With today’s tight labor market and dramatic demographic changes, employability criteria such as seniority and experience don't hold as much weight as in the past. Older and younger generations may be competing for positions, and some boomers believe their age is held against them.
But at an inter-generational challenges at work program I recently conducted with executive search professionals and human resources directors, some attendees felt that age is not the issue — perceived energy is.
Don Zinn, president of Exigent Search Partners, who was an attendee and is a boomer, defined energy as: “high degree of engagement, active participation, getting excited, passion, listening, intensity, sincere interest.”
Said Zinn: “People can be dried up and done at 30 or 40, and I’ve worked with 60- or 70-year-olds who are sparkplugs.”
The energy ingredients that attract William Edmonds, the Gen Y member of the Human Resources Department at Corning, are “making younger people feel valued, informally engaging with them, being inclusive and always being eager to learn and be a contributor.”
7 Ways to Show You’ve Got Energy
You reveal your energy at work through your body language, voice tone and pace. When you use active body language, a confident voice and a moderate-to-lively pace of speech, it signals focus on the conversation, task or outcome.
Based on my discussions and interactions with Gen X’ers and Millennials in my work, here are seven things boomers can do to show their bosses (and prospective bosses) that they have more than enough energy — plus one thing not to do:
1. Be engaged and interested. Welcome others’ points of view. Demonstrate your active listening with immediacy behaviors such as eye contact, leaning forward and using short words and acknowledging sounds (like “Got it!”).
(MORE: When the Job Interviewer Thinks You're Too Old)
2. Show you are truly excited, if you are. Be bold in your goals, initiatives and aspirations even if this feels a bit scary, stretches you and requires raising your activity level. It will motivate everyone to accomplish more.
3. Be a giver — a contributor with ideas. Share what you know and participate non-judgmentally in brainstorming.
4. Show that you think something at work is really important. People relate well to passion. Explain why the mission or outcome is meaningful to you and motivates you.
(MORE: How to Prove Your Value at Work After 50)
5. Ask questions. Whenever possible, demonstrate a continual eagerness to learn.
6. Make it clear that you are committed to the success of the group and happy to roll up your sleeves. Convey how your career goals intersect with those of others on your team and with the organization’s purpose.
7. Be a mentor. Helping younger people learn and grow lets others see that you’re not phoning it in at work or antsy for retirement to begin.
And the Behavior to Avoid…
Sucking the energy out of the room by being unresponsive, slow-paced or focusing the conversation on yourself. Don’t be a frequent naysayer who stops the action. Instead, follow the improv rule and try to say “Yes, and” rather than “No, but.”
When you disagree with an approach, present alternate solutions rather than stew or sulk. Admit you are wrong when you are.
Show genuine interest in other people’s ideas and enthusiasm for trying new things to implement ideas. This way, no one will believe that you are stuck in the past or averse to new technology. And respond quickly when you’re asked for ideas and help.
I’m not saying you have to be an extrovert. But passion and a desire to connect will make you an energy magnet, marketable and employable. Your “energetic age” is what keeps you in, or out of, the game.
© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2015.