After reading an excellent article, Dodge Discomfort, by Rebecca Fraser-Thill, it occurred to me that our role as mature workers is to mentor younger workers who are trying to find their way in life. This is a good thing because helping others is rewarding and right.
The hard cold fact is that unemployment is hitting the jobseeker at both ends of the spectrum; the young adults who are entering the workforce and the mature worker who is trying to stay in the game.
As a 49 year-old male, I vaguely remember the challenges of finding a job and keeping it, which admittedly I didn’t do that well. How many pizza delivery jobs I had escapes me. Stints as a car salesperson taught me a valuable lesson–I sucked at selling cars. I ventured into teaching but didn’t like instructing sex- and party-driven kids as much as adults who have more direction. I didn’t come into my own until I got a job as a marketing communications writer; and even then I was not content. As the saying goes, things happen for a reason.
So when I was laid off, I took the opportunity to explore other job possibility. Now I tell people in my Roadmap to Job Search Success workshop that losing my job in marketing was one of the hardest things I had to endure, but also the best thing to happen to me. There’s a quote from Alexandra Graham Bell I show my participants:
“When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
Mature workers have suffered the trials and tribulations, of which Rebecca speaks, many times over. We have second-guessed ourselves and turned to self-medication to deaden our anxieties. We don’t have to be told how it was for us; but it’s nice to be reminded by a psychologist like Rebecca.
It’s now our job–or purpose–to support the younger workers, some of whom are our children. It’s our job to tell them, “Wake up and stop complaining.” And when they tell us we don’t know what we’re talking about, we need to kick them in the ass by telling a little story about what life is about. Life is about real loss and trauma. It’s about losing parents and friends and, God forbid, children. It’s about losing a job or two.
While we’re here to remind them of what’s real, we’re also responsible for guiding them on a tough journey, the toughest we’ve experienced in decades. Mature workers must lead by example and show–not tell–younger workers that they can endure the tough times that will seem like hiccups in the road when they reach our age.
Finally, young adults need to experience discomfort, leave their comfort zone. The best people to ask about life in the workforce, and in general, are us, the mature worker. When Rebecca writes about disregarding what young workers’ parents say and follow their dreams, there should be a disclaimer that says, “Your parents know more than you think. Follow their advice now, or learn it later in life.”
We’re not as clueless as young workers might think.