Okay, Boomer: You're Hired
Updated: Apr 18
(Or why we should be)
There's plenty of generational bias out there. Millennials are entitled. Gen X? Sarcastic. Gen Zs have a (weird) reputation for being perfect sociopaths. Then, of course, there are those of us on the back nine of our careers: The Baby Boomers.
Boomers have a reputation. We aren't tech savvy. We're resistant to change. We're grumpy. We fear younger generations are catching up to us in the workforce and we aren't happy about it.
Some of us worry about this reputation because, hey, it's unnerving to lose a job when we still need a paycheck and benefits. After the pandemic spat us out, many Boomers were left unemployed and looking for a new gig. We don't want to appear elderly, even if we have an AARP membership card. I have friends, both male and female, who work hard to look younger, from dying their hair and undergoing plastic surgery, to wearing slightly-more-trendy apparel. We don't lie, but we don't advertise our year of birth. For those of us still employed, paying the bills, and feeding that 401K, we dread the day our organization defines us as expired.
And they shouldn't. We're still great employees. We may even be better now that we're older, wiser, and don't give a shit. Or not the kind of shits we used to give.
So for those of you rolling your eyes, here's why hiring a Boomer makes sense.
You can't shock us. We can focus on work when things inevitably go awry. When the (married) VP of operations runs off with the (married) training manager, we don't clutch our pearls. Did we see it coming? Maybe. Maybe not. Why aren't we scandalized? Office romances are like junk mail: ubiquitous and annoying. This is an HR issue. We're on deadline and want to get home to walk the dogs.
We're discreet. When it comes to interoffice scandals, we may not even talk about them. Sure, it's entertaining, but it's not the first time we've witnessed provocative behavior among co-workers. In fact, it's not worth mentioning unless it affects the work flow. You won't see us whispering around the water cooler (much) because we don't gossip (much). We know the damage it can cause an organization as well as to the lives of the people involved.
Plus, we grew up.
And we need to get home to walk the dogs.
We don't care. Well, we do, but our priorities shifted. If you dig around in our past, there's a good chance we ran an engineering department or started up a successful consulting business. We know what it's like to lose sleep fretting about payroll. Many of us learned the hard way: it's better to work to live. Yes, we're happy to carve out a niche and be part of something greater. We like being a team member and working toward our goals. We'll work overtime. And you know what? We're perfectly happy reporting to someone half our age.
And why is that? Because we've been in their shoes and understand the pressures they face. We're delighted to support someone else whose paycheck reflects the headaches. Oh, we'll gladly weigh in with advice and opinions because we certainly have them and want to help. But we aren't offended if you choose another solution. Seriously. We left our egos behind. And here's a corollary secret: We are experienced, passionate, and driven—yet we are a safe hire. We don't want your job. We won't backbite and play politics in order to get ahead because we don't want to get ahead. We've been ahead. You go be ahead. We'll watch.
We're tech savvy. Boomers have a reputation for being tech-resistant. But hear me out. In the early 80s, I was a newly graduated English major who thought computers were gauche. In my first job out of graduate school, I was expected to use email (it was mainframe intranet email, so don't wag your techy historical calendar at me). And when we traded in our IBM Selectric typewriters for word processors? I wrote code. We all did. I was a bad-ass, reluctant techy with degrees in English. I had no choice; we all had to learn the software to stay employed. And unless you were in some protected class (male, CEO?), you adapted.
It wasn't easy. Back then, software packages transformed the workplace but they were not intuitive. These days software is so easy to use you don't need to know anything except your login credentials and password. There is no code to be written (unless that's your job). And if you can't figure out why the font in WordPress doesn't translate from your Word document? You can Google the answer. And, come on, Slack is not going to exercise your brain. It might, however, introduce you to your co-workers' dogs.
Technology has, thankfully, become a true work tool that nearly anybody can and should use to achieve their work goals. It's awesome.
Every Boomer I know respects and uses technology. That's because throughout our careers we've had to adapt to the rapidly changing office equipment. Do you know an engineer who uses a drafting table? Boomer teachers set up remote classrooms from home and taught their students (as young as age five) to sign in. All of my bookkeeper buddies use QuickBooks rather than paper ledgers. We Zoom and eschew phone calls. We use our home computers to research everything from vacation destinations to price-friendly running shoes. We have smartphones with fancy apps—just like you.
Do not dis the Boomers. We are work warriors, the employees who started with typewriters and eventually ended up with several computers in our own homes. Plus tablets. We bought our kids their first smartphones and taught them how to use them.
So when you are looking to hire a part-time social media manager, don't dismiss the grandmother who'll happily spend her precious few hours helping you craft your message while the grandkids nap. Or the semi-retired CFO who offers to help with your nonprofit bookkeeping. Or the 50-something techie who will build your website.
We have experience, wisdom, curiosity... and we don't want your job. We just want to get home to the dogs.