Why it’s Importation to Brush Up Your Tech Talk

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While most older workers – especially the KAA-Boomer generation — have done an admirable job of embracing emerging technologies, replacing their VCRs for PVRs, their cell phones with the latest smartphones, and their PDAs with tablets, many have not.

And that can be a problem in a workforce where the second largest generation in history – Generation Y, the children of the Boomers born between 1980 and 1994 – are fast becoming the dominant force. While KAA-Boomers still make up a large segment of the workforce, organizational cultures are beginning to change as those making significant business decisions are becoming younger and younger.

For KAA-Boomers wanting new career opportunities, this means adapting to this changing business environment where new and emerging technologies are part of the landscape.

This doesn’t mean older workers have to be walking compendiums of IT knowledge. It does mean they need to have a good working knowledge of today’s technology. Why? Because some of the most damaging stereotypes older workers face is that they’re out of touch with technology, unable to learn new skills and too rigid in their thinking.

These are, of course, sweeping generalizations but they exist. Twenty or 30 years ago, technologically befuddled older workers were met with indulgent smiles, patience and a helping hand. In today’s lean, competitive marketplace, being seen to be out of touch with the times can stop an older worker’s career in its tracks.

This is especially true in an interview situation where, in many cases, the hiring manager or HR rep is a Gen Y.  So what can an older do to dispel these stereotypes during an interview?

  1. When talking about your past experience, be sure to demonstrate your ease with technology throughout your career.  No matter what the job, no matter what the industry, technology is changing it and you must make it clear that you’re keeping up!
  2. Make it clear you’re on top of emerging technology. Again, you don’t have to know the ins and outs of cloud computing for example, but you should have an idea of what it’s all about. These technologies might not be part of the workplace yet, but they will be in five years – or even next year.
  3. If you don’t already understand smartphones, apps, digital downloading, avatars, social networking and so on, get someone to give you a crash course. If you don’t have access to a teenager, ask in a large electronics store. They not only send people to set up your computer or home theatre, they’ll send people to show you how it all works too!  It might cost you a few dollars, but it’s money well spent.
  4. Talk the talk.  If you have a chance to engage the interviewer in an exchange about a cool new app or the latest smartphone or what Apple is planning to launch next year, go for it. Gen Ys love their technology and this is a great way to connect as equals.
  5. Stay in the present. Don’t say, “Well, when I was your age we had typewriters and carbon paper and we had to send a message boy running back and forth to the plant all day!”  You’ll send the message you’re a dinosaur and see the interviewer’s eyes suddenly glaze over.

Finally, be enthusiastic about technology.  Show you’re every bit as tech-savvy as your younger colleagues – or at least exciting about the changing workplace and eager to learn.  You may be over 50, but you’re as just as excited about this brave new world and – lucky you!- have the experience to navigate it better than someone half your age.

Barbara Jaworski is Canada’s leading expert on boomers, chief KAA-Boomer of the Workplace Institute and author of Rebel Retirement – A KAA-Boomer’s Guide to Creating and Living an Explosive Second Act.

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