By Kathleen Furore

In late October, CNBC featured a story about the plight of older workers, noting that they were having a tough time finding work after being let go during the pandemic. What I’ve heard from friends in that position is that when “mature employees” ultimately do find work, their boss frequently is someone young enough to be their son or daughter – or even their granddaughter or grandson! That made me wonder how people in that position can leverage their years of experience without offending their much-younger supervisor.

Career coach Chelsea Jay, founder of Seasoned and Growing and a nationally certified resume writer and online branding specialist, has worked with clients who have run into that scenario. And she says there are ways during an interview to gauge if a prospective supervisor will be open-minded and value learning from seasoned professionals.

“Mature workers sometimes enter a new role with pre-conceived biases toward younger supervisors and with the mindset of ‘they think I’m too old and don’t value me,’ ” Jay explains. “Success in today’s workforce boils down to mindset and transparency … I always suggest learning more about your boss before you accept the role, and once hired, continue having transparent conversations about expectations and desires.”

She suggests asking a few questions that can help gauge your future boss’s personality and openness to learning from mature professionals. Some examples are:

  • What are you hoping that I bring to the table?
  • Where do you need the most support?
  • What type of employee characteristics and skills are you looking to add to your team?

“Often, younger supervisors who value a mature employee’s history will answer these questions and allude to [needing] historical knowledge and experience,” she says. “This helps give upfront clues to whether or not the position will be a good fit and one where a seasoned professional is valued.”

If you’re on the job and feeling under-valued, Jay recommends keeping the lines of communication open and being fully transparent with younger bosses.

“Say something like, ‘As you know from my interview, I have over 15 years of experience and knowledge in this industry, and my goal in this role is to add value by providing historical references when needed to make decisions that will drive excellence across the organization. Are you open to that?’ ”

Jay says older workers also might ask something like, “How can I support you with the knowledge I have, and how do you prefer I bring things to your attention?”

In the end, it all comes down to communicating with empathy.

“Setting a solid foundation of understanding and respect ultimately helps younger and older employees work together in harmony,” Jay says.

Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has covered personal finance and other business-related topics for a variety of trade and consumer publications. You can email her your career questions at kfurore@yahoo.com.

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