Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 35: retiring, and phasing out of work as a work-life transition 7

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on December 21, 2016

This is my 35th installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-34.) And this is also my seventh posting to this series where I at least begin addressing the issues of retirement, and phasing into it.

This is also my third installment in this series where I discuss the issues and challenges of age discrimination, and how to address it when it occurs, and for limiting the possibility that you will face it. And for purposes of continuity of discussion, I note here that I have organized and discussed these two scenarios in the following terms, since starting this line of discussion in Part 33:

• Being confronted by this challenge in the short-term or in your immediately here-and-now, and in your current workplace as a more immediate issue,
• And preparing for it as a possibility, from a longer-term planning and risk remediation exercise perspective. There, it is important to think through what to look for and what to do as you grow older in the workforce, so you can at least limit the likelihood that you will find yourself in a workplace and working for a manager who would be inclined to age discriminate, as addressed in the first of these two bullet points.

I focused on the issues of the first of these two points in Part 33, and then turned to at least begin considering the second of them in Part 34. And I continue that discussion here, moving from a more basic principles-oriented analysis, to a more tactical and action-oriented approach.

• How do you best prepare for this possibility as an ongoing career due diligence exercise?

My goal for this posting is to at least offer a more general starting point for addressing that question. And I begin by offering two perhaps stereotypic workplace models, that are nevertheless fairly accurate insofar as both patterns offered here can be found in real businesses.

The high risk for age discrimination employer – Youthcom:
Youthcom is a high tech business, or at least it and its owners see themselves that way. Much of what they offer is more standard for products offered in their industry. It is all consumer oriented. And it is, if not fad-driven then fad-friendly as it finds its primary customer base and marketplace through lines of mostly cosmetically distinguished products that it touts as its newest and greatest.

Youthcom caters to a younger and young at heart audience, and it presents itself in its marketing and internally in its corporate culture as young and dynamic too. And hiring there is always oriented towards bringing in employees who “get it” – who understand the customers and market they seek to reach and sell to, and their business goals in reaching out to them. And this company has been around for a while and it has longer tenured employees to prove that, and particularly in more supportive roles such as Accounting. Their product designers and marketing and communications team members are all more youthful and they actively try to keep these groups of employees filled with the types of people who they see as being good fits for their desired markets and for appreciating and wanting the types of products they offer. Once again, this is all about their developing and maintaining a team that “gets it.”

Is this business guaranteed to age discriminate? Is it more likely to pursue this approach? There is no absolutely one hundred percent guaranteed answer to a question like that, and certainly when I have only offered so brief and selective a sketch of a business type. But this type of workplace and culture should at the very least raise red flags for anyone working there, as they age out of what the owners and managers would see as a “get it” age range. This might be more obvious for people in Product Development, and Marketing and Communication and I add Sales, than it would be for Accounting and other back-office services where skills and experience and even precise license certification might be required. But I have worked with businesses that explicitly and openly presented themselves as young, and as being current in the newest and therefore best – and as their defining quality. One particular business comes to mind for me there, that would never have hired me for in-house employment because I was too old for their taste: I did not fit their image. But they were very happy to bring me in as an outside consultant (because they had issues that their more straight out of school staff needed more experienced help with – age discrimination hurts the business too, and on many levels.)

And with that case in point business approach offered, I turn to my second discussion framing example.

The lower risk for age discrimination employer – Peoplecom:
Peoplecom is also a high tech business, or at least it and its owners see themselves that way. But it is not fixated on youth as an overriding positive quality – essential to their success in the way that Youthcom does, or in their conception of what they should look like. They take pride in their diversity in who they have on their team as employees and managers, and for ethnicity and race and gender and more – age included. Wider ranges of people want and purchase and use high tech products (and both new and novel, and as more cosmetically updated) than can be found in any one demographic. And while younger marketing audiences do have money, and money that they can spend on a more discretionary basis, so do their older neighbors and family members.

Peoplecom demands high level work performance from its staff and management, but they judge that on the basis of goals and tasks agreed to and required, and on how they have been met. And I have intentionally posed this as a business that would not explicitly raise the types of red warning flags that a Youthcom would.

Think through the businesses that you have worked for, and certainly for where age might be a factor in hiring and promotions, and for dismissals. Think through the businesses that you have worked for, where age is not a factor and where older employees might be valued for that. With the above two examples in mind, and more importantly – with your own direct experience in mind for the lessons that it can carry, consider the following action plan outline for more proactively preparing for and addressing this challenge:

• Know your industry and how its businesses hire and retain and what they look for besides hands-on and managerial skills. Know what they look for, for what is commonly referred to as fit.
• If you are currently employed, know the business you work at now for this, and how it is changing if it is – as for example “since the hiring of a new senior executive who wants to empire build and according to his or her own image and design.”
• Whether you are employed, looking or both, know the corporate culture of employers of interest that you might try working for and how others there are doing – and how they are judged and performance reviewed in actual practice.
• And I specifically stress here: really seek to understand any business that you might seek new employment with for these and similar considerations too.
• And if you are an older employee and are let go, and whether or not age per se was a factor there, look for an explicitly age-friendly business for a next job if you are not ready to retire. This does not necessarily mean becoming a Wal-Mart greeter or similar; it can also mean seeking out and securing new work opportunities where you can continue to use your professional skills and experience too. And as one categorical possibility for where to look for that, consider businesses that specifically cater to the needs of middle aged and older people, or that offer products or services that would be as valuable to, and as desired by them as for their younger counterparts.

I am going to conclude my discussion of this complex of issues here, with one more final connecting thought. I have recurringly started postings to this series with a brief opening text that includes the words “… intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it.” And I have been discussing age discrimination for the last three installments to this, counting this one and that by definition is a context where decision is taken out of your hands. If I were to summarize this and the preceding two installments here with one brief statement, it is that my goal in all of this series has been to point to approaches that you can pursue that would increase your having control over your own work life and your own career path – and your own life in general. Keeping this closing note focused on the topics of discussion that I have just been addressing here:

• Effectively dealing with age discrimination and its potential, means approaching your jobs and career with open eyes, and with a goal of retaining control where you can. And it means understanding where you cannot do that, and as early on and as proactively as possible and with a mindset that can help you arrive as what for you would be good Plan B options. I write of agility and resilience in businesses; develop and cultivate these same strengths in yourself too.

I am going to reconsider retirement and the path towards it from a family perspective in my next series installment, where for many of us this means couples at the very least. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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