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.