Looking for a job or a promotion and worried that your age might be an impediment? Don't be. Age really is just a number, and especially in IT, that number isn't as important as your accomplishments, your adaptability and willingness to learn.
"It's about being able to demonstrate your accomplishments," says author, career search expert and consultant Rick Gillis. "Most IT firms want to know one of two things: Can you make them money or can you save them money? Then they'll want to hire you, regardless of your age," he says.
Nobody would hire a doctor, for example, who isn't using robotics in his practice, says Gillis. Staying current on new technologies, advancements and methodologies can keep your skill sets relevant and will help you avoid becoming one of those 'former masters of the universe' who've faded into obscurity and can barely turn on their computer, he says.
Stay hip and up on tech
"You have to be current. That is key, especially in IT," Gillis says. "I find it disturbing when I speak to clients who are older and they aren't spending time studying, staying hip and up-to-date on new technology advances," he says.
"If you've been looking for a job for six months, you have to realise how much has happened in that time - learn about emerging technology. Know the terminology. Be able to show that you've added to your knowledge and your skills," Gillis says, and be able to demonstrate how that knowledge and your skills have positively impacted previous employers.
As an example, Gillis cites a former client who was struggling to demonstrate his achievements while searching for a job. The client had one specific job for which he wrote nearly 10,000 lines of code for a bank, but couldn't point to a specific outcome, Gillis says.
"I advised him to take a personal inventory, to reach out to his contact and determine how to quantify what he did," Gillis says. "When we talked to his contact, we were told that the code he wrote was used by the bank to fix some significant security flaws with their ATMs that used to require a lengthy, expensive service call and two people to address," Gillis says.
"It turns out, my client saved the bank more than half a million dollars a year on this expense, and while it did take some time and digging to determine how to quantify his efforts, it was worth it," he says.
But adaptability and using relevant skills and knowledge is a two-way street, says Mike Capone, CIO at human capital management vendors ADP. Employers should constantly be looking at the knowledge and skills present in their workforce to see how those accomplishments can help further business goals and even to educate newer, younger or less experienced employees, Capone says.
Adaptability knows no age limit
"Age, in and of itself, doesn't matter, but adaptability does," says Capone. "That's not always a skill you're born with, but it can be learned," especially if companies are tapping into their older employees' skills and knowledge to help educate the younger generation, he says.
To that end, Capone says, ADP makes sure to identify and reward good leadership and tap into older, more experienced employees' domain expertise, and linking them up with younger, newer employees.
"With our younger generation of workers, we force rotational assignments every 18 to 24 months to make sure they are gaining the knowledge and experience of some of our more seasoned people," says Capone. "It's like having that veteran player in the locker room, so to speak, but it's a mutually beneficial exercise. The younger folks keep the older workers current and up to date, while the more experienced folks bring a level of maturity to teams," he says.
"Mentoring is a two-way street, and even when I, as the CIO, am paired up with employees who are much younger and lower on the corporate ladder, I learn something every day," Capone says.
Regardless of the age of employees, companies need to think differently about their workforce to better reap the benefits of existing talents, experience, skills and knowledge, Capone says. Building up your talent pool to take advantage of relevant skills doesn't have to mean bringing in outside consultants or new employees; what you need could be right under your nose.
"It's about change management," Capone says. "And how you incorporate that into your day-to-day operations. Whether you're looking at employees who are 20 or 60, technology, business needs and skills change at a much faster rate right now than they did even five years ago.
It's incumbent on the leadership of the company to manage the talent and take advantage of the skills that you have and the competencies within the domain expertise you need to be successful," he says.