Find yourself sliding down that slippery slope from engaged, curious, enthusiastic professional to defensive, change-resistant, entitled old geezer? At best, it’s really hard to deliver your best stuff when you’ve got a big neon “Stop All This Change Stuff Now!” sign flashing on your forehead. At worst, you may actually be putting your job in jeopardy. And let’s face it, not a great way to find meaning and purpose in your work.
It’s probably time for an attitude reset.
Change Your Approach, Change Your Perspective
If you’re not ready to retire but instead want to “rewire” so you can keep working but in a way you enjoy, consider these seven action items:
Create stability amidst change. Yeah, yeah, you know that change equals opportunity. But the older you get, the more you feel like you’re ready to slow down the rate of change a bit, thank you very much. The comfort of familiarity seems to be a lot more appealing than it used to. So a smart approach is to instead focus on creating that familiarity and stability in other areas of your life so you can more easily handle change in your career. Sunday brunch once a month with friends? Thursday night movie with your significant other? Saturday afternoon massage? Whatever works for you – the goal here is to have touchpoints of calm and familiarity in the midst of all that workplace change.
Know that your initial reaction’s likely to be “no,” then put it aside and move on to “yes.” It’s pretty much human nature to resist change, and it’s been observed that this tendency tends to rise in sync with your age. So similar to the idea “feel the fear but do it anyway,” try going with “know you’ll be ticked off, then get over it and get moving.” That way you don’t waste time or energy on trying to change your initial responses, and can instead focus on improving your subsequent actions.
Seek out opportunities to learn and use new technologies. If you’re part of the generation that didn’t grow up with technology, every new communication or IT tech seems to speak a foreign language. But letting yourself avoid using these tools means that you won’t understand what they can do. As a result, you won’t be able to contribute ideas, strategies, or solutions. And what fun would that be?
Look for mentors in all the right places. That’s probably going to be your younger staffers, or people in other departments, or possibly someone you heard speak at a recent conference. When you were young and just starting out, your mentors were probably people older and more experienced than you. Now that you yourself are the older and more experienced person, you want to seek out anyone who knows about the stuff you want to learn more about: technology, social media, popular culture, social entrepreneurship, organic gardening, etc. More often than not, these mentors are at least 20 years your junior. Feels a bit strange, but it’s also highly entertaining.
Keep a sense of humor. Okay, most of us of, ahem, a certain age have probably socially humiliated ourselves on LinkedIn and Twitter a number of times as we attempt to master these tools, and I’m guessing we’re going to do it several more times (at least) in the foreseeable future. You can either be mortified (which will discourage you froom trying again) or entertain your friends with stories of your social faux pas and keep at it. A sense of humor is a great tool for keeping both humiliation and one’s ego at bay, both key for encore careers.
Avoid being known as Ms./Mr. Cranky. The other great thing about hanging on to your sense of humor is that it allows you to avoid being known as The Cranky One. It can be appallingly easy it to move into this persona as you get older and more set in your ways. But it’s important to be positive and optimistic if you want people to look forward to working with you instead of dismissing you as a negative and obstructionist old geezer.
Focus on energy and resilience. If you can engage with enthusiasm, bring energy to your work, and model a resilient mind and body, then it doesn’t matter how old you are – your spirit is still young, and people will want to work with you. So as you get ready for Act Two of your career, worry less about the flat-abs challenge and instead focus on positive energy – physical and intellectual – and resilience. Whether stretching your mind or your muscles, doing so will keep you active.
Will these new attitudes enable you to continue to enjoy your career, contribute at a high level, and remain gainfully employed over the next twenty-five years of your career Act Two? No guarantees. But it’s pretty certain that if you don’t actively seek to avoid the pitfalls of “aging into obsolescence,” your value will diminish like yesterday’s hot stock. So might as well get with the program!