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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Age discrimination?

You know, as I "age", I'm starting to see at least a couple of distinctive career stages -- at the beginning and near the end -- and appreciate that those of us at either end (or in the middle) need to learn from these perspectives.
At the beginning
Right out of college, or apprenticeship, usually with some part-time experience, maybe travel, you can often tell "superstars" right away through objective tests and reference checking. These employees will bring vitality, creativity, innovation and talent to your organization -- and if you are older (and wiser) you'll quickly absorb their talents.
At the end
Forget employee. Think consultant. You want to capture the wisdom of experience and talent. Business owners especially can learn from retired and semi-retired business owners with a proven successful track-record, and they'll gladly share their expertise and insight with younger people.
So what if you are an older person looking for a "job"? Clearly there are age discrimination laws and no responsible employer would violate them. But if the candidate has a chip on his or her shoulder, is expecting a free ride, or simply thinks that "stability" and "benefits" are rights rather than earned, it is not hard to screen out on merit without violating anti-discrimination laws. Older people I think need to shift to be consultants; the challenge is how can you consult without a track-record of success. The answer, surprisingly, may be for these people to listen to both the younger and older people around them -- to accept some free consulting! -- and capture the business/self-employment opportunities available to them.
Right now, I'm thankful that I can learn from younger and older people around me. This is one place where it is great to be in the middle.

1 comment:

Sonny Lykos said...

Mark said: "Right now, I'm thankful that I can learn from younger and older people around me. This is one place where it is great to be in the middle."

Expand that Mark, to include learning something from everything and everyone around you. I regularly read articles about industries other then construction. I look for something, anything, that I might be able to apply to our industry or particularly, my own business, in a positive manner .

For example, tonight while watching one of my favorite TV shows, NUMB3RS, one of the actors used the phrase "avoidance goals". To the average viewer that would have been nothing more than part of the script. But to an old guy as myself who often tries to advise my younger peers, as soon as I heard that phrase it lit a light bulb over my head.

Often when advising peers do something or not to something that might get them in trouble, we all address it from the front loaded perspective. Let’s say a guy gets screwed by a customer of his final payment that's due. Using the concept of "avoidance goals" I can now take a different approach that may result in a more substantive, and desirable result.

On a forum, instead of asking " How does one avoid not being able to collect the final payment due?" I would ask "Let's make a list of everything we want to "avoid" in our respective businesses." Once the list has been established, we can then take each item on the list and create a separate list just for that item on everything we can do to avoid that happening. An "avoidance goal" for avoidance #1. And from that list we then examine all viable possibilities.

Avoidance goal #2 might be “How do we avoid having our subcontractors not show up on their scheduled start date.” instead of a typical forum thread where everyone just complains about this problem mimicking each others complaints and how this or that sub screwed up the job schedule.

And the above process is in correlation with what I learned in high school called the "scientific method." I love the scientific method.