CP Opinion

Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014

Older Workers: Overqualified, Over-the-Hill or Overflowing With Assets?

August 20, 2012|11:27 am

When it comes to employment, some people take an extraordinary path. At an age when many enter retirement and slow down, this unknown entrepreneur chooses to launch a new business venture. For 10 years, he had been running a small restaurant, but he now feels the time is right to expand it into a franchising operation.

From the age of 65 until he reaches 75, Colonel Harland Sanders oversees the growth of his Kentucky Fried Chicken – from one restaurant in a small Kentucky town, to over 600 restaurants across the United States and Canada.1 Col. Sanders doesn't allow his advanced age to hold him back. On the contrary, experience, hard work and vision propel him to sizzling success.

The workplace can be intimidating if you are a "more experienced" worker who is not yet ready for retirement – especially if you are looking for a new job or moving into a different career field. Many older workers fear they will not be hired because of their age. They assume they'll be viewed as "old work horses put out to pasture." Yet the Bible says, "He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age" (Ruth 4:15 NIV).

Therefore, consider the advantages of older employees:

• Greatest creativity and productivity between ages 40 and 65
• Lower rates of absenteeism
• Less inclined to change jobs
• More experience at problem solving
• More wisdom gained through past mistakes
• More accepting of themselves and others
• More willing to invest time in helping others
• More awareness of the organization's history
• More loyalty to the organization's ideals

Job 12:12 (NIV) presents this impressive endorsement, "Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?"

Granted, some employers are hesitant to hire older applicants for a variety of reasons. Yet it's unlikely that the stated reason you're turned down for an interview or a job would be your age since age-based discrimination is illegal. However, if you are told that you are "overqualified" for a job, and you suspect your age may be influencing the hiring manager's perspective, carefully consider the position of the interviewer: Could you be perceived as more of a threat to your prospective boss than an asset?

To help counter an employer's age-related concerns, realistically appraise your work experience and the unique qualities and skills you can offer an employer. Then, with a spirit of humility, draw the interviewer's attention to the positive aspects of your personal and professional development.

The aging process is one in which we all have the opportunity to keep maturing … not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. If the term "overqualified" is used, diplomatically ask the interviewer to expand on the exact nature of the concern to help you better understand.

Respectfully point out positive characteristics that you plan to bring to the job because of your qualifications and experience (for example, integrity, strong work ethic and being a positive team player). You could even serve as a mentor for younger colleagues. Many employers have been "bitten" at work by the proverbial "snake in the grass" and therefore would feel a sense of relief in hiring an employee with a proven track record of trustworthiness.

A negative bias against you may not be spoken aloud, but that does not mean you should ignore the possibility that it exists. As an older applicant, if you sense unspoken assumptions could be working against you, be proactive to counter those negative assumptions with positive answers:

NEGATIVE ASSUMPTION
• "We can't afford you. You'll cost us more than someone younger."

 POSITIVE ANSWER
• "I believe I can save the company money because of my experience and work ethic."

NEGATIVE ASSUMPTION
• "Older people are set in their patterns of relating."  

POSITIVE ANSWER
 • "Studies show that older employees tend to be better team players."

NEGATIVE ASSUMPTION
• "You will abandon the job if a better opportunity is offered."            

POSITIVE ANSWER
 • "Older employees don't change jobs as often as younger ones. My job history will show I am
no exception." 

NEGATIVE ASSUMPTION
• "You won't have much in common with the younger workers."        

POSITIVE ANSWER
 • "Seasoned workers are a wise point of reference for younger workers. A diverse workforce is best able to meet the challenges faced by today's businesses." 

Proverbs 16:21 (NIV) clearly states, "The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction."

After trying more than a dozen vocations, including gas station attendant and failed political candidate , Colonel Sanders found his stride in his golden years. Even after selling his share of Kentucky Fried Chicken, he continued working hard to promote the company he founded. Up until the age of 90, he traveled over 250,000 miles a year visiting KFC restaurants and expanding the brand that was inseparable from his distinctive appearance – white beard and all.

Just when many of his peers were starting to travel back and forth in a rocking chair – going nowhere – the Colonel was just getting started. Well, the truth is … so can you!

1. For Colonel Sander's story see "Colonel Harland Sanders" (n.p.: KFC Corporation, 2011), http://www.colonelsanders.com/bio.asp.yes 

June Hunt, counselor, author, radio host and founder of the worldwide ministry Hope For The Heart, offers a biblical perspective while coaching people through some of life's most difficult problems. June is the author of How to Forgive . . . When You Don't Feel Like It, © 2007 Harvest House Publishers. Learn more about June and Hope for the Heart by visiting hopefortheheart.org/CP. Here you can connect with June on Facebook and Twitter, listen to her radio broadcasts, or find much-needed resources.Hope for the Heart provides spiritual guidance, heartfelt prayer, multi-media resources, and biblical wise-counseling. Call 1-800-488-HOPE (4673) to visit with a Hope Care Representative, 7:30 a.m. until 1:30 a.m. (CST).
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