Over the past five years, I’ve presented over 200 career growth workshops and seminars to more than 10,000 participants. My audience is diverse in age and career level with many of them in between career opportunities; I find there is one group that seems to be growing at an alarming rate. This group I call the 50
–better group or professionals who are 50 years old or older. Though all job seekers face their set of challenges, and many in the 50-better group have a few extra, age shouldn’t be one of them.
Age is a topic I hear about during seminars or afterwards when I stick around to answer one-on-one questions. Audience members share comments or questions that concern me. When I hear them, I know that I’m looking into the eyes of someone who is scared and feels unneeded. I hear their voice crack with emotion, and I can sense their fear and uncertainty about their place in today’s job market. They’re angry that they’re being forced into a 21st Century job search after dedicating decades to a company or industry that promised them the loyalty and job security of the past.
Comments I hear often:
- I’m too old; companies won’t hire me.
- I feel expired, past my shelf life.
- I feel like I’m being left out on the curb on trash day.
- I’m unskilled and without value in today’s marketplace.
- Why me? I was let go because I’m old. They want unskilled workers who will accept lower wages.
There are many reasons they feel this way. They feel blindsided at being let go from corporate America, for reasons out of their control. No one threw them a retirement or going away party. Instead, they were escorted out of the office like a criminal, with a severance package that was half of what they could expect just ten years ago.
► The Challenge
Be careful. If you feel this way about your age, it will start to become obvious. You’ll wear it on your sleeve, and your body language, attitude, the tone of voice and the words you choose to describe yourself will reflect what you believe. Prospective employers or contacts will hear you saying, “I’m too old. I’ve expired. I’m past my shelf life.” This is the opposite of how you should support your job search and your professional brand. Instead, embrace your years of experience and service and brag about what you have to offer.
► Instead, feel and say:
- I’m a proud member of Gen X. I have professional and life skills younger professionals will take years to master.
- I understand how to balance yesterday’s customer service standards with today’s technology.
- My work ethic supports the flexibility and loyalty your teams and customers need.
- Let me tell you about all the problems I’ve fixed during the years of my career.
- My decades of experience give me the power to mentor your younger professionals
Don’t give anyone or any circumstances the power to strip away your value and potential. Yes, today’s job search is extremely competitive. It’s the first time in history when there are four generations in the workforce competing for a piece of a smaller pie, with a fifth — Generation Z — entering the workforce.
I consistently witness 50-better professionals connecting to new opportunities. They understand the challenges they face, but don’t believe they have a shelf life. There are many things you can do to be relevant in today’s market. You just need to have a strategy and understand your professional brand.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Team with a career coach or certified resume writer. Don’t let pride get in your way and network every opportunity you get. Gain the skills needed for today’s jobs through online courses, certifications, continuing education programs, and free programs through your city or local library.
► We all need to be CEOs of our careers. No one else can do it for you.
By Tom Powner, Career Thinker Inc.