyone who's ready to embrace this brave new world.
Mastering the art and skill of reinventing yourself is no longer just a fun way to test yourself – it’s a necessity.
Remember, you don't need to be a victim of Workplace Ageism and Discrimination!
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