How do you know when it’s time to move on?

I was reading a message on the Sun Alumni Association mailing list from a 47-year-old executive who is looking for work. He was asking for advice about a strategy to enlist recruiters to help him find employment.

His idea might have worked some years ago when recruiters were calling almost every time you switched jobs, if you were a prime candidate with current experience and a competitive salary level. I don’t think that is a workable strategy for the older employee.

Too many years have passed since then and the employment situation has changed, perhaps forever. Too many experienced executives have been offloaded, too many jobs have been outsourced, and there are attractive young candidates with the passion and fire of inexperience who are eager to drink the corporate Kool-Aid and carry the corporate banner where none has gone before.

Older employees (anyone over 35) need to take a hard look at the opportunities that are still open to them and make plans that will provide them with some long-term security. If you fall in the category of the over-35 employee, you might want to get your head out of that pile of reports you are working on and take this simple test.

Take a hard look at how many people above you on the corporate ladder are older than you are. If they are older than you are, who is gunning for their position and how old are they?

You may find, if you care to take a look, that you are older than most of the people you are working for. What does that say about your potential for advancement? What do you think it means in terms of just keeping the job you have now?

You can rail about the unfairness of age discrimination or read my favorite "elder" blogger, Ronni Bennet , but somewhere along the line, you will realize that the job competition is won by those who are driven to succeed and are prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to keep the job at all costs.

What if you want a life? What if you want a job that is ennobling and satisfying? What if you just want a job where you are proud of what you are doing?

Maybe you will have to go out and find one – or better yet, create one!

Don’t be surprised if it means that you will have to make some changes in your own expectations and in your attitude toward life.

The solution to a changing workplace is not clamoring for entitlement. We have already seen where that leads. I think that a changing workplace can be dealt with by becoming a solution, not a problem.

I dealt with some of this in Danger Quicksand – Have A Nice Day,
but there is so much more that needs to be done that I am getting back in
the saddle and will resume work on the next book, which has the working
title Who’s In Charge?

I think that we all have to move on, if we expect to find gainful employment in the coming decade. I don’t think we will see the deconstruction of corporate America, but I think it’s a brand-new game and we will need to keep our wits together.

Any thoughts on what the next five years hold for corporate employees?


This entry was posted in Possibly Helpful Advice, The Changing Workplace. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to How do you know when it’s time to move on?

  1. Thanks for the link, David. The majority of corporate America is making no plans yet for the coming worker shortage that will begin in earnest when baby boomers reach 62 in two years and become eligible for early Social Security. Historically, more than half of the workers in the U.S. take early retirement.

    There are many good solutions for older workers – only one of which is climbing down off the competition ladder – that benefit both workers and employers, but not many are being entertained by corporate America.

    The vast majority of the few who advise older workers warn that elders must take lower salaries to remain in the workforce. I’ll take that advice seriously when the obscene salaries of CEOs and other top executives (in the tens of millions of dollars annually), and who are often in their 70s and 80s, cut their salaries.

    But my greater point is that even with a looming worker shortage and with elders living much longer and healthier lives, age discrimination in the workplace has never been more alive and kicking than it is now.

  2. Carl says:

    Hot tamale sauce in my morning coffee again. Your searing insights are needed as they cut through the veils and make us see things as they are. Looking forward to your Who’s in Charge work.

  3. Ric says:

    The view northward up the corporate is pretty much guys 15 years younger … is that alarm bells I hear? Time to re-read (again) ‘Danger Quicksand’!

  4. so says:

    I’m a middle manager in a telecom company. Over the past 3 years, we have been down-sized, right-sized, re-organized and merged. For each of these, there were RIFs, some small, some significant. At one point, we could expect a RIF on the last Thursday of the quarter.

    Interestingly, they “talk” about keeping the experienced workers, however the “walk” is to get rid of the higher paid, longer tenure employees. The severance is larger, but their calculations must determine that it is better in the long run. Their calculations do not appear to consider the loss of brain trust. Even though technology is constantly changing, the experience and maturity loss is difficult to recreate in a timely manner.

    I read somewhere that WallStreet was trying to determine how to measure and include loss of brain trust when evaluating corporations’ health. Based on the continued use of RIFs to improve bottom line, that was someone’s pipe dream.

    I’m not at retirement age, but I will be having a job anniversary soon – 25 years. However, our new corporation no longer recognizes service anniversaries. Instead, they leave it up to your immediate management to recognize the time. This is another example of the corporation not “walking the talk” in appreciating experience.

  5. jimmmaaa says:

    I am 38…I didn’t really think of myself as an “older worker” before….what about that fact that the Baby Boomers are aging….won’t that change things in the work place and have attitudes change as more people want to work longer? Just curious about opinions on this. I have not experienced age discrimination yet….

    I enjoy your blog immensely….you have a such a range of topics you address…..Keep ’em coming!

  6. Marti says:

    It’s a shame that “elders” aren’t revered in our culture. So much experience, so much to offer.

  7. Marti,

    I’m going to take a contrary tack here. I think elders are revered when they act in a way to earn respect and reverence.

    I know some elders who are revered because they are special people. I know a lot more who are still living in some past position of authority and they generally come off as pompous asses.

    Unfortunately, in a large corporation older employees do not always get the opportunity to show what they have to offer because they work for people who are quite frankly afraid of them.

    These “threatened” managers go out of their way to establish dominance over elder employees. We are talking about a small percentage of managers, perhaps 20%, but they can make an older employee feel like the entire workplace is against them.

    When working for an enlightened manager, an older and experienced employee can make major contributions and be recognized for their wisdom and good sense.

    When an elder employee tries to play the “entitlement” card because of their long and faithful service, they will only succeed if they actually are providing superior service.

    I have seen situations where the faithful old employee was basically barely able to keep up with the requirements of the job.

    Enlightened management can demote the person to a job that they can still do satisfactorily. Too often the manager does not have a lower level position to offer and the employee does not care to be demoted.

    When older employees provide a service that is recognized as superior by management, they usually get rewarded appropriately.

    Getting a manager to look at what you do instead of what you look like is the biggest challenge. Some managers are unable to recognize performance because of their age or gender biases.

  8. Jack Yan says:

    Gosh, that’s scary to see that 35 is a possible age when one steps into another career zone. I never considered it.

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