In the five years I’ve been a career transition coach, redundancies have almost become ‘business as usual’ in corporate Australia. And as a 5o-something woman working with professionals navigating change, I’m tuned-in to the needs of my tribe, for whom career and economic independence is everything. When faced with redundancy, their confidence levels are often undermined by anxiety about ongoing employment.
Research indicates that where Boomer-generation workers face discrimination, it isn’t widespread, but nuanced according to sector, income and gender. It’s a patchwork picture, and women are less likely to experience discrimination. However, although our knowledge and expertise are undisputed, the IT revolution has left many of us under-skilled, vulnerable and overlooked.
The evidence suggests that we need to embrace a multi-generational workplace, value and offer our lifetime skills, sharpen our mind-set, and bridge any skills gap.
1. Embrace a multi-generational workplace
In her book Retiring the Generation Gap, Jennifer Deal concluded that each generation has more in common with the other than they think: They have similar values – they just express them differently; everyone wants respect – they just don’t define it the same way; everyone wants to learn – more than just about anything else, and no one really likes change.
2. Value & offer lifetime skills
Wharton Business School research highlights the lifetime of skills older workers bring to their jobs. They are described as being highly motivated and productive, having fewer sick days on the whole than younger counterparts, less absenteeism, turnover and superior interpersonal skills.
In their 2012 paper ‘Attitudes to older workers’, Westfield Wright emphasised that older workers can be a valuable asset to a business and organisation. These workers scored well on attitudes such as motivation, skill levels and energy – at least as high scoring as their younger workers. They scored high for productivity. Where there were issues, such as physical deterioration or IT skills and gaps, these are seen as redeemable and resolvable.
3. Sharpen mindset & bridge gaps
A recurring theme is that while they are more reliable and have a stronger work ethic, the Over 50s don’t keep up with technology – and this is what makes it hard for them to find work. And where they’re seen to be lacking energy, IT illiterate and set in their ways – decisions may work against them.
So how can you sustain a career after 50?
- Accept a ‘job for life’ is a thing of the past & consider flexible alternatives
- Act like you want to be there, make a contribution & add value
- Demonstrate ongoing learning, including professional & skill-based training
- Embrace new technologies – including systems, software and social media
- Engage with change, and look for the opportunities it offers you
- Hone interpersonal skills & learn how to ‘sell’ yourself
- Share knowledge & expertise through mentoring others
- Avoid mentioning and using age as an excuse
Sometimes this means doing things differently, and creating your own career options.
And as with career decisions at any age, it’s worth scrutinising the people and place of employment. After all, cultural fit is the key to ongoing career fulfilment.