Age is Just a State of Mind: At Least I Think So Because Today Is My Birthday

by Michael Haberman on July 7, 2010 · 0 comments


Today is my birthday! (Not soliciting well wishes, but if  you must I will accept them, however, gifts and money would be preferred.) I am 59 today, an age that for a long time I would have considered old. But I don’t feel old, at least not as old as I once thought 59 would feel. Granted physically I am not as fast as I used to be, though I was never really fast, just quick. I am not as strong as I used to be, though I think you might still think twice before picking a fight with me. I can ride a bicycle 50 miles in a sitting and will be returning to triathlons next year to celebrate my 60th birthday.

I am smarter than I used to be, primarily because I have learned I don’t know it all. I have learned to listen better and ask better questions. I have a lot of knowledge but also realize being smart is not just about “knowing” things. I respect traditions but embrace “new”. I am computer savvy, social media savvy, and device savvy (My daughter was blown away the first “text” she got from me).

I make these points because I am pretty certain that, if I were to leave my consulting position, I would be unable to find a position in HR. Even HR professionals, who should know better, look down on age. (See my series on AGEISM) I have several friends, excellent professionals all, who have similar capabilities who are having very difficult times finding HR positions. If gray hair is seen, or no hair is seen, or you have some wrinkles, or a decade is mentioned you get tagged as “old.” Sure you hear “Well you look great for your age” (which not quite the compliment it is meant to be), but that statement is loaded with implications. Companies are making mistakes by not hiring those people. Some company would make a mistake by not making me a CHRO if I sought such a position. And as a result they miss out on tons of experience backed by great ideas, high work ethic, creativity and enough backbone to stand up to the most difficult of employees.

Now take a look around at candidates you are considering, for whatever position you have open. Do you have the same biases when you see a bald head, a gray pate, a wrinkled brow or crows feet around the eyes? Is this coloring your perception of their abilities? Are you really making a decision without consideration and hiding behind “overqualification’? For if you are then you may be cheating your company out of one of the best employees you may ever have.

Yes I realize some people who reach 50 or 60 or 70 act old, look old, think old. But I have met many 20 or 30 or 40 something who also think “old” and act “old.” OLD is a state of mind. It is how you approach life. To me if you embrace new ideas, new ways of doing things, are open to possibilities then you are not “old” regardless of physical age. So look at those candidates again and reassess who is really the “old” one.

As a final word on the subject just remember someday you too will be in that position. How would you want someone to decide on you? Abilities or age?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

evilcatbert July 7, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Happy Birthday, Mike from one HR practitioner to another. May the coming year bring happiness, health and (the economy willing!) wealth to ya!

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evilcatbert July 7, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Happy Birthday, Mike from one HR practitioner to another. May the coming year bring happiness, health and (the economy willing!) wealth to ya!

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nisha July 8, 2010 at 2:27 am

I really like the title of the post! This is very interesting to read and does teach us many things.
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Sharlyn Lauby July 8, 2010 at 6:42 am

Happy Birthday Mike!

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Lisa Morgan-Aspinwall, SPHR July 8, 2010 at 9:24 am

I believe there is a more insidious reason why those great HR people with lots of experience are being written off as “overqualified.” The majority of companies out there do not appear willing to pay for experience, wisdom, and work ethic. Unfortunately, breadth and depth of experience can only be gained over time. More importantly, “wisdom”—an elusive quality—can only be gained through time and experience combined with learning. I have learned through reading and observation that high performing employees contribute anywhere from two to ten times more than average employees. Think of situations you’ve experienced where a high performing employee leaves a position and eventually two or three average employees have to be put into the position to retain the same level of productivity. If a company can compensate two (or three) average employees at an average rate, shouldn’t they be able and willing to pay a self-motivated, experienced, wise candidate with a proven track record two or three times the average rate? The truth is “you get what you pay for.” (Don’t confuse that with the falsity—“the more you pay, the more value you must be getting.”) Among advertised jobs, it is not uncommon to see the same posting reappear every three to six months. Perhaps this is because companies are hiring the least expensive talent. Unfortunately, many companies seem to focus on the short-term and—without an experienced, wise HR leader—are not aware of the cost of filling a position two to four times each year. I doubt that those who were hired “cheaply” accomplish anything of note during their short tenures either, perpetuating the belief that HR is to be hated. HR needs to educate its management team.

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jenmaree July 8, 2010 at 10:52 am

Happy Birthday!!

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Wendy July 8, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Mike,

You look really good for 59! Even for 48, but that aside, so do I and I'm 64. I noticed getting a job had gotten a lot harder, so I too became a consultant. I like the hours, the freedom, and the respect. Happy birthday to you. BTW, mine was the 5th.

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Trish McFarlane July 10, 2010 at 10:34 am

First, happy birthday my friend! I love where you say that old is a state of mind. Like you, I know many people in their 20's- 40's who think old. As I age, I tend to gravitate to people of any age who are doing exactly what you are- making sure they are savvy in many areas of life. I know it has to be frustrating for people to start feeling like their age is a negative in the job market. I think the best thing they can do is mirror your actions and keep building new skills. That is what will keep them relevant and even ahead of the rest of the crowd.

p.s. I'd work with you/ hire you any day at any age. #fact

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