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Strategies to Leverage Experience

Strategies to Leverage Experience

By Michael Kimmel, Courtesy of Just for Men

They’re younger and hungrier than you are and willing to accept lower pay and fewer responsibilities to start out. They’re today’s young entrants into the job market -- members of Generation Y. They’re eager to get a foot in the door.

And there you are, a decade older, a step or two slower on the basketball court, with a little less hair -- and gray at that! How can you compete with these young rising stars?

Don’t try to play one-on-one with them. Be their coach. Or maybe a player-coach. If you think your age is a liability, you need to turn yourself around. Your experience is an asset. You’ve got years of experience these young guys lack. Use it. And if you use it to help them, you’ll be indispensable. You’ll demonstrate that you have the experience employers need, the energy and relevance they want and the drive to keep the company moving toward success.

Know Your Competition

Good coaches know their players. Experts tell us that this next generation of workers has the following characteristics, more so than any generation of workers in history:

  • more independent and demanding than previous generations, expecting more from their jobs than a paycheck 
  • likely to expect more freedom and autonomy 
  • more media-savvy 
  • more family-focused 
  • more self-centered 
  • less likely to be team players.

Think of it this way: Gen Y job entrants came of age in a baseball era where free agency dominates. They have far less loyalty to a particular team’s roster, because they know it will change every season. When they hear "Wait ’til next year!" they assume it means because their team will shop around for the best players for next season -- not because the same cast will be back for another run at the pennant.

They’re less loyal to the company, and they’re far more likely to move or change jobs than older employees.

Stay in the Game

You need to leverage your hard-earned experience and encourage your managers, employers and supervisors to value it. You can enable them to see you as experienced and wise, not old and in the way.

It’s a matter of perception. You need to appear young-ish -- with an emphasis on the “ish.” Don’t suddenly layer on contemporary lingo or drop the names of rappers who drive you nuts when your kids play them in the house. Any good supervisor can smell out a poseur in a flash.

On the other hand, you have to know what they know -- and then some. Experience and team play are value-added elements. They enhance your other assets.

For example, you may need a crash course in contemporary gadgetry, but you have to know about twittering and other apps for phones and computers. On the other hand, it’s equally prudent not to be so down with the latest gizmo, since the more time you are tweeting your friends, the less time you have to devote to work. It is likely that most of your job requires more than 140 characters of text.

You need to look your age. You never want to look like those old men who dress punk or sk8r to seem hip. Dress well and appropriately.

If you’re going gray, leverage that too. While plenty of guys look good with their hair colored, one way to show some experience without looking over the hill is to leave some gray around the temples. A little gray makes you look distinguished and announces you are experienced.

In a corporate workplace composed of young free agents, the best position to play is the one they turn to: The coach. You prove yourself indispensable by nurturing and mentoring younger guys, not pretending to be one.

Every athlete faces the agony of retirement -- and most of them do it in their mid-20s. Transitioning to coaching is one of the best ways to stay in the game.

[Professor Michael Kimmel is a sociologist who is among the leading researchers and writers on men and masculinity in the world today and the author or editor of more than 20 volumes, including his latest, Guyland.]

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