The 4 Top Concerns of An Older Worker


For any of you who have gotten a little long-in-the-tooth, you probably have some of the same concerns as I have.  You may have friends or co-workers who have been let go under, let’s call them, sketchy circumstances. The party line was that there was a layoff or a re-organization, but it’s kind of strange how that person’s responsibilities now have gone to either a newly-hired employee or a younger one within the company. If you’ve been at a job for a number of years and realize that you are among the older workers in the company, you may have the following concerns.

1. Will they replace me with a younger person?

You know that, first and foremost, the bottom line is the number one priority of any company. They may tell you that the employee is number one and they are loyal to their workers but it simply isn’t true. If push comes to shove, a company may have to weed out higher-paid employees. And, chances are, if you’ve worked for a number of years, and have ironically been an exemplary employee, then you’ve received great annual reviews. With great annual reviews come good pay increases.

Eventually, you may reach the salary ceiling of your job description which means you don’t get annual pay raises regardless of your work performance. If there is an impending layoff you may be on top of the list.

Dealing with it

If at all possible, try to make yourself indispensible. I know, there is no one at any company who is indispensible. Maybe so. But there are some steps that an older worker can take to make them relatively indispensible. If you’ve been at a particular company for a while, chances are that maybe you have switched jobs within the company, as I have. Try, if at all possible, to help out the person who is now working at your previous job. You may have knowledge of that job that none others have within the company.

If you can help that person do their job effectively, it can only help your value within the company. Maybe you can also go out of your way to give a lunchtime presentation on a skill that you have, that others in the company need. Maybe you have accumulated a number of tips related to Microsoft Outlook, or Excel, that you can share with your co-workers. Going that extra mile will not only add to your indispensability (yes, this is a word!), it will also show your co-workers and management, in particular, that you are a team player.

2. Will my 401K last me in my retirement?

Having enough money at retirement is a concern of not only older workers but younger workers as well.  But, certainly older workers have more of an immediate concern than someone who is in their twenties or early thirties.

Dealing With It

There are some advantages to turning 50 before the calendar year is over. That is, you can take advantage of a catch-up contribution.  What this means is that you can put in an additional, pre-tax amount of $5500 (in 2009 and 2010) into your 401K, over and above the standard contribution limits. If you haven’t done a good job of saving for the future, this catch-up contribution is a means by which you can stash away a decent amount of pre-tax retirement money before you eventually retire.

3. If I get laid off, will I be able to find another job?

Especially these days, this is a major concern of all workers, but particularly, for older workers. If your company is laying you off, then, chances are, other companies are also feeling the pinch.

Dealing With It

Keep your technical skills current.  If there is one thing that companies will not accept into their workforce, it’s an older worker with sub-par technical skills. Ask your current employer if you can get additional training to improve your work skills. While you are improving your skills for your current job, you are also building up a decent resume including technical training classes. Ask if you can take a public speaking course, or join a local Toastmasters club.

Toastmasters is an internationally-renowned organization specifically geared toward improving your speaking skills. Not only could improving your public speaking make you more valuable at your current job, it will also help you if you ever have to interview for a new job. Never underestimate the value of speaking and presentation skills. Being able to speak, and present yourself well, is probably the most important skill you can develop for your future employment.

4. OK, I’ve lost my job, what do I do now?

For many older workers, this is simply a harsh reality.  You’ve been let go when you were hoping to ride out your previous job into the retirement sunset. Some face this challenge with renewed vigor while others wallow in the cruel reality of it all, which is certainly understandable given the current economic climate.

Dealing With It

Obviously I don’t have the answers to this major issue facing older workers but there are some tools that I can suggest. Networking has become more and more popular in recent years. LinkedIn is a popular networking website which allows you to keep in contact with former co-workers and to recommend, or get recommendations, from them. You can get connected to others at companies that you may want to work at, through your existing contacts. This is one way to get your name out there and let people know that you are looking for work.

There are many job websites such as Dice, Monster, and CareerBuilder which can help immeasurably in your job search. Maybe you want to take this time to get full-time training in a totally different endeavor. Getting Microsoft certification could help you get into the technology world, if that is your desire. Maybe this is an opportunity for you to follow your passion, rather than just trying to jump back into the working world, in the same capacity.

Older workers have a lot of the same concerns as new employees. But the age factor is certainly something that must be considered, if you’re getting up there in years. It is a harsh reality that if you are carrying a high salary, along with your age, then you could be a prime candidate for that looming layoff or re-organization. Dealing with this reality, and taking positive, actionable steps, may help minimize these warranted concerns of the older worker.


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I am a fellow cubicle dweller and have been working as a software professional for over 20 years. I have a passion site devoted to making your workspace a more organized, efficient, and happier place at Cubicle Bliss. You can check out my latest e-book which identifies some exceptional cubicle accessories which will help you upgrade your small work space to get it as organized and productive as possible!
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Discussion

  1. Jen on the 21st January

    Some good tips as always Bob. I haven’t got this issue yet but I think there is a lot of good advice for everyone to take away. Keeping your skills current and making yourself indispensable are all good strategies at any time in life. I like the attitude of pro activity – there is always something we can do to take charge of a situation!
    Jen
    ps – have given this a stumble :)

    • Bob Bessette on the 21st January

      Thanks Jen. Time certainly flies and it’s smart to stay properly positioned in the workplace. There are ways to allay those concerns. Thanks for the stumble…

      Best,
      Bob

  2. Jay on the 21st January

    Once you’ve hit a certain point in your career and professional development, start monetizing your acquired intellectual capital, think of small business, independent consulting, or employment where age is not a disadvantage but an advantage. To be enteprenurial is easier said than done and it goes w/o saying that you have to keep your technical skills sharp.

    • Bob Bessette on the 21st January

      Hi Jay,
      You are so right. I agree that independent consulting and small business are excellent options for a person who has hit a certain age. I am hoping to venture out into one of these two arenas in the future. Thanks for commenting.

      Best,
      Bob

  3. Angelina Thomas on the 21st January

    I appreciate your encourgement for older workers. I have work all my life and never been laidoff until 01/2009. I was always a loyal, dependable and hard working employee in every position I always gave 110%. But it happen to me. You are right their are thing we can do to increase our worth as aging individual with valuable knowledge that we have acquire over the years. You have certainly encouraged me to brush up on my technical skills and public speaking. Take a look at my website and profile on linkedin.com.

    Thanks
    Angelina

    • Bob Bessette on the 21st January

      Hi Angelina,
      Good luck in your pursuits. I will be sure to check out your site and you are smart to have a profile on LinkedIn. Technical skills and public speaking are so important. Go to the Toastmasters site and look for a club in your area. Speaking from experience (no pun intended), you cannot go wrong with Toastmasters and the dues are cheap..:-)

      Best,
      Bob

  4. Peter Bowler on the 27th January

    Our experience is that many older workers already possess great communication and presentation skills built up over their careers. In many cases they just need a confidence boost. Toastmasters and networking groups are good places for that.
    Peter

    • Bob Bessette on the 27th January

      Hi Peter,
      I agree that Toastmasters is a great place to develop your confidence in speaking, no matter what the age. It has certainly helped me in that I don’t have to give a lot of presentations but when I do, speaking at Toastmasters has helped immeasurably. Thanks for your comment.

      Best,
      Bob

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