Career discrimination against older workers

Posted on: 17 October 2010 by Jane Barrett

Revealing the top five ways not to be managed out of your job.

To your experienced eye the signs are there ... newer trendier clothes, prepared to work early mornings, late nights, frequent mentions of their name in adoring tones ... suspicious? You bet. Your hitherto faithful employer has had their head turned by a new model. So how can you fight back?

  1. Get with the programme. No more “I just don’t understand that twitter thing”. Being ignorant of new developments and dismissing them without careful analysis is highly dangerous to your career. IT developments (e.g. social media) in all fields can be hugely beneficial and they key is using your experience to work out how to get the most out of them. Less experienced people (ok younger!) often rush to adopt new technology but don’t try and work out how it can beneficial to the business, particularly in monetary terms…this is where you come in.
  2. No, that old briefcase and suit won’t “do”. As we get older many of us take less care over our appearance. Mistake. Whether we like it or not we are judged by what we look like and first impressions count. Looking down at heel shows a lack of confidence, an inability to move with the times and raises the question of whether this lack of attention to presentation also applies to your work.
  3. Schmooze. You may not feel like it, or you may think your work should speak for yourself. Sadly, that’s not always enough. Political positioning and telling people what you are doing is an essential part of (successful) corporate life. Many managers make the mistake of not communicating to their peers and superiors what they are achieving; this might take the form of a quick sandwich or something more formal like a departmental newsletter.
  4. What exactly do you do all day? Just because you work in a technical area don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can blind the management with science. Spell out what you and your team do; perhaps this is a section on your intranet. Justify your existence and emphasise the value you add to the business, especially if you are in a support function. Otherwise you might be at the receiving end of an effort to slash costs quicker than you can say Mumbai.
  5. Educate your team.Many will look to you as their great protector. There will be a lot of worried chat, especially in times of upheaval such as a potential merger. Nip this in the bud – it’s a big timewaster and not productive. What is productive is working with what you do know and making sure as a department you are communicating your worth. Hold a brainstorming session to see what things you could be doing better.

Staying ahead of the game requires effort and commitment. Be honest with yourself, if you’re not prepared to do what it takes you should probably be thinking about whether you want to work for someone else. As I can testify, setting up your own company and self employment has its ups and downs. The ups are the freedom to do things your way (as long as a client will pay for them!) and the downs are the insecurity of income and occasional loneliness. On balance it works for me, but it doesn’t suit everyone. Either way, taking control is hugely empowering and while it doesn’t always work out at least you’re not left wondering.

So if you want to hold on to your job, take charge of your career because if not now, when?

Jane Barrett is author of ‘If not now, when? how to take charge of your career’
More information on the book can be found at
Follow her on twitter: jane_barrett
© Jane Barrett 2010

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