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Shatter the perception of old

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in Workplace Relevance for the Successful Admin

On the Facebook page Over Fifty and Out of Work, Boomers gather to share stories of how hard it is to find a job over 50. This is one job seeker’s post:

I have been made redundant for the second time in a year. My previous job was 9.5 years service. Had every life-changing happening you can imagine in the last three years and at 56, I am now getting rejected for jobs that are well within my capability at CV stage. Don’t know for sure but believe it is age related. Not sure what to do, need to work, have good skills but how do you make your CV better than everyone else?

When I talk to Boomers who are working, there’s a palatable fear that if they lose their jobs, they’ll never find another one. There’s good cause for their concern. According to Forbes nearly 40 percent of unemployed Americans—roughly 4.8 million people—have been jobless for six months or longer. About half of them are over age 50.

Given the facts, the editorial by Tom Agan in the business section of the March 30 New York Times seemed contradictory to empirical evidence found in the job market. Agan, 51, a co-founder and the managing partner of Rivia, an innovation and brand consulting firm, says that when companies reduce the staff of “gray hairs” there’s a drop in innovation. He shows that top executives, movie producers, Nobel Prize winners and writers see success later in life. With the exception of the whiz kids out there, innovation often comes later.

There are not many of us that fit in those career categories but even so, Agan raises an interesting point. It seems as if companies are letting Boomers go. Whatever the reason, the high unemployment in the over-50 age groups points to managers and executives not valuing the contribution of older workers.

You can’t control the job market. What you can do as an older worker, or someone approaching that stage, is not contribute to your own demise. It may be that as an older worker, you need to show your manager or executive you still have value. Work to shatter the perception that you’re “old.”

Here are a few suggestions:

Reverse Mentor

If you’re over 40, ask a millennial to mentor you. You’ll learn a lot of information you don’t know. This is more than learning about pop culture, which wouldn’t hurt. There’s a reason companies hire younger workers. Find out what makes a 28-year-old tick. What are their best practices in the office? Have them teach you social networking (this is more than looking at photos of your grandchildren on Facebook). Learn what tools they use and how they use them.

Get the right tools

If you work in an office, especially if you’re working in a support role, you need to learn how to use the tools that are in the workplace. Yes, you do need a smartphone and a tablet wouldn’t hurt you either. Technology changes and you need to change with it until the day comes that you don’t need to work anymore.

Learn how to use tools/software

Lynda.com is a great place to find hands-on, low-cost training. You’ll find training on loads of different software that's used in the office today.

Join a professional association

There is a professional association for just about anything from administrative professionals to CEOs. Not only will joining an association show your boss you’re interested in investing in your career, becoming active will also sharpen your skills. You’ll also meet new people who can help connect you to your next job.

Find your work passion

If there came a point in your current job where you just decided to put in your time until you could retire, you’re in danger of losing the job. Reverse your apathy by finding something in your workplace that interests you. If it’s not within your area of responsibility, ask to take it on. Initiative is necessary for engagement. If you have an idea that would save money or create a new product or service, speak up—even if it means more work for you.

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