The up­side of mid­dle-age

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The mid­dle- aged work force has to counter the no­tion that they are not pro­duc­tive due to their out- of- touch ap­proach, their un­done home­work, ar­guable bot­tom- line value and their in­abil­ity to speed up with ev­ery­thing new hap­pen­ing in the in­dus­try. These no­tions sim­ply op­pose the com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages of an older em­ployee, in the form of ex­pert guid­ance pro­vided to younger col­leagues or a bet­ter work en­vi­ron­ment cre­ated by a skilled and ex­pe­ri­enced su­per­vi­sor.

It is also ar­gued that when older work­ers lag be­hind on cur­rent knowl­edge and skills nec­es­sary in their in­dus­try, then it is not dis­crim­i­na­tion but an ex­pected move by the busi­nesses which do not hire them.

Even the For­tune’s sur­veys re­port that 43 is the av­er­age age found at which peo­ple’s pro­duc­tiv­ity peaked. This im­plies that the hun­dreds of CEOS asked, view any­one older as a po­ten­tially over­paid, un­der­per­form­ing drag on the com­pany.

In the post- re­ces­sion era, the over­all job mar­ket is re­cov­er­ing to a large ex­tent, but un­for­tu­nately mid­dleaged work­ers have not been in­cluded in the re­vival up to a sat­is­fac­tory level. In this re­gard, em­ploy­ment coun­sel­lors hold a num­ber of rea­sons re­spon­si­ble; among these labour- mar­ket trends and the type of avail­able jobs are im­por­tant. The labour­mar­ket trends favour lower paid and highly mo­bile young work­ers and ex­pe­ri­enced older work­ers who are will­ing to ac­cept lower wages for flex­i­ble sched­ules. More­over, among the types of jobs, there are mostly lower- pay­ing ser­vice- in­dus­try jobs mak­ing up a big part of the avail­able po­si­tions. For in­stance, restau­rants and fast food chains have re­mained top hir­ing em­ploy­ers, as these jobs of­ten of­fer un­cer­tain work­ing hours and few ben­e­fits.

But, these jobs still re­main unattrac­tive for mid­dle- aged work­ers who had more sta­ble jobs be­fore the re­ces­sion. These work­ers are be­ing wel­comed by com­pa­nies of­fer­ing con­tract po­si­tions or com­mis­sion- based work.

Apart from all the dis­par­i­ties, coun­sel­lors have a new sug­ges­tion that those hav­ing lost their jobs at the peak of their ca­reers must rein­vent their ca­reers for the sec­ond half of their lives. A man­age­ment coun­sel­lor, Peter Drucker, says that in the new mil­len­nium “Ei­ther our ca­reers or fi­nan­cial lives would be de­railed by rapid, un­fore­seen events, or we’d stay in the same job too long and burn out. Or, we’d fi­nally re­tire only to find our­selves bored into an early grave. Why? Be­cause we’re all knowl­edge work­ers in the 21st Cen­tury, and the brains of knowl­edge work­ers are never re­ally fin­ished or worn out.” This idea is sup­ported by neu­ro­science re­searches which sug­gest that old dogs can learn new tricks, and that they can do it bet­ter than the young ones. It has also been elab­o­rated in the book, “Bound­less Po­ten­tial: Trans­form Your Brain, Un­leash Your Tal­ents, Rein­vent Your Work in Midlife and Be­yond”, on how sci­en­tific re­search con­nects with the real life ex­pe­ri­ences of suc­cess­ful midlife trans­for­ma­tions.

Thus, ex­perts con­clude that hu­man brains are wired not for re­tire­ment, but for con­stant rein­ven­tion. The mid­dle- aged work­force can tap ex­tra­or­di­nary creative and in­tel­lec­tual pow­ers in the sec­ond half of life — if they put in the re­quired work.

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