Chamberworks / Don't overlook the older worker
Published 10:45 am, Thursday, December 30, 2010
If like me you are over the hill, does it irk you that there's a movement afoot to encourage older workers to move over to make room for the young`uns? Yes, I know that college grads are having a hard time finding employment, but is it fair to ask the old-timers to move on so some young whippersnapper can have their seat at the table?
As a member of the Silent Generation, it's taken me a lifetime to get where I am today: confident, comfortable in my own skin, and eminently qualified to make decisions. I care deeply about what I do. I'm always on time, rarely sick, a team player, dependable. As my young friend Greg Beno, a senior director with the Adecco Group, said, "There's an advantage to hiring overqualified [older] workers. They tend to have a stronger work ethic; kids are out of the house so their time is a little more flexible, and they might not need to earn as much money." (Forget about the last part - living in Fairfield County requires plenty of the green stuff.) Why shouldn't the Silent Generation (sometimes called the Artist/Adaptive Generation) stick around as long as they are doing good work? They have paid their dues. (Think Woody Allen, Colin Powell, Sandra Day O'Connor, Mikhail Gorbachev, Tina Turner) They know how to solve problems and perform tasks quickly.
I don't know about you, but I tell my kids that the best gift I can give them is my independence. Working beyond the age of Social Security retirement allows seniors to remain engaged in the world, happy to get up and go to work every day, healthy in mind and spirit, and completely independent - unless we're asked to turn over the mattress or change a tire.
These are tough times for everyone, but especially for those who are 50 and older who have been devastated by the economy. We are in a market where jobseekers outnumber available positions five to one. People with Ph.D.s are flipping burgers. Retirement savings have been decimated; the family home, once considered a mainstay to a portfolio, is under water and there's no time to make up the losses. Boomers are caring for elderly parents, while at the same time trying to put kids through college. Worse still, many in this age group have lost their job.
Employers are looking to hire young adults who are willing to start at a lower salary and are (supposedly) more technically astute. While it's true that I was well into my 40s when I used my first computer (oh no! please don't take away my IBM Selectric!) I managed to figure out Lotus formulas by reading a "Lotus for Dummies" book, and by making a lot of mistakes. It was do or die; my job required it. Since then I have moved on to different programs, and now know enough about Excel, Word, Firefox, Live Mail, social media and other computer-related stuff, so much so that I am able to manage my daily tasks quite well. In fact, I'd shut down completely if I didn't have a computer. Plus, I can type with all 10 fingers, and learned multi-tasking by raising four kids while simultaneously getting a degree.
I don't know about you, but when I quit working, it won't be because I've been pushed aside by a younger, more qualified individual. It will be because I've run out of ideas, or because I want to spend more time traveling or with my grandkids.
In the meantime, if you're an employer, don't overlook overqualified older workers. Unlike Generation Xers, the Boomers and those even older don't care about climbing the ladder. You'll get a highly educated, experienced, motivated, mature talent, and you just might be pleasantly surprised at what a good deal you made.
New members of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce:
Production Solutions, Steven Sigafose, 103 Weeping Willow Lane, Fairfield CT 06825.
Creative Company Salon and Spa, Michael Frangione, 65 Hillside Road, Fairfield CT 06824.
Patricia L. Ritchie is the president of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce.