Senior Citizens Get It Done

by Jerry Brong

Stop now! Enter this column only if you meet admission requirements. Those who fail to meet the standard of being a confirmed senior citizen need not apply. Discrimination against young people is in progress.

Qualified readers of this month’s “Career Corner” column are 58 or older. Preference is given to those 64 and over. Confirmed senior citizens on Social Security (SCOSS) receive a special welcome here this month. The column’s author is confirmed to be 65 plus years of age, SCOSS qualified, enrolled and active.

ASQ members in their late 50s and over may be high value leaders in organizations delivering quality processes and quality results. These members sometimes encounter illegal and unethical discrimination as a result of their age, however.

Legal Protections

Readers of this column need to know the laws governing and protecting employers:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin.
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from gender based wage discrimination.
  • The Age Discrimination in Em-ployment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects individuals 40 or older.
  • Title I and Title V of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Age can be a characteristic considered a disability.

ADEA’s ban against age discrimination prohibits job notices or advertisements referencing age preference and limitations, except where age has been proven to be a qualification. The denial of benefits to older employees is also prohibited by ADEA.

OK, so there are laws to eliminate age discrimination. Do they work? Well, sort of. But to bring opportunities forward, senior workers still need to maximize successes by avoiding legal confrontations, using specialized knowledge and skills and maximizing knowledge and skill assets. Senior citizens must turn age into an asset.

Opportunities and Expectations

As the quality field changes, opportunities for senior workers present themselves. These opportunities might overcome challenges of layoffs, decreasing onshore work, increased dependence on advanced manufacturing technologies and the forces of age discrimination.

Senior workers must market themselves based on their breadth of skills and depth of work experience. A résumé with emphasis on solving problems, building value, delivering quality processes and gaining quality results is necessary.

Certifications, licenses, degrees and possibly even awards and recognitions help confirm employee value. Dates of awards and degrees need not be listed, but currency of certifications is required. In cover letters or during interviews, it is essential to point out experienced based knowledge and abilities to deliver high value performance based on past experiences.

For senior workers, leadership and management positions provide the best opportunities because these positions require experience based insight and understanding. Senior workers may be selected for short-term task specific assignments because of their prior hands-on experiences, ability to learn new skills and demonstrated successes in applying new knowledge.

A successful senior worker must place a priority on continued learning, application of new knowledge and maintenance of practical skills. Proof must be offered to employers that “I deliver results!” Active self-education through reading and exploration in the field is necessary. Seniors cannot sit back waiting for the world to come to them. They must be out in the trenches doing continuous improvement.

For senior workers, active affiliation with professional groups is required. Involvement provides opportunities to receive and transfer knowledge. Seniors must be active with ASQ divisions and their local sections. And, successful seniors become active mentors for younger workers, transferring real-world wisdom.

Risk Taking

Seniors must be ready to accept the challenges of being older. But successful senior quality professionals will still be risk takers who reach into new venues such as information management, marketing, staff training, applied auditing for risk avoidance and even fields involving security.

If you are a senior, document and study your career history. Ask yourself about opportunities in new and expanding fields. Find things to do that will allow you to contribute during your remaining years. Become a teacher, share your insights as a consultant, take your knowledge and skills and transfer them to a new field and remember quality is the core of all enterprises at all levels. Seniors in quality might even successfully serve in elected political office.

Opportunities are many for people who deliver ideas, insights and results. Youngsters in the field must knock first and enter through the front door. Seniors have keys to many doors and are already inside. In the workplace, seniors must stand their ground, work to maintain their legal rights and deliver results at levels expected for professionals at the peaks of their careers.

If you are a card-carrying SCOSS member, you are also obligated to give back to the profession and your colleagues. Take time to volunteer within your ASQ section, share ideas with colleagues and use the quality toolbox to build opportunities for alternative futures.

Seniors have a gift of knowledge, a breadth of insights and the skills necessary to make things happen by challenging the status quo. They are valuable resources for the quality field.

GERALD R. BRONG is a teacher, writer and speaker in private practice, who serves as newsletter editor of ASQ Seattle Section 606. He has a doctorate in education, specializing in applied education technology and psychology, from Washington State University. He is currently a distance learning professor in the graduate education program of Walden University, Minneapolis, facilitating a collaborative action research course. Through City University in Bellevue, WA, Brong has designed and facilitated the Defining, Planning and Delivering Quality series of courses.

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