Getting Older: A Gen Xer’s Take on the Age Gap in the Workplace

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There are key moments in my life when I became acutely aware that I was aging. The first time some kids called me “ma’am” (I was 17.) The night a bartender told me he didn’t need to see my ID before sliding me a drink. And the moment I realized I was one of the older employees in the office.

Yes, for the first time in my life, I’m one of the older people on deck. Many of my co-workers are under 30, while I am, well, older. Some were born when I was in high school, probably listen to music I’ve never heard of and grew up using technology I have yet to master. (Yikes, I really do sound old.)

In all of my past jobs, I’m worked with mainly Baby Boomers (I’m Gen-X!) who were sending their kids off to colleges and had worked at numerous companies. Some were jaded, others remained ambitious, but all were willing to impart the wisdom gained from many years in the workplace. Those perspectives helped me understand the environment in which I worked and plan the career that I wanted to have—as well as the one I didn’t want.

When you hear so much talk about ageism in the workplace, it stands to reason that one might feel unnerved by all this youth that I’m surrounded by now. But that’s hardly the case with me. First, everyone in my office is highly competent, driven and enthusiastic, which makes this a really engaging office in which to work. It’s also interesting to witness people at earlier stages in their careers, seeing them make decisions, be strategic and truly look forward to the trajectory that lies ahead.

And while I know I’m not that old, I’m still on the other end of age spectrum in the office for the first time, so I find all this energizing. I’m reminded to remain thoughtful about my career, willing to learn new tools and skills, and most of all, excited about the future.

Have you ever worked in an office where most of your co-workers were either older or younger than you? If so, how did that impact you?

587 thoughts on “Getting Older: A Gen Xer’s Take on the Age Gap in the Workplace”

  1. Being one of the older workers amoungest a building full of teenagers definely is an experience to remember; However, It does make for some interesting experiences!

  2. I am moving to Chicago in August and was wondering how difficult it is to get a position In Chicago? I will be attending the Illinois Institute of Technology to get a Master’s Degree in Network Management. So far I have had absolutely no luck in getting into IT. Hopefully Adecco can help me. Thank You

  3. As an old worker (not older – I’m 79) I’ve seen transformations in the work place that would have been unimaginable when I started out at age 12. So – having been in the work force for the past 67+ years would give me some perspective. I’ve worked in management and in labor from one- person businesses to government and industry with thousands of employees. On the positive side, the current generation of workers are exceptionally smart and do get things done on their schedule. On the negative side are things that do not seem to bother them. Constantly using cell phones and other electronic devices with no regard for the group you are in has destroyed the interaction one may need to get that job. If you are so disrespectful of those around you, how do you learn to interact with people! Are they less important that the toy you are glued to at the moment? In another instance on this site, the individual was complaining that Adecco wasn’t attuned to her needs – yet in the same sentence she used ‘there’ for ‘their’ twice. A small thing but one that a prospective employer would be hesitant to add her to the work force – who wants a company letter to show that sort of language. Another is the tattoos and hardware – these things do not go with a job that requires you to meet the public, yet I see it almost on a daily basis when prospective employees show up arranged as though they were auditioning for a freak show. If you insist on that life style, get used to being passed over for a position for which you may well be qualified. Showing up on time and being professional in your work is not considered necessary – again it may be fashionable, but not useable in the work force. I appreciate my current job and at my age am glad to be employed. I know – old geezers like me should retire – but trust me – as long as I can work and someone will hire me, I’m not retiring.

    1. I agree with Bob,much as modernization and globalization have positively influenced the evolution of things especially in the workplace,some norms are also being corroded.From the increasing decline in adhering to simple formal statutes as dress codes to wrong spellings and use of slangs in official write ups.
      Social media has however constituted some sort of bond across generations but to some extent,this in itself is largely virtual as interpersonal relations on daily basis do not seem to portray this. Regard and mutual respect are equally not too entrenched across these generational divides.

      I enjoy this as many other enriching articles from Adecco. Adecco is making my work and life better by the day.I really appreciate.

  4. I have worked with all ages. But, I’m now in the over 40 category and can’t find anyone who will hire me. I find jobs, but not getting called for interviews. This has been going on for 4 years now and don’t know how what to do next, as what I’ve been doing is not working. Being over 50, there is no one to ask advice to anymore. I have exhausted my resources. What next.?

  5. In my last job, I worked with people both older and younger than I was. It was an interesting experience. Most everyone stayed at the job, even though it was a dead-end job, (virtually no advancement and hours were varied from day to day), because we liked being with our co-workers. It helped make the night go by faster. The dress was casual, so everyone was comfortable coming to work. Now I am in Florida, and trying to start new. I have a degree in Computer Information Technology, but alas, I have no experience except what I learned in class. All the IT jobs want 3+ years of experience in multiple languages or skills! If no one will give experience, where are we supposed to get it?

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