Survival Guide For Older IT Workers

Wednesday, 2007-January-17 at 11:04

IT Management has an article talking about ways that older IT workers can stay in the game.  It is probably good advice, but it is really general and inconsistent.

Notes Robert Half’s Lee: "I think a lot of people say, 'I'm being discriminated against because I'm older.'" However, "If you're still using the skill set you used 10 years ago, my argument is: maybe you're being overlooked because you've not kept your skill sets current."

To some degree, I think IT workers are naturally curious, and mostly willing and able to pick up anything.  In that way, I think the article misses the point.  The fact is, even if you're working in fast food, when you change employers, you will need to go through a training process.  Your skills, which you dilligently developed elsewhere, will not directly transfer to another employer without some adjustment and adaptation.  Any HR person or manager who thinks differently is deceiving himself.

Likewise, if you are a manager who thinks that your company does not have to invest in continual training to keep your staff members' skills current, you are pointing your company toward bankruptcy.  Seriously, if you want to use today's newest technologies in your business, be ready to train both current and new employees on using them and be willing to let your employees experiment—they may discover something that you hadn’t heard of, which will let your company do more of whatever it does, without requiring the expected investment in extra resources.

I am not a hiring manager, but if and when I do become one, I'll tell you now, that I don't care what you did at your former employer.  If what you did on your former job was good enough for you and for them, you would still be there doing it.  Instead, I want to know how willing and able you are to absorb our training and to supplement it with your own continual learning program.  Are you willing to adapt to the needs of the company?  Are you willing to honestly inform your managers of ways that the company can better meet your needs?  Are you willing to put in a little extra effort to help the company serve its customers better?  Are you willing to help the company to be a better neighbor in its community?  (This would be things like suggesting environmentally-friendly processes, as well as volunteering in your off-work hours with community-based nonprofit organizations.)

One of the things I have seen in my years of working, is that a company that only pulls from a narrow background (job history, education) window will get clones that are only able to function under a narrowly-defined set of conditions.  In this time of global competition, any smart business and any smart manager should be looking to hire from a broad cross-section of their local community's residents.  In that way, when competitor X introduces a new product or service, one of your employees will say, "we had something like that in [insert place, company, or educational institution here].  That introduces these advantages and these weaknesses that we can respond to by doing …."  In other words, if you do not seek out diverse backgrounds, including educational and experiential backgrounds, you will be disadvantaged when faced with the increased pressures that all companies are facing.

I also note that even the experts disagree about how to proceed.

"I think sometimes in resumes and interviews and cover letters, people will hesitate to highlight their years of experience," she says. "But I think by doing that you might be missing an opportunity to be considered for a position maybe with even greater responsibilities. I recommend to people, never, ever sell yourself or your experience short."

This contrasts with another opinion.

"You want to formulate your resume around your skill set rather than job by job," she says. "That sort of thing [listing all your jobs] opens the door to 'Wow, this individual's been around since the cows came home.'"

In other words, if you are over 40 and looking for work, no one knows whether you will be hired or what you should do to improve your chances.

If you are a manager and you are deciding whom to hire for a particular job, you need to figure out a way to measure a person's curiousity.  If someone is hungry to learn, they will do well at almost any task you assign to them.

If you are a hiring manager with open IT jobs in Southern California (especially the Inland Empire or High Desert), you should look me up and get in touch. 😉 Username: _h_u_c_k_s_t_e_c_h_ Domain: _w_a_r_m_m_a_i_l_._c_o_m_ Remove the underscores and insert the at-sign in the appropriate place.  I am as curious as a cat and prone to work too hard and too long sometimes, because I am committed to making my employer's business "just work".

Entry filed under: Computers, Job-Hunting.

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