• Hillary Hufford-Tucker

4 Ways Aging Workers Can Maintain Relevance

In the last week, I’ve read four or five articles that called out employers for not providing enough training to aging workers. While I agree it’s part of the problem, why should we wait for an employer to supply the skills needed to succeed? Researchers and the media can put the burden on the employer, but why should you sit back and get rusty?



There’s always some truth in stereotypes, and it’s no different for older workers. The perception of older workers being slow, distracted, or non-technical might have less to do with chronological age than their focus being elsewhere.


The moment when workers are considered old varies by industry. Still, it often coincides with a period of life that includes care-giving (kids, parents, or both), buying new homes that need work, second marriages, and more. With these weighty distractions, it’s not surprising that the focus on continuous improvement and professional relevancy can wane.


So, what’s a “seasoned” professional to do? Reinvest time in the skills that keep you from seeming out of touch. Why bother, you ask? Because our professional success hinges on choosing when we retire or make a job change.


BE CURIOUS ABOUT HOW YOUNGER PEOPLE WORK

You can learn about new apps that help with writing, communication, efficiency, design, or social media from your kids, young professionals, or more trendy media outlets. With literally millions of how-to videos on YouTube, you can build a working knowledge of these tools in the privacy of your home. Remember that knowledge is power. Learn the technology and use it sparingly until you understand how others use it, including the frequency, length, and tone.


Age-Related Oops: Posting complaints about a boss or co-worker in an open channel because you don’t know the difference.


TAKE ONLINE COURSES ON CURRENT AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGY

Beyond YouTube, many companies offer online learning opportunities, including Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, Kahn Academy, Coursera, and Master Class, to name a few. Apps like HootSuite, Zoom, and Slack also feature how-to videos that teach you how to use the application. Some courses even offer an option to get a certificate of completion - if you want to include your certifications on your LinkedIn profile, list only three courses specifically relevant to your job search or current position. You can share a few more if they’re from more than one learning source.


Age-Related Over Kill: “OMG, I lost my job and have no technical skills, so I will complete and post every class to prove I’m not old and out of touch.”


TAKE BUSINESS SCHOOL CERTIFICATE PROGRAMS

Complete a Google search for “Business School Certificate Programs,” and you’ll find the top business schools offer an array of professional certifications. In our accelerated business climate, Chief Reinvention Guru, Nadya Zhexembayeva, says these provide an excellent ROI.* Taught by professors on the cutting-edge of thousands of disciplines, these courses will refresh your perspective, redefine your skillsets, and provide a look into the future of your profession. How much is too much to pay? That’s an opportunity cost question for you to explore. While the expense may keep many of us from paying ourselves, companies are often willing to reinvest in employee skills. However, don’t assume loyalty will be rewarded; be sure to explain the educational value to the organization.


Age-Based Assumption: “I’ve invested so much time in my company; they should pay for the classes.”


DON’T ADD FUEL TO THE FIRE

Sometimes we say things that detract from our reputation. It’s essential to be aware that our words matter. Refrain from perpetuating ageist views by avoiding the following phrases:

  • Saying you’re terrible with technology.

  • Asking someone to do something technical because you don’t know how it works.

  • Telling someone you’re too old to do something.

  • Getting in specific discussions about age or age-related physical changes.

  • Saying you had a ‘senior moment.’

  • The use of inappropriate race, ethnic, or gender-related terms is considered out of touch (I encourage you to research these in private).

  • Telling a young co-worker that they’re “too young to remember” or it was “before their time.”

  • Letting microaggressions continue (privately share your concerns with the person being ageist).

  • Taking lower projects, not participating, or neglecting to develop relationships with younger workers because they’ve hurt your feelings.

Self-Fulfilling Age-Out: “Well, Mike just implied I couldn’t keep up. That’s it; I’m not going to participate in meetings anymore. They’ve made it clear they don’t value me.”

 

Hillary Hufford-Tucker is a "Career Solutionista," a fun way of saying that she helps growth-minded professionals discover their unique worth to craft a brand, find new employment, pivot industries, or move toward cause-oriented work. She believes there's no professional dilemma that curiosity, commitment, and courage can't overcome. Hillary supports clients' career success with resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching, job search tactics, organizational strategies, and more.


Hillary's background as a brand marketer, corporate spin doctor, and graphic designer provides a unique perspective for personalized solutions to propel careers. She is a certified career coach (CPCC), certified digital career strategist (CDCS), has a master's degree in strategic communications (MA-SC), and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARWCC).


Hillary holds a level two certificate in wine from the industry educator, WSET. When she's not coaching amazing clients, Hillary rides bikes, enjoys adventurous travel with her family, volunteers with her Lighthouse Rotary club, and appreciates wine and food with friends.


#ageism #agingworkforce #workforcedevelopment #careercoach #careersolutionista


*My summary of Nadya Zhexembayeva’s comments during a course on reinvention in April 2022. Nadya is the Chief Reinvention Officer Handbook author, How to Thrive in Chaos. She runs the Chief Reinvention Academy.