The movie "The Internship" made all of us laugh as a couple of older guys, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, try to make it at Google. What made each of us laugh was, however, different. Folks starting their careers laughed at the actors' obvious missteps that any 20- or 30-something would know not to do.
For the 40- and 50-somethings the movie highlighted the challenge of fitting into a world that operates under different rules. Under the humor lies the dark reality of the struggle facing a large percentage of 50-somethings. While much has been written about ageism in the workplace and its wide-spread yet silent prevalence in the technology sector, very little of their actual voices have been shared.
I asked a group of 50-somethings what one thing they'd like to say to a 20- and 30-something hiring manager:
I'm not a loser because I'm looking for a job -- I recognize that you're at the beginning of your life and career. I'm not interested in big fancy titles or your job, you can have those for I've been there and done that. Your aspirations are different; mine have changed over time and as a result of life. I'm focused on contributing in meaningful ways on things that matter to me personally. I might need the job because I'm paying for my kids' tuition or my parents' assisted living. I might want a job because the thought of driving around in a RV for the rest of my life fly-fishing scares the crap out of me, whatever the reason it's none of your business. Look at my skills with an open mind on how I can contribute to you success.
I'm not out-of-date -- just because I wear my jeans on my waist instead of around my knees doesn't mean I'm not hip. Chances are I've got more Twitter followers than you and we share the same technology obsessions. You can beat me at video games, extreme multi-tasking and snowboarding. My experience might look different than yours, each of us adds value in our own way but together we make a strong team.
I'm not slow or lack passion -- Chances are I've seen the problem you're all excited about a heck of a lot more times than you have. That's the experience I bring to the table, the knowledge to know when something is a real crisis and when it is not. I've probably developed five to ten different successful outcomes for the problem you're tasked with solving. I can make you more successful by leveraging my expertise to achieve a better outcome.
I'm not old -- sure I sag in places where Kate Upton doesn't but she, and you, will too in time. Age is a number that doesn't reflect the fire in my soul. If you look carefully you'll see it in my eyes, hear it in my voice, and see it in my step. I've seen more of the world than you have and as a result I approach things a differently. My wisdom is here for you to tap into if you can stop stereotyping and see the real me.
I'm not stupid -- I get that for you anything is possible. I've been there on top of the world, beating out the next guy. Don't assume for one second that I have no experience at the politics you're playing at work, agile engineering, growth-hacking, or that I don't know how you talk about me to your bros and peeps. I say 'please' and 'thank you' because it is a sign of respect. I will call you to talk through an issue instead of going dark because I've learned it's a faster, more productive way to reach a win-win conclusion. Your behavior reflects more on who you are than it does on me; it takes a lifetime to learn that lesson.
I'm not your mother or father -- so don't compare me to them. I have my own life and children. I'm interested in pursuing my interests, contributing meaningfully to my career, and being part of a team. I'm not interested in judging the decisions you make, what you do on your own time or in mentoring you; chances are I've done all those things (and then some) already. I'm all about impact, seeing results from my efforts and making a difference. See past my long resume and open your mind to how I can be your secret weapon.
Don't be afraid -- I'm not going to want to hang with you, go drinking (unless it's well-aged wine), shopping, share selfies or ask if you want to go to a concert. I'm not interested in hearing about your weekend escapades, sharing Soundcloud songs or following you on Snapchat, Pinterest or Instagram. I am interested in your business model, how you plan to drive growth, and what you need to achieve those objectives.
I want you to teach me your world -- my experience can help you work smarter and be more successful by leveraging lessons that have already been pondered and experimented countless number of times. I know that I don't know everything, neither do you. I expect you to teach me and inspire me by showing me how to see today's world through your eyes. Together we can achieve something magical.
It's a very fair trade. I help you be more successful faster, you help me contribute to achieving my life's aspirations. Why not take another look at the magic awaiting you in that 50-something resume sitting in your inbox
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