We humans are hard-wired to share cultural experiences through storytelling. So for this week’s post, I’ve turned to three friends who have agreed to share their stories about employment, career and networking.
Of the three, two are close to my age, which is to say, within a few years of retirement. The other is somewhat younger – however, the breadth of his experience speaks to many of the same issues.
I’ve agreed to redact their names to protect their privacy. Here’s a snapshot of what they had to say.
Question 1: When you’re looking for a new job, or thinking about doing so, what factors are most important in your decision?
- Two of the three talked about “finding work that’s interesting (and) excites me,” or to put it another way, “look(ing) for jobs that offer interesting subject matter more than ladder-climbing positions that will get me to the next level.” This passion for subject matter, in at least one case, was more important than money.
- The third also talked about the ability to have an impact. “I don’t have to be changing the world, just doing something that will make things better for at least one person, even if that means it’s easier for a colleague to their work the next day.”
- All three talked about the importance of culture, fit and good management.
- On that point, “Culture isn’t always defined by what’s in a workplace: I don’t need foosball tables or bean bag chairs. What I need to know is that the group of people I hope to work with are committed to doing good work, and to supporting others who want to do good work as well.”
Question 2: Is your approach to the job-search process different today than when you began your career, and if so, how?
- This one yielded some really fascinating and insightful responses. My friends all felt that that as they matured in their respective careers, they were more interested in the here and now than in the future.
- For example: “Towards the beginning of my career, I often focused my job search on what could be next: instead of focusing on the job where I was being considered. I wasn’t in the present, I was in the future — a very utilitarian, almost to a fault view – on job searching. Now, I’m much more mindful of the opportunities in front of me.”
- Similarly: “In my youth, I use to look at job opportunities from a careerist perspective. What jobs were going to give me greater responsibilities and commensurate salary increases? Today, I take a different approach. With retirement on the horizon, I no longer view myself as having a career. Instead, I focus on maintaining employment in a position that makes me happy.”
- The idea of increasing self-confidence that comes with age was also important: “Long ago, I needed the experience to build a portfolio but now my skills speak for themselves and I have the products to back it up, so less stress there.”
Question 3: How do you overcome the biases that hiring managers sometimes have about people of different ages?
- Even the youngest of my three friends has had some telling experience on this one: “I’m conscious that, as I’ve always been on six-month contracts in government and never had a permanent position, I’ll become more expendable as I age; I’m already feeling that now. My main focus has been to keep building skills, to make sure I’m always learning and adapting, but mostly, I can start to play the experience card.”
- All three were keenly aware of the challenges that these biases can present, although they had somewhat differing views on how to address them: “As a Baby Boomer, I’m from the generation who thinks I must overcome the bias, whereas it’s really up to the hiring manager to be self-aware of their own biases and watch out for it in the hiring process.”
- There was also a quite understandable sense of exasperation: “The fact that I want flexibility and choice in my work schedule only serves to further reinforce the negative stereotype that only the young are willing and able to go the extra mile.”
My friends’ experiences are unique to them, just as mine is to me. At the same time, it was enlightening for me to see and hear that I’m not necessarily alone in how I’m feeling about my career and my prospects from here on.
I’d like to express my thanks to the friends who have given so generously of their thoughts, their time and their experience. It’s friends like these who continue to sustain me, to encourage me and to give me the support I need to be successful.