04.10.2013

How to Make Age a Non-Issue for IT Jobs

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Last week I talked about some of the subtler reasons why older IT workers struggle to get hired, such as being intimidating to younger managers. But since objections like that really aren’t in anyone’s best business

Older IT workers, if this is where your skill set lies..bad news.
Older IT workers, if this is where your skill set lies..bad news.

interest, this week I want to offer some practical, strategic solutions that make hiring competent people the issue rather than hiring people of a certain age bracket. Let’s face it, if there’s someone out there with the skills you need, experience and a great work attitude, it’s just dumb—not to mention discriminatory—to overlook them.

What older IT workers can do

  • Stay on top of your skills: If you’re still writing in Cobol, fine, but you’d better be the best Cobol writer out there and be willing to move for a job. There’s a pay scale for full time people and if you’ve maxed it out in your organization you’ll have to move to a bigger company, possibly in a different city, with higher pay scales. Conversely, you can keep your education up on languages and skills in demand now and for the future, like JavaScript and Objective C, which will put you back in the running against younger competitors.
  • Be flexible: This is important for any employee but sometimes seems especially difficult for people who came from huge companies with entrenched cultures and processes. This is also true for recently graduated, self-styled “rock stars” or “ninjas” who are new to the work world.  Be willing to adapt to a new culture, new management style, new communication or decision-making style.
  • Swallow your pride: You want a job? It’s no longer about your tenure, your years of experience or your age. What can you bring to this company today that’s more valuable than what someone else offers? That’s really the only question.

 

What IT companies can do

  • Train your managers: I know I’m always harping on this but training is a crucial skill. A manager who has been trained in communication, conflict resolution, team building and other areas has the skills to manage a diverse team. An insecure manager might be threatened by hiring someone with more years or experience or education because they’re unsure of their footing or authority.
  • Focus on communication: Baby Boomers and Gen Xers tend to prefer phone calls and face-to-face communications more than Gen Y or Millenials who tend to prefer emails or texts. Younger people also tend to have a more casual approach to how the work gets done, as long as it gets done. The purpose of communication isn’t to stake generational territory, but to keep the workflow going, avoid problems and build teamwork. So it starts with that Stephen Covey quote: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. If you’re a manager, the best thing to do is seek first to understand your people and attempt to communicate in a way that will make it easiest for them. Sometimes, as an employee, the manager isn’t going to do that for you. Then you’re going to have to do that. Make a happy compromise. You have to do that with a partner, you have to do it at work, too.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.