We Can Still Draw on the Experience of the Prior Generation
Today there continues to be a shift to establishing a younger work force. The unemployment numbers of those over 50 years of age is staggering. Many are being forced into an early retirement, or encouraged to go on some form of disability. Employers continue to look to a younger generation for tech savvy skills and innovative ideas. The reliability of older workers seems insignificant as health care premiums and bottom line costs continue to encourage employers to seek for younger versions of their employee base.
A few stereotypes follow the older worker. Some are valid. Others are not. The assumption that older workers are out of tune and technically illiterate is considerably off target. I find it amusing when I find myself having to define terms to those who are supposed to have a technical edge. There is also the idea older workers are complacent. This may be true of some, but not all. A large majority of mature workers have had to constantly upgrade their skills, and have succeeded by doing so.
Another assumption is educational illiteracy. It is always good to remember Henry Ford was not a well educated man. But, he was smart enough to surround himself with those who were. The previous generation did not always have the privilege of attending college. Yet an absence of a four year degree on a resume can be a death blow to a resume. The reality is that standards are inappropriately assessed in society by ideals based in present-ism. The culture 20 years ago was different from today. The ability to support oneself and climb a career ladder through faithfulness and diligence was held in high esteem. Personally, I am more impressed with someone possessing a twenty year track record of success in life and work, than possibly an individual who squeezed four years of college into six years. Do not mistake my assessment as a belittling of college education. It is very important to acquire as much knowledge as possible in our competitive society. But, my question today is are we over valuing knowledge and placing a misguided lower value on wisdom? I ask this question in earnest. As an older member of the workforce, I am a little biased I must admit. But, what I have observed is our country is placing all its trust in knowledge, and discounting a generation of older workers who have acquired through experience a wealth of wisdom.
One of my favorite stories on this topic goes something like this….
“In a lumber town in the northeast, a young man set forth to establish himself as the greatest lumberjack in the state. He entered a contest of felling trees with an ax to prove himself. He advanced to the final round, only to find himself facing a much older lumberjack who seemed worn and withered. Amused that his opponent made it so far, he thought the final match should be an easy task. So away they went dropping huge trees at a steady pace. The young lumberjack noticed his older opponent stopped frequently to sit down and seemingly rest. This will be a piece of cake he thought. The geezer just can’t take it. Finally, the day was over. When the tally was told the older lumberjack had won by a significant margin. Absolutely shocked, the young man approached the older lumber jack and charged, “That must be wrong. There is no way you won. I didn’t take a break all day. Yet, every hour you took a five minute break.”
The older lumberjack smiled as he replied, “Son you thought I was taking a break. I stopped every hour to sit down and sharpen my ax.”
There is still a large contribution to be made by those whose wisdom is being overlooked. Consider the lumberjack next time you review a resume or choose a vendor. You may be surprised just like the young lumberjack at the results.
– written by James Anderson
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