Use it or lose it
Our project team Werk voor Elkaar held a forum-networking event on July 02, 2009. The objective: connecting local companies with the more seasoned jobseeker. I don’t want to blatantly brag, but it was a downright phenomenal success.
Yet why? Because the local press was there? Yes. There was a piece on us the next morning in the local BN De Stem. Was it the great turnout? Employers were still applying on the day itself. Was it the lovely tropical weather? It was scalding hot. Sweat was streaming out every pore and I was already nervous as it is, being one of the panel members. Or maybe it was just because I had managed to connect? I did leave the event with a fist full of cards.
No. None of the above. I feel satisfied because I’ve met some very interesting people and had some very insightful conversations. On the whole, the employers were very generous and receptive.
The forum was an excellent starter. The panel consisted of a mix of employers and jobseekers. Our main point of discussion turned out to be flexibility and mobility of the older employee.
We discussed at length the truths and myths about this. Sure, there are rigid senior workers who refuse to budge, as one employer panel member pointed out. But I myself experienced colleagues 20 years my junior, who were satisfied with doing copy & paste jobs. They didn’t seem to have any need to challenge themselves.
Flipping the coin, an example of a flexible entrepreneur is the Printer Wedding, managed by Carin Wormsbecher. She proved to be the inspirational highlight of the event. Her company matches people to job roles according to their capacities. She ignores all biases and trusts her instincts. And, she has been quite successful; winning an entrepreneurship award in 2008.
One employer dismissed her strategy, saying, “You can only do this because you are a small company”. A position, I strongly disagree with. Any company (large or small) that applies an age conscious career plan can achieve what Wormsbecher has.
Age conscious career planning is nothing new and has been around for quite some time. Its popularity grew 5 years ago, because we all feared the then looming labour shortage. At the moment, the economic crisis masks the need for such a policy. But, according to the laws of economics, the job market will turn around again. And any employer, who misses the chance to apply a decent career planning, will be confronted with a big staffing problem.
Another employer mentioned ‘Value’. Value as in value for the company and as in value of the employee. I find this a beautiful thought. Looking at it from that perspective, any employer who doesn’t value his staff and stops investing in them, shouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t motivated and productive.
The same goes for employees. If you refuse to self-invest, your knowledge becomes outdated and dries up. You devalue yourself. There’s only one simple rule applicable here: “Use it or lose it”.
In the end, it all comes down to accountability. And that works both ways. The employer must invest in his employees. Regardless of age, everyone should be presented with a fair career opportunity, based on personal capabilities. On the other hand, every employee is responsible for their own professional growth. We owe it to ourselves and the company. Any opportunity an employer offers, should be grasped at with an open mind.
The employer who does not invest in his staff and the employee who refuses to invest in himself, are both equally responsible for jeopardising the continuity and growth of the company.
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