I coached soccer in my early 20s. To say I was a good coach would be inaccurate. Looking back at those years, I cringe at some of my acts of behavior. I was a hothead. I knew how to teach the fundamentals and knew strategy, but I didn’t know how to act on the sidelines.
The games were all about me. Winning was paramount, and I took it out on my players if they didn’t play as well as I thought they should. I shouted at them when they didn’t make accurate passes, failed to score, played sloppy defense, and didn’t perform other skills that were fundamental to me.
Later in life, when I was in my 40s I coached my own children from their early stages through travel soccer. I can honestly say I rarely raised my voice during practice and games. Instead, I would shout words of encouragement. I realized then that criticizing my players didn’t motivate them; it demotivated them.
I think back to when my father coached me in baseball and how he rarely raised his voice, yet we won most of our games and some championships. He was a great coach because he outwitted other coaches who had more talented players. To him, the games were about his players, not him.
I’m telling you this because as I advanced in age, I matured. I’m also telling you this because one of the older worker’s traits is their maturity. Or you could call it diminished ego. You might mistake this for apathy; it’s the exact opposite. The older worker realizes that it’s not about them.
Are all older workers mature? No. There are some who never get to this point. I see it in the workplace, and I see it on the sidelines during a soccer game. But for the most part, the older worker strives for harmony.
Realize your value
If you think all companies are fast paced and strive for a young workplace, you’re mistaken. There are companies that value the maturity that workers who are 50 and older.
I hear from many employers who are struggling with young employees showing up late or calling in sick multiple times. This is a sign of immaturity. Are all young workers immature? No. The mature younger worker is the exception rather than the rule according to the norm.
The older worker was younger once and burned the candle at both ends. They took work for granted; I know I did. I didn’t understand the importance of dependability and possessing a strong work ethic, all traits the older worker demonstrates. And I learned eventually how to work more effectively.
Maturity comes from seeing the organization from the the owner’s point of view. This is similar to when I coached my own kids in soccer; I realized that yelling wasn’t going to motivate them. Later in life, I saw it when my father coached me. He and I let our egos wan.
Another reason why the older worker demonstrates maturity is that they have lost in the past. Loss of friends and family members have been traumatic, but it has made them stronger and taught them not to sweat the small stuff. Further, it has made them better problem solvers.
In the interview
This is where the older worker struggles the most in their job search. They don’t struggle because they are unprepared or lack knowledge; they struggle because of ageism and their attitude. One of these barriers can’t be overcome but one of them can.
The one barrier that can be overcome is not seeing a younger interviewer as someone who sees you as ancient. If you go to the interview with this mentality, the battle is lost. You must enter the interview with the attitude that you will provide maturity to the workplace and, therefore, value.
Mention your maturity in the course of the interviews. Tell the interviewers that you’re going to deliver dependability along with the vast relevant work experience you possess.
Empathize with the interviewer, acknowledging how you’ve seen how a lack of dependability can hurt a team’s performance. If you were the silent leader of a team, make this clear. With maturity comes the realization that you don’t have to be the proclaimed leader, as a title means less to you than the need to provide leadership.
Also make it abundantly clear that you’re not there to run the show. Younger interviewers often fear that older workers won’t follow their instructions. Instead of acting as though you are more knowledgeable than the interviewers, demonstrate how you will work in unison with the team.
Come across as a problem solver. As mentioned earlier, it is one of the older worker’s skills. Life is similar to work in that you have to handle what comes your way. Do you crumple when a project goes wrong? No, you tell those around you that you need to get back to work and correct the situation.
Finally, show self-awareness in your answers. All too often I hear and see people dance around difficult questions instead of taking them head on. The older worker understands that mistakes are made and is accountable for them. You must be accountable for your mistakes, showing what you’ve learned from them.
Older workers have a challenge to overcome in their job search. They face ageism at certain times. There are stereotypes employers have of them, one of which is the belief that older workers can’t work with younger ones. Being mature doesn’t mean you can’t work with younger workers; it means you understand the importance of working together.