Preventing Ageism in the Workforce
As you progress throughout your career, it is important to know what to look for when it comes to ageism. It may start with being passed over for a promotion, getting excluded from new company initiatives, a stagnant salary, and your bonuses reduced or even eliminated entirely. As time moves on, your performance evaluations, which have consistently been high throughout the years, begin trending in the opposite direction. You may not think it can happen to you, but ageism continues to plague organizations of every size. According to AARP’s special report on Age Discrimination in America, 25% of workers 45 years and older have experienced negative comments about their age from supervisors or coworkers. Furthermore, nearly 60% of older workers have been directly discriminated against because of their age.
Whether you love your job, or hate it, no one enjoys the rejection associated with being terminated. Additionally, it is often more difficult for seasoned employees to find new employment because of their age and salary requirements associated with numerous years of experience. If you are looking for new ways to demonstrate value in your career, consider some of the following ideas.
1. Establish a Mentoring Program for Younger Employees
You are most likely an industry veteran by the time you need worry about a premature career departure. Coaching the next generation of talent on topics such as emotional intelligence, maintaining mental health, and navigating organizational culture, will help them avoid making costly mistakes as they progress in their career. Chances are good that your company’s leadership will notice your efforts. Corporate mentoring programs are known to increase employee retention, accelerate career growth, and increase executive diversity. That is probably why nearly 70% of Fortune 500 companies have some type of mentoring program embedded in their organization.² Opting for this strategy allows your executive team to see that you are deeply invested in the success of your organization, as well as the success of future generations.
Cross-departmental mentoring can also act as an effective communication outlet. Because the mentor-mentee relationship does not traditionally exist in a normal organization hierarchy, the mentee can speak freely without fear of reprisal or concern from their superiors. If your organization already has a mentoring program, join. If you work within a smaller organization that does not have a formal program, suggest the idea to your executive team and see if you can run a pilot initiative. Most programs have no associated cost but can make a strong impact on an organization’s culture.
2. Focused Networking
Not many people truly enjoy standing around in a crowded room exchanging pleasantries with strangers. The conversations are typically topical in nature, so it is unlikely that you will walk away with few, if any, real connections. So why attend? According to CNBC, 70% of jobs are not published on available jobs sites and over 50% of jobs are filled through networking and personal connections.
Instead of attending events, try digitizing your networking efforts by becoming more active on LinkedIn. Finding people to connect with is easier now than ever with the professional online platform. You can find meaningful connections by name, organization, or even by professional credentials such as CFA, MBA, or Esq. Your search results will allow you to include a filter to only see shared connections. From here, it is only a matter of asking for an introduction to get the ball rolling. This approach will allow you to make more meaningful, relevant connections.
3. Produce Content
If you consider yourself to be a skilled writer, you may want to think about content creation to highlight your expertise and value to your organization. While advertising is typically associated with getting a message in front of people, content is used to educate or entertain a reader. As an example, you may see a banner or pop-up ad online for a popular new sports drink. This is traditional digital advertising. Conversely, you may come across an article on social media or in a Google search titled, “Three ways a sports drink can help your body recover from a workout.” The latter example is content. Both examples are aimed at getting you to purchase a sports drink. The advertisement was unwelcomed, while you willingly read the article.
You do not need to be a professional writer or have an advanced marketing degree to produce content. In fact, a lot of the value from employee-driven content is authenticity. It provides the reader an idea of who they are doing business with and introduces a human-element into the relationship. Finally, do not become discouraged if your post fails to win a Pulitzer. The purpose of creating content for your organization is to help deepen relationships with existing customers and pique the interest of those who may have interest in becoming a customer.
4. Sharpen Your Skill Set
Learning a new skill is not easy. It takes time, a willingness to get out of your comfort zone, and can sometimes be costly. However, with the digitization of education, it is easier now more than ever. There are several online providers that can help you obtain the skills you need to thrive later in your career, some are even free.
A company called Udemy claims to have the largest selection of courses in the world, teaching students everything from cloud computing to yoga. Codecademy is another option for those who want to understand how to work with different programming languages such as Java and Python. The best part about it is that most of the introductory courses are free. It is a great way to try something new without a large associated sunk cost.
The other component to consider when adding a new skill set. You need to know what skills your executive team find valuable. This also presents an opportunity. It demonstrates to your organization’s leadership that you have the desire to, not only learn valuable new skills, but it also demonstrates that you have the organization in mind when deciding what to learn.
A career can become a large part of your identity over time. It is easy to see how that can happen, as the typical person will spend nearly 80,000 hours at work over the course of their life. That is time away from family, friends, and the activities that bring you joy. When you begin thinking about employment in terms of time and sacrifice, rather than salary and title, it is easy to see why there is such an emotional tie to a career. That is why an event such as a termination of employment is as mentally taxing as it is financially. By taking steps such as the ones mentioned above, seasoned employees can effectively showcase their experience, wisdom, and adaptability in a dynamic work environment.
Written by Nelson Greene, Wealth Advisor