There’s a lot of discussion about diversity and inclusion at companies, in particular those focused on tech, but one marginalised group that often gets overlooked is older people. What constitutes “older” varies wildly depending on your industry and personal outlook, of course, but anyone closer to retirement than their university graduation is approaching work differently.
Here’s how you can help yourself in a workforce that seems to get younger every year.
Don’t Try To Hide Your Age
There are a number of invisible barriers to getting the job you want if you’re older and searching for work or entering a new company. People start leaving dates off resumes and strongly editing their work history.
It’s possible doing so might get you through the gatekeepers to that interview, but if so, you’re still showing up as yourself.
Remember that you probably don’t want to work at an ageist company, and a hiring manager who doesn’t recognise the value of employees with different perspectives and life experiences is probably not someone you want controlling your day.
Recognise Your Value, Too
You have a lot to offer: If you’re approaching or over 50, you’ve experienced recessions, bounced back, worked in a ton of positions, and you can manage yourself.
A study from TalentSmart indicated this ability gets better as you age, according to a survey they did of 10,614 people between the ages of 18 and 80:
Self management skills appear to increase steadily with age—60-year-olds scored higher than 50-year-olds, who scored higher than 40-year-olds, and so on.
There are probably some other benefits to being older that you haven’t even considered; US News reports that older people take better care of themselves in general, eating well and exercising, so they’re actually healthier than most millennials.
Sounds great for a manager who needs someone reliable, and potentially also flexible: People heading towards retirement or with big families may want to work only part-time. You’re the right fit for the right job.
Stay Engaged Socially
There are challenges to staying involved in company cultures that don’t make an effort to consider the needs of older people on the payroll. Social events may focus on alcohol or rock-climbing, and you may not want to try and outdistance the university intern doing fireball shots up a 12m wall.
The camaraderie built among team members during social events is important, and you don’t want to be excluded. Plan ahead for how you will participate, if you can.
If you can’t, this is something worth bringing up with HR. It’s OK to advocate for events that are not only more inclusive to different age groups, but to families with children. There may be people outside your age-range at your company with similar needs, and you could reach out to them for support.
Stay Engaged With Your Work Performance
In the office, there are a few ways to remind your co-workers that age does not equate to disinterest. Monster.com has a number of recommendations for older workers in IT, specifically, to show they’re “in the know”. Is that phrase dated? Oh well.
One of their main pointers is to stay up to date on everything — take classes, ask about trainings, and even work on Open Source projects to appear engaged with the world of tech outside your day job. Constantly learning is good for your resume, but also for your brain.
Monster also suggests keeping a tech blog, suggesting it gives people the impression that you’re staying connected to your industry.
Become A Mentor
Hey, you know a whole lot and your workforce is constantly being flooded by people who are just getting started. That’s kind of the whole issue. Ask about opportunities to teach a workshop or mentoring programs. Give some thought to what you want to do or how you think you can contribute.
This showcases your valuable experience as an employee, and that you can connect with your team to help them grow.
And remember that mentorship can go both ways. You can probably learn something from younger people, too. Plus, letting someone show you how to do something is a great way to make friends. You need somebody to hang out with at the rock-climbing wall.
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