Work Smart If You Are Older

Work Smart If You Are Older

STANDFIRST: Some useful tips for seniors who want to re-join the workforce or want to remain in the same organisation.

There is no question that being over 50 years is often seen as a bit past one’s prime by those under 50. However, most of the time people are not be defined by age as much as by their technological ability. So if you don’t know your Facebook from your Twitter, you are regarded by some employers as Noah’s trainee. There is nothing unfair, demeaning or wrong about this. The world has moved so fast that employees need to move equally fast or risk becoming obsolete.

If you can keep yourself reasonably up-to-date, you have one huge advantage over your younger colleagues – experience. This is invaluable when you know how to use it properly. There is no trick about applying experience. It is there to stimulate thought and not to substitute for it. I’ve seen some people use experience like a medical plaster – simply cover up the problem and hope it goes away. However, blindly doing the same thing that worked in the past is not guaranteed to work. The critical thing about experience is the ability to perceive relationships – both the similarities and differences. Apply your experience to identify the relationship between something in the past and today’s situation and then think about the best way to adapt the solution to best meet the needs of the current problem.

At 50 years, you are only half way through your life. So taking things slower, or moving into a pre-retirement stage may not be something that you are willing to consider. Furthermore, most people need to continue earning beyond their 50s, just to support themselves and their family. For seniors who already are in the workforce and happy to remain in the current organisation, take time to decide what type of role you would like to have. Are you comfortable coasting along in your career, or do you want to look for exciting opportunities, such as mentoring new colleagues or providing your viewpoints to different departments?

In the days of apprentice masters, seniors continued to work for some time after retirement as mentors to the younger people taking over their jobs. This is an admirable process – I believe in it so much that whenever I appointed young managers I sought an older person with the relevant experience to sit alongside them. This older person had no authority and no title. She or he was there simply to be available to give advice.

Not everyone is happy in his or her current job. For those thinking of leaving your job, who have been made redundant or want to re-join the workforce, here are some tips. These are also relevant for seniors who choose to remain with the same organisation:

1) Build up and maintain your network – Networking is easy for naturally outgoing people. For those who are shyer, it will take some effort to get out of your comfort zone, but you will soon find networking can be tremendous fun. Spend time talking to friends, colleagues and acquaintances – including both those you like and those you don’t. Join organisations or bodies that have like-minded people with similar interests. Attend as many events as you can, especially those that have a networking component.

2) Constantly market yourself – While networking, remember that you are launching yourself into the world of potential jobs. Let people know what type of work you are looking for and what you have to offer. But do not be too pushy. The last thing people at social networking events want to hear is your resumé!

3) Get technologically up-to-date – For most jobs today, you will need to be computer-savvy. If you are not familiar with computers, you can take basic lessons at various places. For example, at 83 years old, I have recently taken lessons on how to use social media and experiment with new types of software. I now have LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, and conduct over 50 percent of my mentoring via Skype. On the flip side, I have one friend who is rather proud of the fact that he cannot even type. Fortunately for him, he is financially-independent and happy with retirement. Not everyone is so lucky.

As when trying anything new, there are bound to be successes and failures, joys and tears, making new friends and meeting bastards. One thing is certain. You will be kept on your mental toes and this will keep you going for a long time! Bravo to those who try!

Based in Singapore, John Bittleston, 83, is the founder mentor of Terrific Mentors International, a group of skilled mentors, trainers and coaches with significant management experience, who share a passion in helping people find purpose and meaning in their lives.