This month, two economists presented a working paper that offers statistical proof for the existence of the midlife crisis. In a survey of 1.3 million people across 51 countries, the researchers found that people report a measurable decline in happiness, starting in their 30s and continuing until around age 50, when they started to feel satisfied with their lives again.
“We’re seeing this U-shape, this psychological dip, over and over again. There is definitely a midlife low,” said Andrew Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick and co-author of the study.
There’s just one problem: Psychologists say the midlife crisis doesn’t exist.
“I had a little tussle with Oswald about this a year or two ago,” said Susan Krauss Whitborne, a professor of psychology and brain science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and just one of several psychologists who hold this view. “I’ve been doing research for pretty much my whole career on adult development, and I’ve never found age linked definitively to anything psychological about a person. You can call it a midlife crisis. A quarter-life crisis. But whatever’s going on with you personally, you can’t blame it on age.”
“I don’t know why some psychologists say it doesn’t exist,” said Oswald’s co-author, David Blanchflower, an economics professor at Dartmouth College. “It’s blindingly obvious. All we did was plot the data points.”
The day after Kaye Lenox left her job as president and CEO of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation in 2012, she embarked on the sort of retirement journey people dream about. After 14 years at the helm of the nonprofit foundation, Lenox headed north to Canada for a tour of the country’s historic hotels.
It was a memorable trip and Lenox, long an avid world traveler, followed it up with a journey to Seoul, South Korea, to visit her son. Though she was at an age where a retirement devoted exclusively to travel and cultivating her deep interest in art would have made perfect sense, Lenox didn’t stay away from the working world long. A lunch invitation from the Las Casas Foundation quickly led to a job offer to become part-time CEO of the nonprofit, which provides college scholarships and opportunities for local youth to learn about the performing arts.
Lenox concedes that it didn’t require a major sales job to convince her to end her brief retirement. “The thread through my careers is a belief in kids and education,” says Lenox, who spent 18 years as director of special education for Northside Independent School District and was founding board president of the San Antonio Children’s Museum before taking over at the Library Foundation, which raises funds and awareness to support the city’s public libraries. “If it has to do with kids getting better and more education, you can talk me into it.”
In the three years since joining Las Casas, Lenox has overseen a near doubling of the amount of money awarded each year in student scholarships and also spearheaded the growth of Camp Broadway, a summer program that gives local students the opportunity to receive 40 hours of training from Broadway professionals. When she’s not fundraising, cultivating her staff or participating in strategic planning for Las Casas, Lenox still finds time for travelling, often overseas. “We made the agreement I would work half time, and half time being defined as 24/7 when I’m in town,” she says. “But when I want to leave, they take me to the airport with a smile on my face.”
After Andrea Rodriguez lost her job last fall, she put away her suits. Not because she didn’t plan to keep working—she just had to seem younger. She’d been a successful sales trainer at SugarCRM, a Cupertino, Calif., company that pitches marketing and customer service software to businesses. Suddenly she was looking for a job in Silicon Valley, and she was over 50. Early in her search, she recalls, one hiring manager told her, “We have a very diverse age group—some people are right out of college, and one older group is as old as 48.” Gulp.
So as Rodriguez chased more interviews, dresses with brightly colored sweaters or jackets over skirts replaced her five suits. She started regularly scanning Reddit, Yelp, IMDb, and MSNBC, checking words she didn’t know on Urban Dictionary, so she could talk about superhero movies, the Golden State Warriors, and the Kardashians. She collected 500 connections on LinkedIn, got herself on Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat, and started a blog. A hiring manager at Aruba, a wireless equipment maker owned by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, read the blog, and after five months without a paycheck, Rodriguez got another sales training job.
In an effort to keep her twenty- and thirty-something colleagues thinking of her as an older sister rather than a mom, she goes out of her way to socialize in the break room or at company events. That’s where Reddit and IMDb come in handy. “If you bring up Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, all conversation will stop,” she says. “You’ll be viewed as an outsider.”
More and more studies are being released that reveal the challenges women face in the office, compared to men, extend well beyond pay differences. Whether it’s a man benefiting from small talk more than a woman, setting the office temperature based on an average male comfort level, or female leaders being perceived negatively when taking the same actions as a male leader, it’s clear we have a long way to go to better gender equality at work. “Explicit gender bias has largely disappeared from the workplace due to tougher legislation and increased focus on diversity issues,” stated Megan Gerhardt, Professor of Management & Leadership at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business. “However, challenges still remain; ones that take a different shape and form from those encountered by prior generations of women.” While the office temperature may be of less importance than the perception surrounding female leadership, there are serious challenges that young female employees face uniquely because they are women. The challenges millennial women attest to extend far beyond their paycheck. Women have made enormous strides towards equality, but subtle biases still remain. (Credit: Pexels.com). Do Women Need To Work Harder Than Men For Recognition? Women often comment that they have to put more effort into their work than their male peers in order to earn recognition and praise. Perceptions are strong and lead to women overworking themselves just for a thumbs up.
A potential class action lawsuit that claims Google discriminated against people over 40 is one step closer to becoming a reality. A motion for conditional certification of collective action status was filed in a San Jose federal court Wednesday, which could open up a suit to anyone over 40 who feels they had been discriminated against by the tech company and not hired because of his or her age, reports Fox News. The suit would include ‘all individuals who interviewed in-person for any software engineer, site reliability engineer, or systems engineer position with Google in the United States in the time period from August 13, 2010 through the present; were age 40 or older at the time of interview; and were refused employment by Google.’ +4 A lawsuit filed last year against Google for age discrimination may turn into a larger class action suit This suit was begun last year by Robert Heath, who alleged that the tech giant ‘engaged in a systematic pattern and practice of discriminating against individuals (including Mr. Heath) who are age 40 and older in hiring, compensation, and other employment decisions.’ Heath applied for a job in 2011, when he was 60, and was denied employment even though he said he was perfectly qualified for the software engineering position and was deemed ‘a great candidate’ by a recruiter. Programmer Cheryl Fillekes is also part of that suit. She says she was interviewed on four occasions by Google for different positions, and wasn’t hired by any of them – she blames that on the fact that she was in her 50s.
Age stereotypes can strongly affect people’s choices about who to hire, according to new research published in the Journal of Social Issues. The University of Kent study found that between two equally qualified job applicants, the one who displays stereotypically “young” characteristics is more likely to be hired than the one with stereotypically “old” characteristics. The young stereotype was described as a candidate “good at using IT, creative and quick to learn new skills.” The older stereotype candidate was “good at understanding others’ views, settling arguments, and being careful.” In a series of experiments, the research team led by psychology Professor Dominic Abrams asked people to imagine they were running a firm and then to select the candidate who would help them make the most money. The study participants were told about the candidates’ skills, but not given their ages. More than 70 percent of the participants favored the “young” profile job applicant. The findings show that people’s unacknowledged assumptions about age and age-related capability can affect the way they view someone’s employability. If these assumptions affect employers’ judgements, it has serious implications for the fair chances of older workers to gain employment in new roles or workplaces, the authors said in a press release. The study’s conclusions probably wouldn’t surprise many older job seekers. A series of AARP studies found that older employees were perceived as being unwilling to adapt to technology, resistant to new ways, and inflexible. In addition, older workers who have lost a job remain unemployed longer than any other age group. A 2015 AARP study found that half of the people ages 45 to 70 who lost their jobs in the previous five years were still not working. Among those who had found jobs, nearly half said they were earning less than in their previous jobs. Ageism in hiring has been in the spotlight most notably in the tech industry, which is dominated by younger people.
Resources from Encore.org Visit our Encore Network page to learn about organizations offering people age 50+ new ways to connect work and contribute for the greater good. Visit our Research and Publications page for guides and papers providing ideas for people seeking encores in areas such as healthcare, education and the environment. Encore Fellowships Network offers paid, time-limited fellowships that match skilled, experienced professionals with social-purpose organizations in high-impact assignments. Visit our Financial Inclusion Resource page to learn about financial inclusion and how to get involved. Give your time and/or your skills AARP Experience Corps is a national leader in engaging older adult tutors to improve K-3 student literacy in disadvantaged schools. Catch-a-Fire provides talented individuals with meaningful pro bono experiences in order to build capacity for social good organizations Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that helps more than 5 million Americans improve the lives of their fellow citizens through service. Executive Service Corps is a national network of organizations that provide consulting, coaching, facilitation and other services to strengthen nonprofits, schools and government organizations. HandsOn Network AARP inspires, equips and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world. Idealist.org’s mission is to close the gap between intention and action by connecting people, organizations, ideas, and resources. Jumpstart is a national early education organization that recruits and trains college students and community corps members to serve preschool children in low-income neighborhoods. ReServe is an innovative resource that matches continuing professionals 55+ with the nonprofits that need them. Taproot Foundation is a nonprofit organization that makes business talent available to organizations working to improve society. Third Sector New England (interim executive director roles) builds the leadership and effectiveness of individuals, groups, and nonprofits to support a more just and democratic society. Volunteer Match brings good people and good causes together.
If you are in a leadership role, then be the boss, not a friend. Nevertheless, one of the things that separate a great manager from a good manager is the manager’s ability to be cordial and friendly with the members of his or her team. Drawing the line between cordiality and friendship can be difficult, but here we discuss some of the reasons why it is best not to be friends with your employees, and why it’s best to keep your relationship on a professional level. It’s in Our Nature Humans are social creatures – it’s ingrained in our nature. However, we all gravitate more toward some people than to others. Being amicable with your team is a great way to encourage communication and to motivate, but if you start to approach them as friends, you will naturally be closer to some more than others. The “others” will inevitable question your decisions and perhaps accuse you of favoritism. In fact, some managers do tend to give their closer “friends” more benefits, so the accusation of favoritism might not be far off. If you refrain from being friends with your employees, your decisions will be centered on performance; favoritism will be a baseless accusation. What’s more, attempts to become friends with your employees can come across as insincere precisely because certain individuals may not be the sort of person with whom you would normally be on friendly terms. You may mean well and you may be trying to be friendly with these people to avoid signs of favoritism, but at the end of the day, we know when others are genuinely interested in getting to know us. Coming across as insincere can undermine your authority and respect; that will make it difficult for you to do your job, let alone make sure your team members are doing theirs. Professional Responsibility Trumps Personal Relationships The boss/employee and friend/friend relationships are very different in their essence. Friends are equals, while the boss is by definition the superior. You may think that you can get more out of your team if they are also friends, but remember that ultimately you are in a leadership role and are responsible for all decisions. Where friends can disagree and choose not to go the same route, as management you need to be able to discipline your employees— something that is exceedingly difficult if they are also your friends.
Guess what? Older workers get jobs. It might take a little more time for a myriad of reasons from your salary demands to your own lack of imagination about the kind of work you’re applying for, but employers really aren’t out to shun workers over 50.
They do want grown-ups in the shop. We tend to be loyal, even-keeled, reliable. We bring intangibles to the workplace from experience to a vast network of connections. These are not something the whippersnapper cohort can even dream to do at this stage in their lives.
Sure there are all the niggling concerns many employers have, even if they don’t verbalize them, like you aren’t going to play well with younger workers (or bosses). You will only want to do things the way you have done them in the past. You’re a Luddite when it comes to technology. And shockingly, probably to you anyway, that you don’t have the grit anymore to really bring the energy and enthusiasm to the job.
And, let’s be honest, for some of you, they’re spot on. But I have realized from interviewing and counseling dozens upon dozens of jobseekers who are over 50 trying to find work in a variety of fields that the reason you don’t get tapped is because you are guilty of making core mistakes. I doubt any of these no-nos will startle you, but they are all, and I mean it, all worth remembering.
Here are my top 11 mistakes that over 50 job seekers who successfully find great jobs don’t make.
I just turned 40 a few months ago. If I was job searching today, some places wouldn’t think twice about rejecting me for being too old. And you know what? I don’t mind. Every company, every team, is entitled to hire whoever they think will be the best fit. As a job seeker, it’s up to you to research companies and teams upfront, before you apply, so you can estimate if you’ll be a good fit. As an older job seeker – 35+, 45+ or even 65+ – it’s up to you to research companies and teams upfront, before you apply, to see if they have a history of hiring older workers so you can better estimate if you’ll be a good fit. Here are 40 tips to help you along the way. Free bonus: The Midlife Job Search Report is a handy guide I compiled for older job seekers. Download it now. 1. Choose a direction Start by deciding what you want to do next. Emily Allen, manager of the Workforce Initiative Program at AARP: for older workers, it’s often “the first time in life that they can consider what they want to do rather than what they need to do.” (via CareerJournal.com) 2. Get a forward-facing resume Midlife job seekers need a resume that looks forward, not backward. To quote from the article- “a résumé shouldn’t read like the testimonial at your retirement dinner.” Rather- “Change the perspective from “look at everything I have done,” to “look at everything I can do for you.”” (via Forbes.com) 3. Be proud of yourself Don’t be defensive and don’t omit dates. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, so be proud of what you’ve accomplished along the way and be even more enthusiastic about what you have yet to accomplish.
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