Since when did so many workplaces become so young?
It certainly can’t be that I am getting old. Absolutely not. But the more offices, stores, and other workplaces I see, the more youthful everyone appears. And I’m not just talking about the starter jobs. There are middle-management jobs and often high powered top executive jobs filled by people who are easily ten to twenty years younger than me. Or more.
I am one of those women who started her career in a place where few women had gone before me. Back in the dark ages of the late 70’s and early 80’s when radio was mainly a man’s world, I was one of a growing wave of women entering the field. I was no pioneer, but young women about my age were definitely on the cutting edge. We believed at the time that women could have both a career and a family. No one told us we couldn’t, so we did. Honestly, we did it more out of necessity than out of any strident allegiance to the women’s liberation movement. But we raised our families and simultaneously built our professional lives.
Now here I am all these years later, and I have suddenly noticed more and more youth in the workforce. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. These younger workers often come with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, bringing a breath of fresh air. Occasionally they seem over-eager and hungry to move up the ladder, but not always.
So what does my generation still have to offer? Plenty.
Let’s begin with experience. Technology aside, there really is nothing new under the sun. Much of what an office work environment brings is a regurgitation of the same old same old. Perhaps we look for a different spin to put on it, but a planning session is still a planning session and implementation is still implementation.
For another thing we have skills. Many of us have kept pretty current with technological advances. Not to brag, but there are few people in my office who can actually run functional spreadsheets, know the intricacies of Word formatting, manage a database, and who also know the ins and outs of more challenging graphic design and report writing programs. When you have worked for many years in a non-profit setting you learn to juggle multiple types of software in order to meet the growing demands of fundraising, marketing, and communications and still work within the confines of a tight staff structure. Being a jack of all trades is often a requirement of any job today.
People skills should never be discounted. Workplace dynamics have not changed, but we do learn to deal with them differently as we grow. So the breadth and depth of a (slightly) older workers’ background should be respected and appreciated.
It’s no secret that we baby boomers have already started to age out of the workforce. Maybe this is how Prince Charles feels. There he is patiently waiting to become King of England, but his mother still has the top job. If he ever gets it he may be too old to enjoy it. And then there’s Prince William hot on his heels, ready to take over at any time.
So here I am with many, many working years ahead of me and feeling only slightly like a dinosaur. I am not ready for retirement – physically, mentally, and certainly not financially – although there are days when the right lottery ticket could quickly change my mind. But the more I look around the younger everyone else looks. No wonder I need so much coffee to get through the work day.