Technology, different work styles and management structures, and a whole new way of searching for jobs have all led to a changed work place for the older worker. In fact, even our perception of who that “older worker” is has changed.
“It often depends on the industry you are in,” says career coach and engaged retirement specialist Carol King. “For people in IT, old can be anyone over 30. In many other industries, you can have problems searching for a new job if you are over 40.”
“Retirement is not the end, but rather the beginning of a new stage of life, and also may be the beginning of a whole new career, particularly if the person feels he or she has been forced to retire through a company downsizing,” says King. Many so-called retirees are really searching for new careers, and they often face misconception and discrimination — not just by employers and co-workers, but their own misconceptions as well.
Perception of the older worker. Many employers and managers view older workers as having obsolete skills, particularly in the technology area, are physically limited and more likely to need time off for doctor’s visits or illness, are unwilling to work as hard as younger workers, and expecting a higher salary.
“Some of these perceptions are valid, and others are not,” says King. That means that the first thing the older job worker must do is convince potential an employer that he or she does not fit that stereotype.
Upgrade your skills. Are you computer savvy? Some older workers may have trouble with simple tasks such as sending E-mails, for others, it may be the need to know the latest version of a particular software program. Find out what software and technology is used in your industry and make sure you are up-to-date on your skills.
A different style of office. In most offices today there is less “face time” between employees and managers, or even other employees. Communication takes place via E-mail or text messaging. Be ready for this change.
Be realistic about salaries. For many people who have been downsized, the reality is that they will not find a job at their previous salary level. For some, their industry just no longer exists. For others, outsourcing, technology changes, and the recession mean that there is more competition for fewer jobs — and that means that employers can pay less to get good workers.
“Be realistic about the salaries in your field,” says King. “Do some research, not only on what those salaries are, but on what you really need to live. Can you afford to take a smaller salary? Then get over the salary you used to make, and take what is being offered today.”
Fitting In While Acting Your Age. It can be difficult for an older worker to feel comfortable in an office filled with 20 and 30-somethings, so how do you fit in with a younger group while still acting your age? Fitting in is about working with the culture of the organization, explains King. If the preferred method of communication is a text message, learn how.
No matter what your age, transitions are easier if some thought and planning is done before hand. While that might not be possible in the case of a layoff, for the person who is a few years from retirement, taking the time before it happens will make that transition easier. Work provides benefits beyond just a salary: it brings structure to daily life, status and identity, a sense of usefulness and social interaction.
— Karen Miller
Excerpted from the April 25, 2012, issue of U.S. 1.