The Over 50 Technology Culture Clash

Guest Author: Susanne Skinner

“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.”
~ Stewart Brand

 “The Internet is a great way to get on the net.”
~ Senator Bob Dole

Six years ago, when we were preparing to take our youngest son to college, the following conversation took place in our kitchen:

Dad: “I’m paying good money for that cell phone. I expect you to use it and let us know how you are doing. I want to hear from you at least once a week.”

Child: “Jeez Dad, why can’t you learn how to text? Even Mom knows how to text. Nobody makes phone calls – we text now.”

Dad: (text challenged and resistant to change) “If you want to talk to me do not text me. You pick up that phone and engage in a conversation with me.”

Me: (six weeks later) “So, how’s that working for you?”

Dad: “Haven’t heard from him since he left.”

Eventually Dad did learn to text. It was an inevitable and painful technology reality check. It serves to remind us that if we don’t keep pace with technology we can’t expect to fit in to a technology driven work environment or culture. In today’s job market, being a tech-savvy employee is not optional – it’s a requirement. Technology can change the parameters of your job and, in some cases, force you out of it if you are not prepared.

Learn the Technology

Resumé search engines look for technology keywords. When they aren’t found your resume is automatically rejected. If you aren’t as up to speed as you should be, get some training. Your kids – or someone else’s kids – can teach you. I’m serious. Adult education programs at local high schools and vocational schools offer all levels of computer training. Practice until you are proficient and able to converse knowledgeably with examples and ideas. Engage in social media and understand its business value. Maybe you have a friend with a blog and she’ll invite you to be a guest blogger…it could happen.

A hiring manager needs to be impressed with your skills as well as your credentials. Being technically challenged and over 50 tells an employer that you joined the work force when Eisenhower was elected. Your resume should focus on your recent experience, because that is what an HR specialist and hiring manager will be looking for. That experience must include proficiency in the basics of Microsoft Office, reporting tools, industry analytics, all forms of Social Media, the ability to navigate the internet and communicate with millennials…because one of them will probably be your manager.

Dilbert, Ashok, technology, modemLet me illustrate this point with a story. A former colleague of mine lost his job with a Large Computer Company after working there 24 years. I’m going to call him Martin, because that’s his name. Martin is smart, knows his industry very well, and has the polish that comes from working in a sales-driven environment. He is also 58 years old. It didn’t take him long to land an interview with another Large Computer Company, but during the meeting it became apparent that Martin had not kept pace with technology. Apart from an account on Linked In his technical skills began with e-mail and ended with the ability to create a basic MS Word document. The hiring manager wanted to understand Martin’s familiarity with communications and reporting tools like, Skype, Excel, PowerPoint, Marketo and social media. Martin’s response was– and I am not making this up, “isn’t that what you have secretaries for?”

The Young are Different

The issue here isn’t age as much as it is a technology culture clash. Martin’s failure to keep pace with all aspects of his work culture kept him off the steamroller. Government statistics indicate the average age in the work force is 46.7 (except at Facebook, where it’s 26). That’s not old but it can be dated. Most people over 50 don’t think or act like a Twenty Something – nor should we. Tech savvy-ness is not limited to the younger generation. Many of us hold our own in this field. But we must recognize that young people are not only comfortable with technology, they live, work and breathe in the cloud.

  • They have never known a life without technology.
  • Their access to information and professional connections is electronic and instantaneous.
  • They forgo e-mail in favor of instant messaging and texting.
  • They juggle multiple programs with mobile tools that allow them to work outside of traditional business hours and conventional office settings.
  • They are wizards and corporations depend on them. They are a reflection of the hiring demographics in today’s workforce.

Those of us 50 and wiser make up a group of over 78 million baby boomers. That’s a powerful number. Many of us are choosing not to retire as previous generations have done. For most of us retirement at 62 is not an option. We need to work and we want to stay engaged. Some of us are continuing in jobs with high levels of responsibility, some are scaling back, and some are seeking different or more self-fulfilling career paths. The important thing to remember is no matter what choice you make, technology impacts your decision and your career. The Steamroller is coming.

AAMOI, or if you have ? additional 411 on this topic can be found at #thenet.

@SuzeQ ☮ Out

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