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Generalised career advice can be harmful: older workers and younger workers aren’t always helpful categorisations

by on April 2, 2014

This morning I came across this thought-provoking blog piece entitled More Useless Career Advice from Successful Women written by Jessica Grose reviews an Adweek feature “A Candid Conversation With 5 Women Leaders of Advertising and Media: The triumphs and trials of smashing the ceiling”

Jess observes that there is really nothing new in this feature and that some of the suggestions are actually potentially the wrong advice for a women in her own field (journalism).  Moreover – and what strikes a chord with a common theme here at age at work – treating ‘women’ as a homogeneous group who all require advice from a particular sub-group who have been labelled as ‘successful women’ is not doing much good.

Now take that and apply to discussions of age.  We have broad unspecific groups (with the possible exception of the statistically defined youth unemployment category).  So who is an older worker?  We also have labels applied (such as the Millennial) which create the assumption of a clearly categorised groups – when they really are not (the end categorisations point ranges over 8 years in academic papers alone).

As if to illustrate the case in point this piece dropped into my inbox today: Proving relevance is key to job hunt for older workers   This suggests “companies sometimes prefer younger employees because they are perceived as having more energy, flexibility and willingness to take risks…..older workers can bring different values, such as job stability”.  Thus older workers are essentially advised not to compete on the basis of the perceptions of younger workers but to offer an alternative……which has the effect of perpetuating the stereotypes!

Jess concludes in her article on career advice to women: ” Ambitious young women are clearly hungry for blueprints on how to succeed at a game that can feel rigged. But if you need a famous woman to tell you to listen to your heart, you have bigger problems than figuring out how to climb that corporate ladder“.

As an ‘older worker’ with teenagers who is only 4 years into a second career, you can lean anyway you like as far as I’m concerned.

 

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