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Review: Getting no younger

"The Critical 2nd Phase of Your Professional Life: Keys to Success from Age 40 and Beyond"
By Robert L. Dilenschneider
Citadel Press, 192 pages, September

graphic

In this story:

Between a rock ...

... and free agency

Keep young and beautiful

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



(CNN) -- Two views of the middle-age worker:

•   "Those who are aging will be the most powerful group in society and the workplace, and if you use your power right you can change policies there."

  QUICK VOTE
graphic Have you worked with middle-age colleagues who aren't keeping up with the technology of their jobs?

Every day. I'm surrounded by them where I work. They're still trying to figure out their VCRs.
Some, yes. But I'm also around some pretty swift middle-agesters. They're not all stuck on cassette tapes.
Nope, the middle-age workers I'm around are doing a great job keeping up. In fact, sometimes they're ahead of me.
View Results

•   "At the same time demographics are crowding them, this massive group of middle-age workers is also being affected by downsizing and mergers."

Both comments are by Robert L. Dilenschneider in his book, "The Critical 2nd Phase of Your Professional Life." How you manage your career choices at this stage in life, he writes, will determine whether you have power -- or are powerless.

Between a rock ...

The encouraging news for the middle-age, Dilenschneider writes, is that as the nation ages, they're needed more than ever in the work force.

"At the end of this decade there will be nine million fewer 18-to-34-year-olds than there were at the beginning of the decade, which means that older workers will increasingly bridge the labor gap by having longer careers," he writes.

But this segment of workers can ill afford to rest on its career laurels, Dilenschneider says. Far from it. "Because older workers usually make more than younger workers, they are frequently the first to get the axe."

"In some industries it's just bad form to have older workers in the corporate culture. They look wrong for the part ... can you imagine how well Bob Hope would be received as a spokesperson for Nike?"
— Robert L. Dilenschneider, "The Critical 2nd Phase of Your Professional Life"

True, but it's also a fact that an entire book aimed at such a narrow niche audience may be a bit of a stretch. Perhaps that's why much of Dilenschneider's advice, while solid, applies to workers regardless of age.

•   Analyze what your boss wants. Look at his speeches and his actions in past jobs to get a fix on his priorities.

•   Get your work done on time and in the right format. Don't spring surprises on the boss.

•   Be active at networking. Take stock of what you have to offer, don't wait until you have a crisis to schmooze others and make it a way of life.

... and free agency

Like others writing about careers, Dilenschneider -- founder of The Dilenschneider Group, a corporate counseling and public relations firm based in New York City -- says the nature of work has changed to the point that employees are now "free agents" on the move from one company to the next, selling their services to the most attractive bidder.

"Free agents go to offices to do their assignments, work from home, stay on the road and keep in touch through e-mail," Dilenschneider writes. Again, this isn't unique to middle-age workers, although they may find it more unsettling than they're younger cohorts do.

The middle-age workers most apt to be downsized are those who are "oblivious to new trends and new approaches," Robert L. Dilenschneider writes. "They're addicted to nostalgia, always referencing 'the good old days.'"

Dilenschneider offers several pros and cons to consider in deciding whether to opt for this less-structured work environment.

On the plus side, he lists more job security, flexible hours, no need to play office politics and less chance of being discriminated against because of your age. On the other hand, he writes, you have to continually market yourself, provide your own benefits such as health insurance and a retirement plan and be aware that you have no guaranteed income.

Keep young and beautiful

The middle-age workers most apt to be downsized are those who are "oblivious to new trends and new approaches," Dilenschneider writes. "They're addicted to nostalgia, always referencing 'the good old days.'"

Still, he acknowledges, your age can be a hindrance even if you know that Eminem is a rapper, not a candy. That's because "in some industries it's just bad form to have older workers in the corporate culture. They look wrong for the part ... can you imagine how well Bob Hope would be received as a spokesperson for Nike?"

  MESSAGE BOARD
graphic "At the end of this decade there will be nine million fewer 18-to-34-year-olds than there were at the beginning of the decade, which means that older workers will increasingly bridge the labor gap by having longer careers," writes Robert L. Dilenschneider. And yet many middle-age workers report feeling edged out -- or at least sidelined -- by younger "tech-ier" workers. What are you seeing? Does your career look longer than you'd expected? Or are you feeling discriminatory pressures as you mature in the job marketplace?
 

Sometimes, however, the advice in this book seems contradictory. Dilenschneider publishes an interview with Bob Stone, 79, who does public relations for the author's company.

"There's a prejudice in some offices that you can't teach an old dog new tricks," Stone says. "Well, those of us who want to keep our jobs will take the initiative to learn new things that will help us add value."

But Stone informs us that he doesn't even have a word processor in his office. "I don't need to do my own word processing as long as I am aware of the capabilities of the machine," he says. "I have my assistant do it. I should be doing my own word processing, online searches and e-mail, but that time isn't now."

One can't help but think that Stone, at his age and lacking such rudimentary technology skills, would be hard-pressed to find work if Dilenschneider decided dump his old dog for a young pup.

"Staying glued to work will kill you."
— Robert L. Dilenschneider, "The Critical 2nd Phase of Your Professional Life"

Dilenschneider raves about the fact that when the energetic Stone went to the hospital for surgery, "he kept in constant touch with the office -- except when he was under anesthesia. Everyone back at the office got the message: Stone was physically resilient."

Yet, later in the book, he writes: "Staying glued to work will kill you."

Maybe the best advice in this book comes from another of Dilenschneider's employees, also a PR man. When he screws up, Richard Kosmicki, tells his boss, "I admit that I'm wrong -- to myself and to all parties involved. Next, I pull out all stops to fix the situation, and I keep at it until the situation is 100-percent fixed."

Sounds like good advice, whatever your age.

graphic

 

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RELATED SITES:
Resources for Career Transition Professionals
SHRM Press Room - Story Resource Guide - Older Workers/Aging Workforce
Society for Human Resource Management
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


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