In my last blog posting I received several comments both
publicly and privately suggesting that my advice was only (or mostly)
applicable to the young. For those of
you who did not read it, my advice in a nutshell was this: Only YOU are capable
of controlling your destiny, and although outside forces play a large role in
what you must deal with, ultimately it is your responsibility regarding how you
react to those forces. The part that
caused the most consternation among the aging or aged were my comments on
relocation as an option for getting out of a situation in which you hate your
job. To these individuals I say, Fearnot, for it is your wisdom that is most valuable.
I am not sure how Webster defines wisdom, but my definition
is this: The ability to apply specific knowledge at the appropriate time, and
the ability to reach an answer faster due to experience. Now, you dont have to be old per se to
have wisdom, but it generally goes hand in hand with the aging process. It is the edge one has by having lived and
learned and seen and done over and over again.
Dont believe me? Put yourself
in this situation: You are a green recruit straight out of boot camp. You have excelled at all aspects and you are
the model soldier. Suddenly you find
yourself knee deep in swamp water in the middle of the night, or creeping
through burnt out buildings in heat so hot that you cant keep the sweat out of
your eyes. In both situations, the
enemy is lying in wait for you. Who do
you want leading your group of ten, a grizzled sergeant who has just completed
his 4th consecutive tour of combat duty or the green lieutenant
fresh out of officer candidate school?
In this instance, let us assume both have been trained superbly, so they
both have all the knowledge possible for the given situation. Personally, I want the sergeant in front of
Now, while the everyday work place is usually not a life and
death situation, the same concepts apply.
Given the same level of knowledge, who do you want managing your
personnel or heading up your project teams?
Someone who has successfully done it before. In the example above, the sergeant is still alive after 4 tours
of duty. He is either incredibly lucky
or he has learned what it takes to stay alive through experience. He: (a) knows what to look for, (b) how to
react, (c) how not to be fooled, (d) knows what knowledge he was taught is
applicable for particular situations and when to apply it and what needs to be
ignored and (e) can function under extreme pressure. The lieutenant on the other hand, while having been taught what
to do and has been told all of what the sergeant may know still is at a
disadvantage. This is not to say that
he cannot excel in this situation (for many have and are) but that thelikelihood of success is higher with the sergeant.
The baby boom generation is a demographic term for the
population born between 1946 and 1964. Data from the 2000 U.S. Census estimates
that the group that holds the boomer moniker is made up of at least
82,826,479 individuals. The members of this group range from 41 to 59 years
old, which means this demographic behemoth will start leaving the workforce in
approximately five to ten years (people are working longer these days). In previous articles I have mentioned that
workplaces need to begin to prepare for this knowledge drain as the media has
called it. But the more I think about
it, the crisis to come is the result of the WISDOM drain caused by thisgeneration leaving the workforce.
This wisdom drain is entirely more difficult to replace than
pure knowledge and I believe companies will be clamoring for experienced
personnel to take their place. So
rather than age discrimination, I anticipate the reverse preferential
treatment for those with extensive experience particularly in management
positions. So tying back to my earlier
comments to my aging compatriots (and after all, who reading this blog is not
aging?) dont worry so much about your age as much as your expertise. HOWEVER, if you have let your skills wither
and you are in a programming position and want to compete with young
programmers with better skills then all bets are off Skippy. The young guy is going to get the job. But if have kept up to date, are current in
the knowledge needed to compete in a particular field, you are at an advantage,not at a disadvantage.
So in conclusion, and going back to my original
premise at the start of this posting as well as last weeks your destiny is
in your hands. If you are in a
situation where you hate your job and you have put yourself in a
non-competitive situation by letting your skills deteriorate, fix it! Sharpen those skills that have dulled. On the other hand, if you are still razor
sharp and your only issue is that your hair is gray or mostly gone (as in my
case) dont let AGE be a major deciding factor in your decision-making. If a company in a state a thousand miles
away is looking for a quality individual and you have the credentials dont
let age stop you from applying. And
while I wont ignore the fact that some age discrimination does exist, your
experience will serve you well and even more so in the next 10 years.