I mentioned a few weeks ago that I listened to a LinkedIn Learning program on encore careers. One of the topics discussed during the program was ageism. It totally makes sense. Age does play a factor into our career decisions.
I’m starting to see an interesting trend where the discussion about ageism is concerned. And that’s ageism might not be totally “somebody else’s fault”. Yes, I will admit that ageism does exist. It’s sad to say but it’s true. However, are all instances of ageism somebody else’s fault or is it possible that we are creating our own self-fulfilling prophecy?
Shortly after completing the LinkedIn Learning program, I ran across an article from a colleague of mine on the site Fistful of Talent titled, “Ageism is Real – And It’s Your Fault”. The article talks about the things that we do as individuals that contribute to the “old person” perception. You know, like “I don’t have time for that technology stuff.” Or “Oh, those Millennials….” My takeaway from this article was regardless of your physical age, if you act like the stereotype then people will assume you are one.
Then, Next Avenue published an interview titled, “Are Concerns About Age Discrimination by Employers Overblown?”where the conversation focused around whether ageism is real. The idea being with an employment market where there are more openings than candidates, at some point, organizations have to realize that older workers are valuable. Again, my takeaway from the article was it’s important to keep current.
Seeing these conversations so close in time took me back to the discussion in the LinkedIn Learning program about ageism. As we age, there are three things about aging we need to consider to ensure we’re not contributing to our own ageism.
Believing your own negative self-talk. Self-talk is those messages we tell ourselves. Think of them as those little voices inside our head. Sometimes we say them out loud, but often not. Bottom-line: Our self-talk is incredibly powerful. Especially when we say things like, “I can’t do this because I’m old.” Granted there might be things that we can’t do anymore, but that’s not the case for everything.
And let me add one more thought. There’s a big difference in deciding you don’t want to do something because you’re older and you can’t do it. Keith and I have said to ourselves plenty of times, “been there, done that, and we don’t need to do it anymore”.
Stopping your own learning. This is a big one. You don’t have to earn a college degree to learn. Just because you turn 40, 50, 60, or 70 doesn’t mean you can’t take a class, listen to a podcast, watch a TED Talk, or read a book. If there’s something you want to learn, do it. Especially, if you’re thinking about switching careers as you get older.
If you haven’t checked it out, sites like Coursera and edX offer massive open online courses (MOOCs). Most of them are free and have a wide variety of topics. If you have a budget, MasterClass offers programs from some very famous people. Whatever you decide is fine. Just keep learning.
Not networking across generations. I believe this last one is harder than it looks. If you have younger family members, then you might be able to chat with them. But if you don’t (or you would prefer not to network with family), think about how you can gain exposure to different points of view. Regardless of who you speak with, it’s important to interact with a diverse group of people.
Maybe think about mentoring as a way to share your expertise and learn at the same time. There are lots of organizations that are regularly looking for mentors. It’s also possible that your current employer might have a mentoring program that you can sign up for.
We have some decisions to make as we age. And one of the biggest is deciding how we will accept aging. If we want others to see us as contributors, then we need to act like it. Please notice I didn’t say we need to act “young”. People need to accept our age for what it is. But that doesn’t mean we’re not able to bring value. We need to send the message and demonstrate that we can.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Las Vegas, NV