I’m old. Many of my clients are too. Our shared experiences, over time, allow me to relate to those clients. Effectively, my age has value.
Old people are highly prized assets in the work world today and companies are fighting to hire them. For the sake of this article, I’ll define “old people” as the group between the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946-1964) and Millennials (those born between 1980-2001). Old people range in age from their late 40s to their late 50s.
** For those of you who fall into this category, don’t be offended being called “old”; you are. By the time you finish this article the grim reaper will be that much closer to knocking on your door but don’t fear the reaper (or this article), I’m here to argue that older is better (the best actually).
Let me start by saying that age discrimination is a real thing. Misguided if not flat out stupid but real nonetheless. If you’ve ever asked or heard someone else ask if a candidate has “fire in the belly” or if she “is still willing to work hard”, those are calling cards of age discrimination. If you’ve passed on a candidate after looking when he graduated or after thinking they “looked old” in their LinkedIn picture, first, shame on you and second, also age discrimination. The reality is it happens all the time. I’m actually surprised no one has ever sued LinkedIn as an accessory to age discrimination (but that’s a different article).
The bottom line is this…companies need to get wise to hiring old people because they are the (second) most valuable demographic in the work world today (right behind women).
Consider the following:
Old people know their sh*t!
They know what works and what doesn’t. They don’t waste time chasing bad business. And those are just a couple positives of their professional experience. Their collective life experience, the books they’ve read, the places they’ve been and the world they’ve experienced matter too. All those things are high value to any business.
I recently placed an old sales guy with one of my clients (he’s in his mid-50s and the #1 sales person at his company). He said this, “Younger salespeople don’t have a full understanding of what they need to worry about. It used to be that software would sell itself. It isn’t like that anymore. My experience gives me credibility and that helps me close deals.” Well said.
We are losing 25% of our workforce!
Baby Boomers started retiring in 2011 at the rate of 10,000 per day! They will continue to retire at that rate until 2030. When it’s over 25% of our workforce will be gone. As they retire, they take with them all their work experience, business contacts and vast amounts of business IP. Old people fill that IP gap.
Millennials aren’t ready to lead yet.
The oldest Millennial is just 38 today and the youngest hasn’t even joined the workforce yet. While Millennials are sometimes knocked for lacking drive and work ethic, for being more concerned about the perks and benefits vs. the work they do and are viewed by many as lazy and entitled. Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard to argue most lack the experience to lead companies.
A few other considerations…
They want to work-
They idea old people lack “fire in the belly” or don’t want to work is crazy; all they have is work! For most, their kids are older if not out of the house, their spouse is either working or want them out of the house. Work is their thing!
It’s a generation that grew up with work ethic-
Old people know what it means to work hard. They grew up with parents who worked hard and who taught them the value of hard work. Working hard is something that comes natural to them.
They want to share their experience with others-
The last thing many managers have time to do is train employees. Old people feel valued when they can share their experience and knowledge.
They are done building empires-
This point is lost on many hiring managers. Many older candidates are done climbing the corporate ladder. They are perfectly happy to work hard, make money and deal with their problems- not manage everybody else’s.
Perspective (and history) matter-
The ability to talk about how business has changed and what used to work (but doesn’t anymore) resonates with customers who have lived those same changes. That shared perspective creates a connection that can be a key ingredient in closing a deal.
Bill Hewitt, CEO of Exari, said, “Every position requires a mix of skills and experience. For many roles, experience is the deciding factor, such as industry knowledge. That can make the difference between success or failure where a less experienced candidate may struggle to be relevant.”
Old people have that perspective and experience (and work ethic and IP and so much more).
If you are passing on candidates who are “old”, you are making a mistake. Old is good!
About the Author
Doug Johnson is the president of Valor Partners, an executive search firm that specializes in working with software companies to find executive leaders and to build high-caliber sales and marketing teams. Doug also specializes in working to advance women in tech as well as the companies interested in creating more gender-balanced organizations. He can be reached at email@example.com or 540-492-4250.