How often do older employees become stereotyped by their younger peers and “superiors” as unproductive, out of step, forgetful, frail, overpaid, lacking knowledge of technology, and/or unsatisfied (perhaps this list could be expanded but you get the point and I am becoming angry)? What value could be produced with thirty or forty years of work? Believe me, there is a reason some cultures revere the elderly members of their clan. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Tell me once
The first time I was blatantly discriminated against for my age was when I was taken aside by a plant manager who was compelled to advise me that I should settle down and accept that I had reached the end of my career path and should be satisfied with what I had accomplished. Within av few months I was given my next promotion and that plant manager had become ancient history.
Then there was the owner of an old, established company who after an interview told me that another candidate was being hired. When asked why, what they said was that the other top candidate was more energetic than me, and when pressed, that that candidate was also younger than me. Notice that I did not hear anything about my extra level of experience. When my lawyer contacted that business leader to point out their indiscretion … they simply denied it. That was over twenty years ago and I’m still working and learning.
So, what is my point? First of all, life is a learning experience. Second, if you are willing to engage there are opportunities all around you into which you can serve using your strengths while learning more. Third, the more you engage your strengths, just like your physical strengths develop with exercise, your intellectual strengths get stronger with education and experience. And, best of all, your collaborations with others in which you exercise your combined strengths are tremendous learning opportunities.
My opportunistic approach has provided me with experiences to use my strengths in a family owned bank, a Chem/Plastics Division of a Fortune 200 company, working in four states and nine countries, in eighteen different roles, plus sitting on five non-profit boards. And, over roughly six years as a management consultant have had successful, collaborative engagements with twenty small businesses, some of which have hired me for three and four separate times amounting to more than rhirty projects
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