Read time: 4 min
“Do you think I’m too old and that’s why I’m not getting a job?” That’s a question that a client asked me a few days ago. A perfectly normal reaction if you have been applying for jobs and don’t see positive results after a few months. Self-doubt and worry start to settle in, especially if you compare yourself to most workers in the high-tech industry where the majority are in their mid-twenties and thirties.
At forty or older, you start falling into the “relics” category and viewed as someone lacking the agility to fit in a fast-paced environment, particularly in high-tech. Mostly true, this is a common perception in today’s work place. But what is important to remember is that while the older generation needs to adapt to the new environment, the younger one could benefit from what you, a seasoned asset, can bring to the table. Also, when you meet with a hiring team, if you can get them talking about what is really going on behind the position and shift the conversation to resolving their pain points, then you are not an applicant anymore but a trusted advisor; a consultant digging to learn more about what's not working. For that, you need to start thinking about what your maturity can bring to the table.
Re-invent yourself: Sometimes we must let go of our old selves and tap into the wisdom and experience we have gained from years in the workforce. We need to remember that we have more to offer because we are older. So, the questions to keep in mind are: How can you market it, so they flock to you with their needs. How do you augment their lives in exchange for what they offer? What can they be grateful for when someone older, like you, joins their team?
If we start thinking about what we lack due to age, we are looking at the missing pieces. You can’t build anything if you count your deficiencies or what you’ve left behind, rather than your accumulated assets and what is possible in the future. By shifting your mindset, you will also change your beliefs. Changing your beliefs will change your attitude, and that constructive and energetic attitude is what is needed for your interview. Let’s look at some of the things that you have gained from accumulated years of work and life experience, then see how you can apply it to the position. Pull out a pen and a sheet of paper, then create two columns: 1: Assets you have, and they need | 2: Where and how you can apply them
Here are a few examples. Think of how this can relate to you.
Grit: Instead of talent, Angela Duckworth in her book "Grit", formulated the idea of grit as “The combination of passion and perseverance. Passion means long-term adherence to a goal and consistency of interest, as opposed to being a dilettante and changing your goal mercurially. Perseverance means overcoming setbacks, hard work, and finishing things, rather than giving up.”
She writes: “The first step to grit is to find something that really interests you. Then you need to practice it for a long time, so you become good at it. Over time, you realize you don’t just have a job, you have a calling for what you do. When you have a calling, you help others and perform work that benefits society.” Let me say it again, “practice it for a long time,” just like you have. How can you demonstrate the ways your grit can benefit them?
Calm, temperament and patience: Some things just develop over time. It’s natural to be impatient, especially at a younger age, and be affected by stressful and challenging situations. With more years of experience, you have found better ways to remain calm and steadfast at your job, which is a higher predictor of success. In what situations can you illustrate that this has profited you and other organizations?
Emotional Intelligence: The five skills of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills are developed through practice. A study from forty Fortune 500 companies revealed that sales people out performed those with medium to low emotional intelligence by 50% and are 20 times more productive. A higher emotional intelligence increases employee retention by 67%, enhances communication and improves risk management. Acknowledge their technical intelligence and demonstrate how your emotional intelligence, developed over the years, can help them.
Wisdom: Employers may have legitimate concerns about older employees being behind the curve when it comes to technology, but those skills can be taught. On the other hand, no amount of training will give the younger worker the wisdom and skills gained through 20 or 30 years of working in a field. Younger people must assume, since you’ve come this far and still have such ambition, that you must have some valuable insights for them. Don’t we often seek advice or mentorship from people who have more experience in life changes, handling challenges, diversity and other aspects that require maturity? How can your wisdom assuage their pain points?
Time: Another asset that older employees offer is flexibility in availability. You often don't need to keep 9-to-5 core hours. If you are an empty-nester, the kids are grown up and have left home. As an older worker, you may relish the freedom of unconventional job schedules. And yes, that includes happy hours with your team.
These are just a few to get you started. Create your lists and see how it can benefit your employer. What’s important is that you adjust them, so they are applicable to the position you seek. Recognizing your values will boost your confidence and allow you to convey the advantages of having you on the team. Demonstrate how you understand their business pains and how you can solve them, then they can’t afford to be concerned about your age.
A friend of mine, now in his late 50s, has interviewed many candidates for sales positions in his department. No matter how good they looked on paper, many didn’t even make it through the door for lack of enthusiasm and grit. Several of them were under forty. You might believe they discriminate against you based on your age, but your determination, your drive to contribute and passion for your work will get you noticed.
Change your beliefs. A defeatist perspective won’t move you toward success. We need seasoned experts and novices to work together. That’s how organizations and everyone involved will ever win. This starts with all parties checking their egos at the door and coming to work ready to roll up their sleeves, with the right attitude and focus on what they want to achieve.
Please share your thoughts. What else you would add to the lists?
Roberto Giannicola - Coaching & Facilitation - www.Giannicola.com