A funny thing happened on the way to retirement: Things got uncomfortable at work. While age discrimination in the workplace is real, some older job-seekers self-sabotage in ways like these:
1. They resist all change.
In today's world, disruption is seen as the key to business success. Companies are focused on innovating, trying out new ideas -- even when the old way of doing things appears to be working just fine.
Some older workers have the attitude of "Why fix it if it isn't broken?" The answer is simple: Not being broken isn't the highest ideal. Aim higher and fear change less. These are exciting times with tons of new ideas afloat. Be open to trying new things and new ways of doing things.
And especially, don't be a buzzkill when a younger co-worker has an idea. Refrain from saying things like "Oh we tried that in 1997 and it didn't work." New times, new game. Instead, use your experience to help your colleagues work around obstacles.
2. They fear failure so they take fewer risks.
The only real failure today may be the unwillingness to try something new. Older workers who say things "But we've always done it this way," are sounding their own death knell. Failure isn't when you try something and it doesn't work. Failure is when you are afraid to try. Remember the Scarecrow?
3. They complain about the "new" office environment.
OK, so in your last job you flew first class to meetings and had your own glass office. Today's office is a lot more egalitarian. Open work spaces are pretty much the standard and you need to adapt. The idea is that more collaboration occurs when there are no walls to serve as a physical barrier. In fact, many work spaces have little couch seating areas for small group meetings -- exposed, right out there in the middle of the room.
Watch your younger colleagues to learn the new etiquette involved with respecting privacy in such open quarters. Phones are used less to communicate. Slack, gchats and even emails are how we talk to one another -- even when you are sitting three feet away.
And a word on those who do use the phone: You rarely want to make or take calls at your desk. You not only won't have much privacy but you likely will disturb your colleagues. When your phone rings, answer it and walk away to a quiet area.
Wearing headphones is an excellent way to zone out if the office banter gets too loud for you.
Also, don't be surprised to see people bring their pets to work with them. Well-behaved dogs are increasingly being welcomed in the office. Cats? Well, we know cats would just take things over.
4. They act like Yoda.
Just because older workers have a lot of experience doesn't mean it's OK for them to spout it like a fountain of wisdom. No boss appreciates a direct report who sounds like his mother or dad. He may be young, but he's your boss. Respect that. Behaving like a know-it-all is off-putting. Wait for your younger colleagues to seek you out for help or an opinion before you jump in and bogart the conversation.
5. They don't dress the part.
Take cues from your co-workers and age adapt. Dress tends to be more casual in many places. Suits and ties are rarely seen in a lot of industries. Casual-dress Fridays have expanded to casual-dress every day you don't have a client meeting.
That said, be mindful of your age. Maybe you can still rock a mini-skirt and stilettos -- or maybe not. Err on the side of caution. Be comfortable and be yourself. And know that pair of nice black jeans and black flats work for many occasions.
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