Are You Middle-Aged and Counting?

by Jerry Brong

When were you born? For some of you, the answer makes you middle-aged, but that’s OK. Think of the experiences under your belt. Experience is an asset, you know.

As I researched career issues, I needed to know what “middle age” actually is. Where do you go when you want a definition? The old dictionary on the bookcase? The encyclopedia in the living room? Maybe those were the sources 10 year ago, but now everyone knows the answers are on the Web—so I went to www.answers.
com and typed in “middle age.”

After I responded “no” when asked whether I was looking for the Middle Ages, I eventually learned middle age is a noun meaning “the time of human life between youth and old age, usually reckoned as the years between 40 and 60. Also called midlife.”

So, middle-aged people were born between 1945 and 1965. Then it hit me—my middle-ager time had come and gone. Since I’ve already been there, however, I must be an expert on the topic.

For experienced middle-aged workers, age can be an asset. New technologies have impacted our capabilities for ensuring quality. Today we use computers, laser measuring devices, knowledge management systems, electronic microscopes, video imaging, digital calculators and many other high tech gadgets.

You’ve Changed Already

Think back and consider your experiences over the last 15 to 20 years. Think of old skills. Can you write a memo without a word processor? Can you do arithmetic without a calculator? Can you find a location on a map without a mapping program? Can you measure a bolt’s length using mechanical calipers or a ruler? Can you deliver capabilities ensuring quality results without those gadgets we take for granted in 2005?

If you started out doing things the old ways and managed to learn the new ways, you’re equipped to make more changes that will enable you to map your future career path. If you’re middle-aged, you should recognize quality is not a destination but a step along the road.

Be prepared for your career to be in transition. Consider moving up or moving out. If your first 15 to 20 years of work provided learning opportunities, it may be time to consider your options.

It might be time for you to move into marketing, teaching, accounting, knowledge and asset management, or even executive leadership. Successful quality specialists frequently move to positions running operations and making key decisions.

You are in a position to build alternative futures based on knowledge of what works. Assess your current position and career history. Your life experiences stretch your knowledge base beyond current employment. Focus your thinking on yourself and your capabilities, interests and desires.

First, verify your skills are up-to-date and continue to seek out learning opportunities. Generally, middle agers are fast learners. They have past experiences that support the development of understandings and the skills and abilities to apply new knowledge.

Consider the education and training field. As an experienced worker you have skills and knowledge needed by others. You could become a mentor, teacher, trainer or writer of resources used in teaching and learning programs.

Be a problem solver based on your vision of the quality field and needs within your industry. Your knowledge and experience will be recognized, your ability to deliver will be confirmed and the bridge you bring between older and young generations will be of value.

But be on the alert. Many organizations are encouraging early retirement and proposing outsourcing or offshoring your job. Then there are threats to Social Security, Medicare, 401(k) retirement programs and other retiree benefits.

Be ready to stand your ground and fight for your future. Be active in employee and trade organizations, make sure your skills remain marketable, stay alert to legislative and regulatory changes that will affect older workers and retirees and communicate with your elected governmental representatives.

Remember, you and only you are responsible for your future employability.

GERALD R. BRONG of Ellensburg, WA, is a semiretired teacher, writer and speaker in private practice. He is a professor with Walden University’s distant education graduate program and facilitates quality courses through City University in the state of Washington. He established the Moving Up, Moving Out—A Quality Specialist’s Career in Transition workshop. Brong holds a doctorate in applied educational technology from Washington State University. He is active with the ASQ Seattle Section 606 and the Tri-Cities Section 614.

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