Age-Proof Your Career And Remain Employable
Two times in two short weeks, under two different sets of circumstances, I felt old. Not old like my grandmother old with arthritis, hip replacements and bad knees, but old in the sense that I felt outdated, like I was one step behind the work-force pack.
The first time was at a work function for my husband's office. Not being up-to-the-minute on acronym language so pervasive on websites like Facebook, and not being completely tuned into the specifics of the real estate industry, jargon, trends and all, I felt like I was on the outside looking in.
The second time occurred when I was on the phone with a career coach that I was interviewing. As the conversation progressed, she casually asked how old I was. When I told her, she was shocked. "You sound much older than that," was all she could say. She did not mean it in an offensive way; maybe she even meant it as a compliment -- a you-are-wise-beyond-your-years type thing -- but it gave me pause as I thought back to when I dreamed of being one of the older members of the office. Now that I was, I didn't want to come off as too much older.
As the newest generation, Millennials, enter the work force at a constant and fast pace, they bring with them cutting-edge technologies and a different way of doing things -- all things. And while change can be good, being around younger people with the hottest and latest methods, trends, and gadgets can make you feel outdated in some ways.
It's OK to age and be comfortable in the way you conduct business; you just need to be aware of how you show your age in the workplace, says Alan Vengel, career consultant ninja and author of 'Twenty Minutes To A Top Performer' (McGraw Hill).
It is possible to age-proof your career. Here's how.
Keep learning and stay relevant to always add value
How do you do this without looking like the jerk that wants attention? Vengel says that people need to talk about themselves to show that they are valuable. "Share that added value with your employers and peers. Let them all know what you learned that is new, and how that could help the business. Your excitement will speak for itself." (Read Bragging is Good for Your Career.)
Duncan Mathison, career consultant and co-author of 'Unlock the Hidden Job Market: 6 Steps to a Successful Job Search When Times Are Tough,' recommends investing the above-and-beyond time to improve relevant skills. "Training budgets are tight, and employers are turning up the demand on productivity (endlessly!). Smart people are investing in their development with their own time, and if necessary, money."
Not convinced that this is a good tactic? Mathison also suggests to work like you are staying, but be ready to go. Because true job security is about staying employable, not just employed. For example, the best, most coveted jobs, according to Mathison, don't always go to the best people, but rather to the people who are the best job searchers; those that know where to look for jobs, what to look for, and that can prove they are still employable, are the ones who get the offers and rest easy at night knowing that if they are fired, another job can easily be secured.
Care about the work, stay engaged and keep it interesting for yourself
Mathison tells his readers: "Hitch your career to the future; avoid the anchor of the past." Look and plan for the long road and do not live according to what happened yesterday. "Never talk about the good old days." Remembering or reliving past experiences, whether they were good or bad, dates you. "Remember when you were the younger employee? Think about that older manager who liked to hang out with younger workers and talk about the old days. He thought he was hip. You thought he was a fool. Don't become that person."
The most effective way to really engage yourself in your work and care about it is to learn what brings you joy from your work, and carve that joy into your work every day. "Don't wait for your bosses to give you more interesting work," advises Vengel. Avoid coasting at your job at all costs, because that can be a real career-killer, especially in a down economy when layoffs are rampant.
While complaints in the workplace may be valid or true, don't do it, cautions Vengel. "Treat your company like your client. Would you complain about a client? Hopefully not. You have to keep yourself in a positive mode," Vengel says.
Work to have a positive reputation
Vengel says that it is important to your career to know what your reputation is and to manage it effectively. That effective management is what will make you reflect and want to make improvements, which ultimately goes back to your ability to add value, thus keeping you employable, not just employed.
"You want to focus on what is right and what is going well," says Vengel, because all of these tactics for age-proofing your career are tied together. One thing leads to another.