What Boomers Need to Know About the Ever-Changing Work World
When I was deciding whether or not to reveal my Little White Lie, the biggest obstacle facing me had to do with my professional image. My work puts me in the public eye and is all about brand visibility. I’m in the technology field, and people would tell me that I’m too old to be in this field (even though I’ve run a successful business for the last 8 years!). Going white could make me ‘officially’ look older. What would this do to my work? How would my public, clients and colleagues see me? Would they still respect me?
What we’re talking about here is “ageism” – stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. In my interview with the fabulous John Tarnoff on my Little White Lie FB Live show (Here’s the replay if you missed it), we talk about ageism. John, Reinvention Career Coach and accomplished speaker, is author of Boomer Reinvention: How to Create Your Dream Career Over 50 (an absolute must-read!).
How do you deal with ageism in the work world?
John: “That’s a really hard cultural nut to crack… Just like the other ‘isms’ like bigotry and racism, a lot of people don’t realize they’re being ageists.” What I found really interesting is that John feels a lot of US are ageists to OURSELVES in terms of our attitudes about who we are, what we can do, and this idea that ‘I’m too old to do whatever.’ Busted! Apparently this is exactly the mindset I was having as I was deciding whether or not to start the LWL journey!
John has some great advice for us: If you experience ageism at work, don’t try to change someone’s mind by arguing with them about it. What you can do is bash the myth: Be the best you can be. “Through your actions and your positive, giving attitude, show them that they’re really operating in a very antiquated and inaccurate frame of mind.”
Can Boomers keep up with the changes in the work environment?
Absolutely! In fact, one study shows that entrepreneurs over 40 are twice as successful as those under 30.
Why? The over-40’s (50’s or 60’s) have more experience and background. They tend to know their flaws and have learned a lot of lessons so are better equipped to venture forward. They have a life maturity that helps them make good decisions. As John says, know “when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.”
As the Harvard Business Review highlights, for the first time in history, five generations will soon be working side by side. Each generation has its generalizations and stereotypes (positive and negative), and all have something to learn from each other. Boomers still DO have an important place at the table, and there’s a place for all of us either as employees or entrepreneurs.
John Tarnoff’s best practices to keep you up-to-date
1. It’s your attitude about the issue that’s the issue. The first step in John’s signature 5-step process of Boomer Career Reinvention, is called “reframing”. This is because, if you’re not able to change your mindset around who you are, what you can do, how the world works, what the opportunities are — to look at different angles — then you won’t be able to make any kind of a change.
There is so much cultural influence that says: “Just fit in because if you’re lucky enough to be hired by someone out there in the marketplace, just accept whatever it is that you get, because you’re such-and-such age so it’s going to be hard to get work.”
Well, yes, it’s hard to get work. But the problem is that fitting yourself into a job at this stage in your life is a prescription for failure.
2. Get back in touch with yourself. One of the first things John advocates to new clients is to start a journal, based on the concept of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Through intentionally and consistently writing, in longhand, just 15-20 minutes a day about anything and everything, John believes “you’ll start to get back in touch with the part of you that has all the inspiration, all the knowing, that sense of who you are, what you’re really good at, and how you can be useful in the world.” Dialoging with yourself is an important exercise to figure out exactly what your value is – and to combat those cultural messages that try to tell you differently.
3. Finally, your resume is not going to get you a job. 85% of jobs are filled through referrals. So focus on your network and activate it to find the people who have an affinity for who you are and what you’re wanting to do. Use LinkedIn, and make sure you have a completely filled-in profile. Do not lie about your age. Be proud of your age; put all of your dates in because, as John says: “Someone who is not going to hire you because you’re older is not someone you want to work with.”
Join the conversation and the LWL Movement
If you’re a Boomer, how are you keeping up with the changes in the work environment? Or not? Post in the comments. Share your thoughts and use the hashtag #LittleWhiteLie .
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