Tomorrow I’m 60. Yahoo! Yippee!


Way back in 1959 on June 13th at 2:30 a.m., I entered this world, born into a middle class family in Etobicoke, Ontario – then a suburb of Toronto, Ontario in Canada. Tomorrow will mark a full 60 year anniversary of that event, and I’m obviously not hiding it.

I’ve yet to have one of, “those birthdays”. You know, the one that you absolutely live for such as when you can finally get your driver’s licence, drink alcohol or legally buy cigarettes. Nor have I yet to have the birthday that shatters your self-image, like dreading turning 30, hitting the big 4-0, or turning half a century old! To me, every birthday has been something to look forward to. This past year, it occurred to me that I could say I am 59 years old and born in 59. Well, tomorrow I can no longer make that claim – ever.

I don’t feel 60. Wait a minute; I don’t know what 60 is supposed to feel like, so I can’t say that. What I can say is that I don’t see turning 60 as a bad thing; and a bad thing is what I hear a lot of others say as they blow out all those candles with both a paid up insurance policy and fire extinguisher near at hand. I think I’ve always felt younger than the number itself suggests from a stereotyped point of view. I’ll see that as a good thing.

So it was funny to me yesterday when a colleague at work popped her head in to ask me a question about one of our co-workers who also shares June 13 as her own birthday. I volunteered in our conversation that I was in fact turning 60 and she immediately tilted her head slightly, looked sympathetic and said in a sweet voice that would give you a cavity just listening to her, “Oh! I’m sorry!” and she meant it too. She’s less than half my age at a guess.

My reaction was to laugh and say how I relished the opportunity to celebrate another birthday. After all, those who don’t want to celebrate their birthdays eventually get their wish…think about that one.

No seriously, I see a benefit to be had in turning 60. As an Employment Counsellor, a lot of people I partner with and support see their advancing years as a negative. I wish I had a buck for every man and woman who has said to me, “Well my age is a problem. I’m 46 and no offence but that’s old.” Well if 46 is old, I’m fossilized!

One of the things I’m grateful for (and there are many) is my general health at 60. I have an excellent record of attendance – missing less than 3 days a year for about 8 of the last 9 years. I’ve got drive, creativity, energy to burn throughout the work day and still feel totally invested in the people I work with. I love the role I’ve got at present and I know I make a difference which gives the work I do so much meaning.

I see turning 60 as a good thing for those older folks I come into contact with. Maybe I’m some kind of inspiration to some, perhaps they even view their age as a strength and an asset as I do after we spend some time together. You see by now, I’ve got this rich history of a life lived including work spanning Retail, Manufacturing, Social Services and Recreation sectors. I’ve experience as an entrepreneur, Executive Director, front-line and middle management employee. I’ve worked with two large municipalities and the Province of Ontario in unionized settings, plus worked in Not-For-Profit and private profit businesses. It takes time to accumulate all these experiences, and I draw on each and every one of them often in the course of my work. It’s this diversity of experience that helps me relate with people and be relatable to people.

I guess I don’t fit the idea of a worker slowing down, putting in time until retirement, coasting through the day, being a passenger more than a driver of change and innovation. Geez I must be annoying for some who’d like me to pull out a white flag and say, “I’m old and I feel my age is a problem too.” Well I don’t.

I have come to believe that what’s going in your head (what you believe and how you see yourself) is your biggest asset or liability when it comes to interacting with your world. See age as your problem and you’ll move, act and use words that affirm you see age as your problem. So the world will acknowledge how you feel and agree. Don’t be surprised then when others confirm it. On the other hand, see your years as an asset to be revered and proud of and you’ll move, act and use words that show gratitude and pride  and the world WILL acknowledge how you feel and agree.

It starts therefore in your head. If I see my age as a problem to be hid, I’ll get sympathy, pity and commiseration. I don’t want that! I want people to be happy for me, maybe even re-evaluate how they see aging; well a tad anyhow.

Having been diagnosed as having Type 2 Diabetes 3 years ago, there won’t be cake. Whatever! But presents? Oh yes, there should be presents! Yes, I’m still that little kid who loves presents. Best wishes will do as well; or donating to a charity. Now that’s cool.

60 is ‘gonna be great!

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Time; How Much Have You Got?


“I’ll get around to that one day.”

“I can do it tomorrow”.

“That’s important sure, but I’ve got lots of time.”

So how much time do you have and how can you be so sure? Honestly, you don’t know how much time you’ve got; none of us do. Generally speaking, when we’re young we don’t even think about how much time we’ve got, we just enjoy the here and now. As we move into our teens we start looking a few years ahead – milestones like getting a driver’s licence, graduating from high school, our first jobs, plans for the upcoming weekends have us looking ahead, but not too far down the road. Soon we look into the future and see the day we’ll move out, maybe plan a wedding date, think about having children, a better job, etc.

Fast-forward a bit and we’re suddenly much more appreciative of the concept of time; but we still believe we have lots left. For the first time we start seriously regretting some of our previous choices. Sure we might have regretted things in our childhood, but it’s hard thinking of any major decisions we made that had long-lasting implications. Ah, but as a teenager or young adult, we’d go back if we could and take back some of the things we said, actions we took, hurt we caused.

Some of those regrets might even be preventing us from doing things we’d like today. Dropping out of high school or taking college-level courses instead of university prep courses . Who would have thought we’d change our minds and actually want to go to University? Didn’t see that coming!

In the latter stages of our lives, we’ll hopefully look back and not have too many regrets; if we don’t, we’ll have lived a life worth living we assume. Maybe we’ll have made a difference in the world, had a big extended family, seen the world, lived in the dream condo or home we pictured as a young adult. Who knows? Depends what we consider important enough. One thing seems pretty clear now: the older we became, the more we appreciated the saying, “Time flies.” Where did it go?

Of course you’ll have noticed I skipped over the 30 – 75 or so time period. Rather a large part of one’s life to skip! You might figure that 45 year period or so is enough time to make some readjustments, mend some mistakes, figure a few things out that we thought we had right. Maybe we have that time and maybe – just maybe we don’t. What if life expires at 33? 53? 96? 25? Time is one thing we haven’t solved – how much of it is ours to spend.

How we perceive time decides whether we see ourselves as having a lot or a little. I could show you two people – each 32 years old, and one would tell you she’s too old to head on back to school; that time has robbed her of that choice. The other would say she’s going back to school because it’s the rest of her life in front of her and that’s a lot of life to live. How can they both see things so differently? Perception.

How we perceive Time (the big one with a capital, ‘T’) becomes our reality. We might figure – YOU might figure to be more accurate – that time is one thing you’ve got a lot of. Because you can’t know with any certainty how much you’ve got, why worry about it? Just enjoy things in the here and now. What’s so wrong with figuring it will all end in our 80’s or 90’s so there’s no rush to choose a career, save for the future, start a retirement savings plan or fix that relationship. As Mick and the boys sang, “Time is on my side.”

Hmm… imagine you’re in a gift store and you spot some hourglasses. The sand is yellow, green, blue, etc. and catches your eye. Each holds a finite amount of sand, and there’s a multitude to choose from; 1 minute, 3 minute, 10 minute timers. You choose one you like and whatever one you chose, you get no more or less than the contained amount. Life is like that – except we are given the timer without knowing how much sand we’ve got in our hourglass. When it runs out, it runs out. The only thing wrong with the analogy? You can flip the hourglass over again and again and it goes on and on. When your life timer runs down, there is no flip.

Imaging we have a lot of time left to live can be wonderful as we plan for the future. It can motivate us to get going and start working to achieve our long-term goals. However, think back to school where the teacher gave you some essay to write and you figured you had weeks to get it done. You put it off for precisely that reason didn’t you? Then as it dawned on you that the deadline was looming, you got down to work – you had to – and you pulled it off. Sometimes therefore, believing we have a lot of time left can hinder and not help us get going.

Whether you feel any urgency to get going on your goals is entirely your business. Put off getting started at your own choosing but realize time might rob you of that chance – or rather, you might rob yourself.

 

Not Contributing? Just Hanging On?


You’ve met them and you recognized the tell-tale signs almost immediately; the apparent lack of interest and focus, the extended breaks and lunch periods, the internet surfing that doesn’t seem work-related whatsoever. I refer to the people who have lost their enthusiasm for what they once were passionate about; the ones who everyone around them knows should move on, but who for reasons of their own just keep hanging on.

It’s ironic that what such a person believes they are hiding so well from others is so blatantly obvious to anyone who spends any time at all with them. From the moment they park their car or get off the bus, you can see it there in their body language. You know, the casual saunter in to the office not a minute too soon or possibly even a few minutes past one’s starting time – on a regular basis. There’s no ambition to arrive a moment earlier than necessary, for there are 7 or more long hours in front of them to do whatever mundane tasks that come their way.

Of the real work that they are paid to do, there’s a noticeable drop in both quality and quantity. Frequent walks around the office, conversations with other employees, nipping out for a walk, doing their personal online shopping on company time or talking with people on the phone which appears to be personal and not professional – well, you get the idea.

So why do they hang around? Why not just chuck it in and get on with pursuing their retirement, a hobby or investing themselves in pursuing other lines of work they would be better suited for? Good questions!

For some of course it’s the pension. The longer one stays employed the more they are building up some company or government pension perhaps. Maybe they’ve looked ahead at their looming retirement and figured that whatever pension they receive will be based on their 5 best years of income, and so it makes sense to them to keep showing up for another 3 years to maximize that benefit for the duration of their retired years. Those 3 years seem like a prison sentence.

Thing is, it’s not just the employee now who is underperforming. Their quality of work has the potential to cause others to cut their own efficiencies to match the senior worker. After all, if he or she is dogging it and underperforming but from all appearances isn’t in any danger of losing their job, some others might feel inclined to do likewise.

Somehow though these senior staff seem to have immunity to discipline; well it can look that way to their fellow employees. After all they reason, everyone knows the quantity of work has dropped because others have had to pick up the slack. The fact that they keep coming in every day and underperforming would seem to show that nothing has been said to them or if it has, it’s fallen on deaf ears.

It could be a whole combination of things going on in that person’s professional and personal life that’s caused this drop in production and plain malaise. Personal disappointment that they didn’t advance in the organization as they once imagined; lack of recognition for what they’ve achieved, jealousy over others accomplishments they see as their juniors. Outside of the workplace, there could be pressures such as strife at home, health or financial problems, a mortgage that won’t be paid off 5 years after retiring, more financial strains caused by changes in family size, new grandkids, car payments, promised exotic trips that will put pressure on one’s savings. Who knows?

Weighing a persons contributions in the past to their present value is a tough position to be in for management. An employee might have the broad respect of the entire workforce for what they’ve added to a company or team, but the flip side of that coin is, “What have you done for us lately?” After all, businesses must stay competitive and their workers diligent to compete. Dead wood on the payroll at any level is a liability some organizations just can’t tolerate.

Of course other workers would be wise to focus not on the performance of others but rather on doing their own jobs to the best they are able. When it becomes problematic is when the actions, (or lack of actions) of one impact on the performance of others. So a Customer Service Representative who isn’t getting back to their client base, resulting in increased workloads of co-workers dealing with angry and frustrated callers who feel ignored becomes a major problem. Those frustrated customers might just take their business elsewhere and even more damaging, spread the word.

Know when it’s time to go and go out on top. Sounds like a reasonable plan when your highly productive, retirement is 18 years away and you’re still working with drive and commitment to excellence. Just about anyone can see this in others. Be it an élite athlete who’s lost their lustre or a musician that can’t reach the notes they once hit with dependability, there comes a time when … well, it’s time. Not many can hang around and still perform.

Look, you have to do what is right for you based on your own personal situation. However, the same holds true for employers with businesses to run. It won’t do you any good to be forced out. That could leave you bitter and resentful; and it’s likely you don’t want that to be your legacy.

Discriminated Against For Being Older?


My job as an Employment Counsellor brings me into contact with a wide spectrum of people. Whenever I sit down with someone I invariably get around to asking them why they are unemployed; what they see as their barriers standing between them and working. One of the most common things I hear is, “My age might be a problem.”

The question of how old is too old comes up a lot. I’ve met some very active people in their 60’s who can outwork people half their age. By contrast I’ve seen some people in their early 40’s who move and behave like their 80.

I want to admit right upfront that there is a limited amount you can do to change the beliefs, attitude and yes prejudices of an interviewer or company that has determined what they regard as too old to hire. Having said that however, there is a lot you have 100% control over when it comes to the issue of age. It should come as no surprise that some of you reading this post will take my admission that there’s a limited amount you can do as justification for doing nothing. Others will gravitate to the positives; the proactive suggestions which can lead an interviewer or organization to reconsider their original position and extend an offer of employment to an older applicant.

First of all let’s look at what employers are concerned about with respect to aging workers. These may or may not apply to you, but as broad generalizations, some employers concerns with older workers are that they are:

  • set in their ways, resistant to learning new methods
  • education is dated, ongoing professional development poor
  • physical limitations, slowing down; a drain on health benefits
  • out of touch with technological advancements
  • close to retirement; a weak return as an investment

You may have others you could add to the list above. Please don’t get defensive as we’re just establishing some of the real opinions out there in the real world; whether they apply to you or me personally isn’t at issue. These are broad generalizations that are the realities one might be up against.

Okay, so now what? How does one go about countering the stereotypes of the ‘older’ generation of workers? A good place to start is with an honest look in the mirror. Not seeing what you want to see, but seeing yourself from another’s perspective; that of an employer. From the employer’s point of view, they’re looking for applicants that can join their organization and in as short a time as possible, start contributing.

Companies spend a lot of time building up their reputation. A small company just starting out needs to make money as soon as possible to stay afloat. They have no room to carry workers who don’t make immediate contributions to the bottom line. Larger organizations have already gone through growing pains and made adjustments to how they produce and deliver their services and goods. They need people to come in, assimilate into their workforce and not question how and why they do the things they do; just do the job you’re hired to do. Presuming you know better than the people who are in leadership roles and the existing workforce isn’t a way to stay employed long, unless of course you’re specifically recruited to bring about change.

Where it really starts of course is with you personally. Before you even apply for jobs, some changes might be well-advised. Your wardrobe might be dated; maybe you’re too formally dressed in that shirt, tie and suit jacket when the employees are dressed more casually. Look at your posture too. Are you walking stooped over, your shoulders slouched forward or shuffling your feet instead of walking upright with the energy and focus you had 15 years ago? In other words, if you don’t want to be judged as old, don’t come across as old.

Older workers have big upsides and you might need to remind yourself of this. You’ve got more than just work experience my friend, you’ve got life experience. You might just be the stabilizing force on a team of younger workers; the one who is more level-headed; not too high, not too low. You’re possibly in a place to mentor others while at the same time open to learning from those your junior. Be receptive to learning new ideas, embrace innovation and fight that stereotype of being an old dog who can’t learn new tricks.

A really good suggestion is an easy one; smile. Well, easier said than done for some, but a frowning, bitter face that scowls out at the world and comes across as negative isn’t attractive. Don’t project that the world owes you an income. View this new employer as your ally, your partner, not your enemy.

If you take a few courses and add these to your résumé you’ll be more attractive to employers too. Far too many people of all ages stop learning once they are working and have expired licences and certificates they didn’t bother renewing. Oh and because much of the general population is older, you might point out to an employer that their customer base might just appreciate being served by people who look like them; in other words, you’ll attract business.

Bottom line here? If you want to face the issue of being too old to work, don’t fit that stereotype yourself. Change what’s in your power to control.

Feeling Old And Looking For Work?


There’s the problem in a nutshell; you’re feeling old. Oh it starts out innocently; remember when you wondered why on earth publishers were making the type smaller and harder to read? They didn’t of course, you just needed glasses because your eyesight was changing. In Canada we switched from Fahrenheit to Celsius, from miles to kilometres, and there’s a whole generation who can’t tell the temperature or speed without converting and they’re all over 55 years old. ‘They’ introduced computer gadgets, and while you were told it would save time, it actually took forever because you were so resistant to learning how to use the technology in the first place – it was just a fad and would fry you with radiation.

Now you find you can’t apply for a job without filling out an application on-line. Your keyboarding speed being what it is, you’re lucky to get one or two applications done in an entire day. Where did the old days go when you could walk in, meet the person doing the hiring face-to-face and offer to work for a few days for free and got hired on the spot? Remember when candy was a penny? Yeah that’s not coming back either.

If you have fewer than 15 years of productive employment left, you may find yourself feeling discriminated against in the job application process. Whether it’s true or not is one thing, but if you walk in feeling ancient in the first place, don’t be surprised if that image comes across when you meet others. Some folks age gracefully, take care of their appearance, stay vibrant and healthy, keep their enthusiasm for life and remain positive. Others tend to shuffle, only occasionally shave, let their clothes get out of current styles, and carry chips on their shoulders because Life is apparently a trickster and they feel they’re the butt of the cruel joke being played out.

If you want to be successfully employed and you are 50 years or older, I say you’ve got a tremendous advantage if you are wise enough to not only recognize it, but exploit that advantage. Consider that you have perhaps thirty years of experience; and experience my friends is exactly what young people constantly lament as the reason they are passed over for employment. Score one for you!

Being 50 or more, you don’t have childcare issues except in rare circumstances, so you’ll be more reliable to the employer, and won’t need any time to deal with childhood illnesses and issues. While I acknowledge you may have aging parents that require your caregiver abilities, the needs of the two groups are not identical.

Thinking about experience for a moment, you’re undoubtedly better equipped to deal with some situations because you have more life experience. What may be new and disconcerting for someone else to deal with is old hat for you! It’s not a crisis, and you can calmly deal with things because you’ve experienced things over the years.

The biggest obstacle you may encounter is actually your own attitude. Do you feel old? How about tired? Worn down? Ancient? Almost fossilized? OUCH! But seriously your own personal attitude and how you view yourself gets communicated non-verbally, and often before you even open your mouth to speak. When was the last time you walked with a spring in your step, smiled naturally instead of having to force it, and shared a picture with your BFF on FB? If you don’t want to be thought of as over the hill and ready to be put out to pasture, start embracing not fearing social media, the computer, the internet, and all the advantages that come with them. Sure there are problems; but overall computers do make things quicker, data easier to find, tabulations more accurate, and work more portable. It’s networking daddy-o circa 2014.

Updating your look will go a long way to keeping you relevant too. Lose the beehive hairdo, ditch the suspenders and stop carrying around a briefcase. Might as well lose the pocket protector too. Look closely at those younger people who are working where you’d like to also work. Watching them will help you determine what clothing trends are in. What can you do to look like them while at the same time being comfortable with your appearance. Rather than trying to be something you’re not, be a more updated version of who you really are.

Sometimes the greatest fear stems from having 10 – 15 years or less left to work, needing to work, but having to change career or job because one finds oneself out of work and can no longer do the work one previously did. Re-inventing yourself can be frustrating and scary, especially if the mind is willing but the body isn’t capable. But this can be liberating! Look at this time as a chance to explore other options, maybe ou don’t have to start entirely from scratch and can use your transferable skills.

2014 is a new year. For you personally, will it be a year fraught with new situations to view as problems or explore with vitality and enthusiasm?

Employment Advisors are only one source you can tap into to help you deal with issues of age, and perceptions of age. You’d do well to get help. We’re all getting older day by day, how you view this makes all the difference and is the key!