(I’ve blogged about this topic before but wanted to post a different version.)
Whenever I’m feeling stuck, uninspired, complacent or just down, I remind myself to visualize this:
You’re suddenly magically teleported to a new life. In this new life maybe you’re a married banker with kids; maybe you’re single and work at Wal-Mart. It doesn’t matter because the important facts are 1) you’re still the same person and 2) you have a very limited time in this new life. You have a completely blank slate and don’t know how long you’ll be here. So what do you do?
You LIVE! You bring as much joy as possible to those around you. You go for the career you always wanted and don’t take “no” for an answer. You enjoy the little things, have fun, and help others. You don’t let one ounce of stress, negativity, or worry detract from your passion. It could end any minute!
Back to reality and some excellent news: This is your actual life, right now. Whatever difficulties you’ve had are in the past – they don’t make you who you are. You have a blank slate and limited time. Go! Teleport yourself. LIVE!
Age bias is one of those sneaky things. However enlightened you think you may be, it has a way of coloring your perceptions. Especially at work.
If you’re in your twenties, how often have you pointed to a forty-something’s age a reason for their views or behaviors? They took a nap? Only drank one beer last night? Didn’t know about OAuth? Must be because they’re old.
The same thing happens in reverse. Older employees blame youth when a twenty-something is brash, error-prone, or makes hasty decisions. These young ones have lots to learn, they think.
There may be some truth to it, but generalizing is an easy trap to fall into. It also tends to dismiss people’s strengths because of perceived age-related weaknesses. I’ve seen this happen in all kinds of companies but startups are notorious for skewing young. It’s understandable because most founders are young and associate with others their age. They often want a young, energetic image for their company, kinda like a rock band. But they could be missing out on valuable experience that can guide them toward success.
Age is just a number to those who take good care of their mind, body, and spirit. Life hasn’t beaten them down or made them cynical as they’ve aged. Similarly, good younger workers don’t use their age as an excuse for mistakes or underperforming.
Hire for skills, energy, and experience where you need it. Filter out any age-related perceptions and get to the core of the person. Mindset and enthusiasm trump age every time.