7 Career Mistakes Middle Aged Workers Make

Senior man working from home with laptop computerAuthor: Ann Brenoff
Source: Huffington Post

About two years ago, Huff/Post50 looked at why older workers were still struggling in the aftermath of the recession. As we reported then, “Older workers have a harder time finding jobs and remain the demographic that once unemployed, stays out of work the longest.”

And while hanging on to their jobs in the years immediately prior to retirement remains of paramount importance, there are seven mistakes these older workers were making then and many continue to make now. Are you guilty of any of them?

1. They don’t think they need to pick up new skills while they are still employed.

Jobs are not static anymore. The workplace is constantly evolving and they need to evolve along with it. If an employer offers training classes, some older workers wrongly believe the classes are intended for new company hires and don’t go. Instead. they should be taking as many of those earn-as-you-learn classes as possible.

Should they lose that job, training is hard to come by. Government training programs are geared toward those who are receiving public assistance. The goal is to get those folks off the public dole and into tax-generating jobs.

Retraining programs for college-educated professionals kind of don’t exist. That, or they do a terrific job of hiding themselves from the public. In fact, a “60 Minutes” segment featured a Connecticut program in 2012 for just one reason: It was such a rarity. In that program, college-educated professionals, who had lost their jobs when they were in their 40s or 50s and who had been out of work for a full 99 weeks, were given a crack at some internships that could lead to permanent jobs. These former six-figure earners were grateful for the foot in the door for one big reason: Most of their peers don’t even get that.

Take-away: If you have a chance to broaden your skills, jump at it.

2. They think community colleges are just for kids.

The community college system has borne the brunt of re-training the displaced older workforce. There’s a program that launched in 2010 called the Plus 50 Completion Strategy which basically helps post-50 students complete their post-secondary degrees, and aims to give older workers the skills they need to get jobs in fields that are actually hiring — like health care. So far, the Plus 50 initiative has served about 24,000 students, which — not to diminish this rare drop in the bucket — is about how many out-of-work journalists I hear from in any given week.

Even if you are working, it still makes sense to keep an eye on what lies around the corner for you professionally. Many of these classes can be taken online. If you are in one of those careers that is contracting, use the “hospice time” to prepare for what you will be doing next. And a community college is a great place to start.

3. They don’t sufficiently value reverse mentoring.

Older employees have some amazing teachers right under their noses, says Robert L. Dilenschneider, an author and business leader who lectures older workers around the country about staying relevant. “Younger employees are fluent not just in the new technologies but in the best ways to deliver business messages and marketing in such technologies,” he said, and older workers should seek them out. When workers can learn from each other, the workplace is strengthened.

Mentoring is a two-way street and the older workers who embrace that — instead of thinking that their age and experience alone make them the only teachers in the room — improve their value to the company.

4. They wrongly assume that working beyond 66 will be their choice.

This is a silly assumption, especially with companies eager to reduce costs and an economy that can provide many eager-to-work millennials who can be paid less than an older, more-experienced worker. The reality is that there is a guillotine lurking in every future and no job is secure for a lifetime anymore. It’s another argument for making yourself as invaluable as possible to the company by being willing and able to do multiple tasks.

Most boomers have gotten over the notion that they will be able to retire as young as their parents did. Now the goal is to hang on to the jobs they have for as long as possible.

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One Response

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