While some glossy magazines tout that 50 has become the new 40, or that 60 is the new 50, the modern workplace does not often show such enthusiasm. The workplace has changed rapidly with the constant advances of technology and remodeled working practices, such as remote hiring and outsourcing. Seniority has become more about what you know now (about technology and processes that is relevant today) than your years of experience and service.
Yet there are mature workers who are winning and getting excited about reinventing themselves. By updating their training and tech skills they can learn new competencies to meet new demands. Or they are pivoting themselves into consulting roles with small companies, start-ups or the corporates that once employed them.
Reframe Your Outlook
The first area to reframe is your outlook. Your mindset cannot secretly wish for the way things were, otherwise you are projecting yourself as stale and old-fashioned. This encourages ageism, and contributes to being left behind or at worse, no longer seen as seriously engaged in the culture and goals of the organization.
Plan to Win
The second area is to plan to win. Discover what others are doing that make them more valued in the workplace and become aware of any areas that are holding you back. Know what you need to do to stay relevant and be seen as a valued contributor. What many mature workers do not often understand is that although the challenges are inescapable, they have more assets than they may realize or appreciate.
Knowledge, skills, communication skills and experience are a solid foundation. Wisdom, in any industry, is only formed over many years of witnessing strategies that have worked or failed for companies in the past. The advantages of emotional maturity, reliability, common sense and a capability of prudently managing assets and responsibilities are in your favor.
However over 50s would benefit from being keenly aware that these advantages should not be diluted. Over 50s can let themselves down by not maintaining optimal grooming and personal presentation.
Be mindful of your conversational habits. Sharing about your grandchildren at the office is likely to miss the mark. Never refer to yourself as the “old man” in the office. You may need to update your own conversation skills so you can talk to people of all ages without appearing “out-of-date”.
Ongoing learning and new skill development is a requirement for all workers so do not dismiss technical knowledge as being not relevant to you. Fortunately, many of the new tech requirements are fairly fast and easy to learn.
What does ageism in today’s corporate world look like?
Ageism is actually a stigma of real concern and can be practiced to different degrees, whether the people doing it realize it or not. It can be hard to detect and can even go unnoticed. The secret is not to contribute to it yourself by “running yourself down”, discussing your age or health negatively, neglecting your appearance or taking offense too easily. Today’s workplace is characterized by a diverse workforce demographic that consists of a blend of Gen Z, millennial, Gen X, and baby boomer workers. It can be hard for managers and colleagues to work alongside each other with so many lifestyle and cultural differences.
Ageism may manifest itself in several ways at the workplace that includes:
- Learning and training opportunities might be pawned off to younger workers
- Workers may be passed over for assignments that are considered challenging.
- Workers may be left out of certain company activities, events or meetings.
- In some serious cases, disparaging comments and remarks may be made regarding one’s age.
- Being passed over for promotions and salary increases.
While many employers and organizations would like to assume that their organizations do not engage in age discrimination or age bias, the growing numbers of ageism cases at the workplace continue to increase. As such, for workers over 50 to thrive and succeed, it is wise to be aware and preprepared. With a targeted, proactive approach you can give yourself more “strings in your bow” so your age appears to be irrelevant.
Check your own stereotypes
It is bad enough when employers and younger workers develop misconceptions about aging, such as older workers are not generally open to change or they do not understand the impact of technology.
However, when mature workers apply these stereotypes to themselves, it creates a self-defeating cycle that can make it difficult to win in the corporate world. Mature workers with a positive self-perception have a better chance of impacting their environment positively, which will go a long way in allowing them to prosper in the modern workplace.
Consider updating your skills
Technology changes quickly in today’s contemporary corporate environment and it can be hard to keep track. It may seem a lot easier for you to be content with what you already know but this will only work to your detriment. If you want to succeed you must be willing to embrace technology, especially tech that is designed to make you perform better in your role or capacity in the workplace. Show yourself to be keen to learn and volunteer yourself for any training opportunities.
Consider pursuing other paths and career opportunities
Depending on your skill sets, lifestyle or needs, it could be better for some mature workers to pursue other paths and other career opportunities. More and more baby boomers are now becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own businesses while others are opting for freelance work and consulting opportunities.
This is a particularly great option for anyone that has attempted to find a new job but haven’t been successful yet. Your chances of success as an entrepreneur may be higher especially because you might find yourself with more resources at your disposal than many of your younger counterparts. The trick lies in knowing how to tap these resources to your advantage.
Try and maintain a polished image at work
As a mature staff member, you are constantly reminded of the need to stay current and to keep your skills as updated as possible. However, ensure that your personal presentation and grooming also gets your attention. This might mean several things to different people but maintaining a polished look simply means projecting the same level of refinement as younger workers and competitors in the job market, while still ensuring that you are your authentic self.
Do look carefully in the mirror before going to work each day and allow yourself time to tidy up stray hairs that are starting to spring out from new directions. And consider extra aids such as using moisturizers on your face. Women have known for years that moisturizers used at night, particularly anti-wrinkle skin-firming moisturizers, assist in promoting a fresher and healthier appearance which makes them feel more vibrant.
Offer mentoring opportunities
Although turning 50 and older can seem unnerving for anyone that wants to continue flourishing in the corporate world, it can actually present a lot more opportunities that one never envisioned. Research suggests that workers over 50 have a higher chance of finding leadership and mentorship roles in various departments. As startups and modern businesses continue evolving, they are finding the need for experienced managers to step in and mentor and guide young talent. If you are not being utilized in this way already, formally or informally, open yourself to any opportunities that present themselves.
Take advantage of your network
If you can, look for opportunities inside the network that you have built over your years in business. As a mature employee, your business network is likely to be much larger than that of younger professionals. Some of your contacts that you have known for years have probably risen to senior or influential positions. Use your connections, both real-time and online, to discover insights or opportunities to increase your value in the workplace.
Meeting with other like-minded employees can not only help you tap into various professional opportunities but interacting with your peers can also offer you guidance, moral support, and even feedback when considering new options.
Recognize what you are worth and develop your personal brand
It is vital to identify your “assets” in your career in terms of knowledge and capability, and how this differentiates you from others in the same industry or profession. Career coaches encourage mature workers to develop a personal brand, this means they become known as knowledgeable or skilled about a certain key area that is valuable. With greater visibility, some individuals with well-crafted personal brands are seen as “thought-leaders”.
Mature workers often benefit their career more by contributing articles on LinkedIn than adding further academic education. It is not just what you know, it is what you are “seen” to know that will widen your credibility, visibility, professional reputation and value. More contacts and opportunities can come by developing your personal brand which recognizes your value and contribution to the marketplace.
If you think you deserve better, understanding your overall value will help you step up so that you are confident of winning in the corporate world while pursuing the opportunities you deserve.