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Older Workers’ Challenges

Everybody, regardless of age, faces challenges in the workplace, but there are some fairly consistent older workers’ challenges that need to be considered.

Let’s face it – your age is what it is and there is nothing you can do about it. If you need to change the colour of your hair, loose weight or obtain more qualifications there are actions you can take to make these things happen. But with your age there is not one thing you can do! So put your birth date aside and get on with facing the challenges you can conquer, fighting the battles that you can win.  There is no point in dwelling on your age as an issue.

Older Workers' Challenges ING_19043_263362.jpgIf you are unhappy with your work life, and change is what you need, the most empowering action is to reinvent yourself using your skills and experience and make a smooth transition to another career. Don’t limit your opportunities, it is a difficult decision to make, but you need to take this step if you want to live the rest your working life with meaning, and with a sense of fulfillment.

When I left school my options were teacher, nurse, social work and law. Nothing else was discussed. You possibly experienced the same narrow choices. There was not the range of job titles that you now find. Gather as much information as you can about all possible job titles that relate to your work. Consider your interests, your needs and what you really want from life right now.  You might find that getting some assistance from an experienced qualified career counsellor may be a very good investment. Update yourself and your professional ‘package’. You’re on your way!

 Here suggestions about how to deal with 6 common older workers’ challenges:

Technology: Keep up to date with technology used in your current workplace, and in the sort of job that you would like to have. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to say that you didn’t stay current in your job responsibilities because of your age.

Attitudes: Show a positive attitude.  Even if you are miserable at work it is not going to help your future career prospects if you tell everyone about how unhappy you are.  Put on a brave face while you get yourself ready to get out of there as fast as possible.  Remember, you will want supervisors or colleagues to have a good opinion of you when you ask them to be referees for your job applications!

Intergenerational Understanding: Don’t complain publicly about Millennials.  They are the children of baby boomers…and our generation raised them to believe in themselves and to aim for the stars. If they are doing that in your workplace support their ambitions (even if you are silently groaning inside) and offer assistance where it is appropriate.  Many millennials are very keen to be mentored and to learn all they can as fast as possible.

Personal Style: You don’t want to age yourself through your personal style, but nor do you want to dress as if you are still 25. Try to keep your age a non-issue in the workplace. Men have the advantage here.  Silver hair on a man usually looks distinguished and isn’t an issue in the workplace.  For women, grey hair is great if it suits you and is cut and groomed beautifully. But if your hair is making you look 10 years older perhaps you should consider that it may be affecting the opinion of the people you work with, impacting on how they think of you.

Your Resume: Your resume shouldn’t date you either.  When you are creating a resume to meet the criteria for a particular job you do not need to include every job you have ever had.  If the last 10 years work shows your achievements, skills and experience well then don’t bother about previous jobs.  Sometimes, if the previous jobs have been interesting and related to the job you are applying for, you could include a section headed Previous Employment and list those jobs without detail.

Age Bias: Age discrimination can be reported to HR as it is usually a conscious action that negatively impacts on you in some way.  Age bias is far more insidious. There may be nothing concrete that you can report, yet you feel you are being treated differently because of your age. The person who is discriminating against you may not even be conscious of what they are doing.  To them it may be their way of showing respect to someone who is the age of their older relatives. But even if it isn’t purposeful, if it makes you feel uncomfortable it would be a good idea to address the issue, politely but firmly, with the person involved or with your supervisor.

If you are confronted by these common older workers’ challenges don’t despair. Make contact with us to see how we can help you. 

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Jenni Proctor

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