6/8/2012 12:02 PM ET|
Over 55? How to stay in demand
From embracing social media to updating a wardrobe, older workers need to stay current. An executive search expert explains how.
It is a common -- and somewhat justified -- belief among executives closing in on their 60th birthdays that their age is working against them.
They typically respond by revising their résumés -- leaving off college graduation dates, preparing a topical résumé (don't get me started on my distaste for those) or picking an arbitrary date to start their career history on their résumé, hoping the reader will think they fall within the coveted 45-50 age range, a sweet spot for recruiters.
Do people really think savvy recruiters and hiring managers won't understand that executives are embarrassed by their age and see it as a disadvantage?
While there are undoubtedly companies that want to hire executives who will remain with them for 20 years and may not be interested in someone who has rounded the proverbial "third base" of their careers, other companies value the wisdom and experience of a seasoned executive. Giant law firm Kirkland & Ellis just completed a search for an executive director by hiring a 60-something candidate. So how does an "older" executive level the playing field? Much of it is about having the right attitude and being current.
So what does "being current" mean?
Embrace social media. While younger executives may not be able to match your experience, they instinctively understand technology and the role social media plays in today's business world. Executives who pretend that Facebook and Twitter have nothing to do with them do so at their own peril. I strongly urge every executive to have a LinkedIn profile with a professional headshot that clearly communicates, "I get LinkedIn" and the value of networking. While Facebook participation is more optional, I recommend that executives maintain a Facebook page, whether they use it or not. It is simply another way of staying current. Even if you don't understand social media, don't denigrate it at every opportunity. The people who say, "I'm not really good at this technology thing," place themselves firmly in the "old fogies" category.
Network on an individual basis. You should know your peers at competing organizations on a first-name basis. If a peer is retiring, ask for an introduction to his or her replacement. Staying connected through online groups also keeps you informed about who is relevant in the industry.
Embrace industry meetings and conferences. Executives get busier as they enter their second and third decades in the workforce, and maintaining industry relationships and attending conferences is often put on the back burner. Not only do you miss out on seeing old colleagues, you also miss the opportunity to meet the up-and-coming superstars who might be good networking contacts as your own network starts to retire.
Time for a wardrobe and haircut update. The business dress code has drastically changed over the last 20 years, yet many seasoned employees have been slow to adapt. Sure, older execs understand that a suit is no longer appropriate in every business setting, but their casual dress is woefully out of date. For formal dress, men: lose the pleated pants; and women: ditch the brooch. Look at what your young leaders are wearing and try to be current.
Increase your accessibility. Many people who did not grow up with mobile devices are not in the habit of being available 24/7. And while being addicted to your BlackBerry or iPhone has its own drawbacks, you need to adapt to today's business world where people check their devices after normal business hours. You can't force the world to slow down by simply refusing to be available, because your competitor will be available and your colleagues will move on without you.
Listen more. Have you ever noticed that as people get older, they listen less and talk more? Don't let this be you. As you listen, see what you can learn from the younger generation. If you are too old to learn, you are too old -- too old to work and too old to contribute.
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Horrible article. If a corporation does not wish to hire an individual based on their age instead of their talent; then it's their loss. I've watched many of the "up and coming" and I'm not impressed. If working longer hours for less money and less leisure time is the new normal for these companies then young and old alike need to make their own businesses or wait out the downturn. It's not going to last forever; companies have stretched this workforce as far as it can go. They want to hire; they just don't want the associated cost. You know...healthcare...pensions.
Younger workers are not only lacking experience, they are stupid as well... I was interviewed by a 30yo Art Director who asked me formated questions which did not pertain to my skills or the job... young people today have a dispoable attitude to everything, including people with better qualifications... I predict many will soon be fired as hiring managers realize we 50-60yo workers can out perform these kids and make a company more profitable which is what it's all about in the long run... I'm 57 and will never "retire" because I love life and have a much STRONGER work ethic than these robotic-bionic kids who do nothing except text each other about how fabulous they are... which they are NOT!
I would be interested in the age of the individual who wrote this article. The bigotry of ageism is evident in all aspects of this article. I certainly take offense to the article, especially the assumption that as we age, we do not listen as well, but rather talk more. I much prefer the Baby Boomers or for that matter, the members of the Great Generation. Yes, they not only listen, they are capable of actually considering others' opinions and making well thought out responses. As we age, we become ever more valuable in the work force and as members of society due to the experience, maturity, and wisdom that naturally follows living life. Thankfully, the more mature generations, would not condone such an opinionated and prejudiced article if it were in reference to the younger generations. We are all in this world together and need to respect one anothers' differences and blend our skills and talents for the improvement and eventual resolving of injustices. Such articles as this one, only further the generation gap through its prejudicial insults.
I feel that the article question, whether a savvy employer will overlook that elder executives are embarassed by their age, is an unfair loaded question. I do not feel that executives are embarrassed by their age, and if some older executives do see age as a disadvantage, it likely involves their attempt at survival, to overcome or deal with the rampant age discrimination in this country. I feel that the statements: "as people get older, they listen less and talk more" and of "older execs...but their casual dress is woefully out of date" are stereotype statements. I feel it is not fitting to apply what a small group of people may do or may have done in the past, to an entire group.
Just a completely asinine article. Does the author mean that if you don't blab endlessly on FB and twitter about every boring, minute detail of your day that you are not worth anything in the workplace? Most of the people who can't be without their cellphones, even when using the restroom, generally have the attention span of a fruit fly, can't write a complete sentence (forget about spelling!) and couldn't intelligently discuss (and using profanity-laced non-sequiturs and name-calling don' t count as a dichotomy) current events and issues if their access to social media depended on it.
While there are defintely some mature, educated and productive younger workers, why the positives of older workers are overlooked is troublesome. Even beyond the obvious experience, skill and, yes, "old-fashioned" work ethic, older workers, for example, usually show up for work and on time, don't call in sick because they're hung over, or have perpetual boyfriend-girlfriend, husband-wife issues. There doesn't seem to be unending drama with their teenagers, sick children, countless "emergency personal phone calls", the need to leave early to (a) go out of town (b) get to a concert or (c) ___________ (fill in the blank). They don't use the "my roommate took the car so I didn't have a ride to work" excuse, or create workplace dysfunction, etc.
Personally, since I prefer to be assisted by an older, respectful, helpful, knowledgeable person as opposed to a gum-smacking, bored-looking, arrogant, know-it-all jerk who obviously doesn't, and who visibly lets me know I'm bothering him while he's texting, guess who I choose to hire in my business?
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