7 Ways to Stay Relevant in the Workforce

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 2, 2013

The Aged Must Adapt

You're over 50. You're entitled to feel that you've proven yourself by now, and your current employer seems to agree. But you see the cubicles filling up with 20- and 30-somethings, and you wonder: what do they bring to the workplace that I don't? How does my manager compare the two of us? Face it: sometimes they are the managers!

How can you make sure everyone concerned -- you, your younger co-workers, and your employer -- benefits from the situation in which you find yourself? Fortunately, some of those managers are happy to talk about their older workers, and the workers themselves are often willing to share what's kept them afloat.

Adecco, one of the world’s largest staffing firms, recently completed a survey of hiring managers which made some interesting findings about the perception of older workers in the workplace. The good news: Hiring managers are three times as likely to hire a mature worker (age 50 and above) as they are to hire a Millennial (age 22 to 31). They also associate mature workers with being reliable and professional while they see Millennial workers as creative and strong networkers. Adecco's other findings confirm this set of tips we've pulled together for you.

7. Embrace technology

No matter what you think of those social-media sites, the fact is there's a lot of commerce flocking to them.

Ask a younger relative for a quick tutorial, and then make it your job to do some experimenting. Then ask some more questions. No one expects you to start tweeting several times a day, but you should stick around online long enough to get a real feel for the dynamics, and to ask yourself (before someone at work does) how a given platform is being used by an employer like yours to increase revenues or exposure.

Make it obvious that you're comfortable with these new tools -- text your boss the next time you're going to be late for a meeting.

6. Be Flexible

Your years of experience are an asset -- don't let them become an anchor when new strategies or procedures arise.

Because you're older, your co-workers may expect you to resist new ways of doing things, and to advocate for "the way it's always been done." Surprise them by pointing out some real advantages to the new idea. Let someone else take the negative side. The company's not going to rise or fall because of a couple of water-cooler conferences. Enjoy being the optimist in the discussion.

5. Stay in Touch

As Jane Howze of MSNBC says, "Many people who did not grow up with mobile devices are not in the habit of being available 24/7. And while being addicted to your BlackBerry or iPhone has its own drawbacks, you need to adapt to today's business world where people check their devices after normal business hours. You can't force the world to slow down by simply refusing to be available, because your competitors will be available and your colleagues will move on without you."

4. Work on Your Pitch

Workers of all ages consistently need help dressing appropriately for the job interview, and Addeco found the younger generation often shoot themselves in the foot by not asking questions that indicate an interest in the company.

The mature workers' biggest flaw?  “Being unable to sell themselves.”

3. Remain Open to Suggestion

Terri Ghio of The Style Movement in Long Beach, CA, is an over-50 executive who surrounds herself "with bright young people. I always ask their opinions and share with them how things have transitioned. They pick up things from me and adapt them to fit their own perspectives. Being open and engaging is the most important."

One thing to watch: "Be careful when giving direction to younger folks. They are out of the house and do not want to feel it is their parents ordering them around again."

2. Stay in Shape

Jogging, tennis, hitting the gym a few times a week -- you know it makes you feel better. But it also enhances your presence at work. And if you're limping around the office for a few days, no one will hold it against you if you pulled something working out with the company soccer team.

1. Always Listen

Jane Howze asks, "Have you ever noticed that as people get older, they listen less and talk more? Don't let this be you. As you listen, see what you can learn from the younger generation. If you are too old to learn, you are too old -- too old to work and too old to contribute."

Some Things Change, But You Should Always Negotiate

Being able to adapt in order to continue thriving in your job is great. But at some point you'll have to negotiate either your starting salary or a raise, and that's where Salary.com can help.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.