Looking back at my blog on networking in 2017, I think it’s time and timely to update. In light of a growing pandemic, it’s also more important to practice the art of networking online.
Essentially, the same basic principles apply.
Take quick notes as you find information about the person through LinkedIn or on other platforms.
Ask good questions if you can chat online or meet virtually.
If you see an article that might be of interest to someone, share it with them.
Use LinkedIn to acknowledge work anniversaries or birthdays.
Message the person when you invite them to connect on LI.
At some point, we will be going back to meeting people face to face and looking them in the eye. When that happens, make sure your body reflects genuine interest and you make eye contact. You might also be interested in some tips that Michael Hughes, (www.NetworkingForResults.com) has on offer
In late February, I had the good fortune to attend a session put on by the Kanata-Carleton Small Business Network at RBC on Hazeldean Road. This five-year-old network provides resources for small business owners in the region. They invited Michael Hughes as their speaker. Within 5 minutes, he had the audience mesmerized. Michael took networking to the next level.
I learned a lot. Michael helped me reconceptualize and understand how networking was really a leveraging strategy. Through extensive research and practice, he has put together a model to manage the social process of networking. Apparently, after the initial second, individuals only have 25 seconds to really capture interest. For this reason, it is essential that business owners are able to articulate their value proposition quickly, ideally in 15 words or less.
Much of what he shared with the audiences added greatly to my understanding:
Business is about results; results arise from opportunities; opportunity arises from relationships.
A relationship is defined as the intentional process of creating and developing connections from initial contact to ultimate outcome.
Always offer something as a contribution to the relationship.
The session inspired me to rethink how important that first impression is and how best to manage it. I have returned to my notes frequently as I’ve been meeting new people online. I want to make sure that the connection is friendly and inviting.
Today, with the onset of COVID-19, I am trying to reframe what I learned to apply to our new reality... self-isolation. Working from home but still trying to develop relationships out of opportunities online. It's a new challenge but these truths still apply: build trust, be visible and show your value. Thank you, Michael. You left me with lots to practice, in real-time and online.
There is considerable irony in job ads that proudly pronounce the employer is an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE/AA) but the words in the ad reflect anything but! Recently, I came across one that epitomized this scenario. See if you can spot the bias. For the sake of anonymity, I have changed references but the essence remains.
“Young, enthusiastic person with good marketing skills and technical acumen.
8-10 years of work experience
Manufacturing expertise is preferred
Yup, you got it. The very first word was discriminatory and yet this was an ad from an EOE/AA certified business.
Imagine starting an ad with “white” rather than “young”? Would that have alerted anyone more quickly to the fact that there was bias? It would have been considered shocking in today’s world. However, when references are made to age, no one seems to notice.
Unfortunately, this kind of discrimination is pervasive. Ageism continues to be widely accepted and is so well-tolerated that we often don’t recognize our own internal bias.
Many organizations and businesses are allegedly inclusive. No doubt they are as long as you are indigenous, LBGTQ2S, a woman, disabled, an immigrant or refugee, and ethnically diverse. But, if you are over a certain age and looking for work or you want to stay in your job, you can be sure that your age will come into play.
Age discrimination in both retention and recruitment is a serious obstacle. An American study involving 40,000 fictitious CVs sent in response to advertised vacancies for low-skilled jobs found that applicants between 49 and 51 had 19% fewer callbacks than those aged 29 to 31 with otherwise identical CVs. For the 64-66 age group, the difference was 35%. Source: Age Discrimination and Hiring of Older Workers, Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco 2017
What is most troubling is the lack of awareness about age diversity and inclusion. Routinely age is not part of the conversation, nor will it ever be if we don’t start to make a fuss and take ageism out of the closet.
Here are a few tips that will help you make a difference:
Observe the types of diversity being advertised. If age is missing, bring it to the attention of the advertiser.
Write to your local MPP or MP to raise their awareness of this gap in diversity and inclusion.
If you are currently employed, check out your employer’s diversity policies. Is age included?
With the shift to an older demographic, ageism is more topical than ever before. We all have a role to play in its elimination.
Last week the Star published an article that I submitted, entitled “The (Old) Elephant in the Room”. Needless to say, this was very satisfying to me personally. What I hadn’t expected was the response I’d get.
Not long ago the Toronto Star published my article entitled “The (Old) Elephant in the Room”. For those of you who didn’t see it, you can find the link here or in the news section of our website. Needless to say, this was very satisfying to me personally. What I hadn’t expected was the response I’d get from many of the readers.
The subject obviously struck a chord with a silent segment of the readership. It ignited an unintended conversation about how many people out there have been and are affected by ageism. I heard from people who have cases in front of the Human Rights Tribunal currently; others who have been denied professional development and opportunities for promotion as well as from all those out there who are desperately seeking work but can’t find any.
Although the article resonated with many, I couldn’t help but think how profoundly sad it is that so many talented, capable and enthusiastic people are being denied a chance to fulfil their potential and at the same time contribute to Canada’s economic and social prosperity. Their work lives have been shortened, usually at around age 65 because of a number (established when average lifespans were 62) that describes nothing more than chronological age.
We wouldn’t ever say that a child is too young to be a genius. Why do we generalize and believe that one is too old to work, create, be productive? I am not naive. There are some professions that don’t lend themselves to continuing in the same capacity as earlier in a career. Clearly, if you have developed a tremor in your hands, your professional time as a surgeon is over. However, more roles than not are not as limiting at older stages in life. All that is required is the will on the part of employers to accommodate where necessary and make a shift. The research states repeatedly that these small accommodations and retaining older workers improve overall productivity.
As I found last week at yet another conference, diversity doesn’t seem to include age. It is still elusive and a misunderstood factor for most companies, organizations and governments. We have so successfully segregated age into silos and internalized age bias, that we can’t find our way out. If we don’t start looking more closely at the demographic shift that is already upon us, we will be even less prepared for the future of work. It’s time for all to start speaking up more loudly. Canada’s future prosperity depends on it.
Organizational culture plays a critical role in determining productivity, creativity, engagement and other factors of success. When bullies find fertile ground at work, it can spell disaster for an organization’s short and long term goals. In addition to the legal ramifications of bullying at work, the level of disruption it causes not only undermines performance but can actually encourage good employees to leave or it can sabotage their good work.
Given the cost of bullying, why are bullies allowed to work, let alone, lead organizations?
Unrecognized: The first challenge is recognizing that bullying is happening. In competitive organizations, employees are often encouraged to use highly disruptive or even combative tactics. Being cut-throat is not just tolerated, but rewarded. In that type of work environment, it is easy to slip over the line and allow aggression to leak into the day to day operations of an organization. At this point, it becomes a destructive behaviour.
Bullies are also often unaware of their own impact on colleagues. Harassing comments can be interpreted as “jokes” or good-natured kidding around. As we often see in our work, ageist comments are regularly used and viewed as acceptable despite their damaging impact. This is why self-awareness and understanding others are the cornerstones of successful professional and personal development. They allow the individual to check unwanted behaviour before it becomes a problem.
To avoid unintended (or unrecognized bullying), identify bullying behaviour and implement a zero-tolerance policy. Provide examples of what bullying behaviour looks like and be clear on what the consequences will be if the behaviour takes place. Make sure you follow through and that alternative behaviours are suggested. For some insight into examples of bullying behaviour, take a look at the sample list provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety provided HERE.
Favouritism: Treating everyone fairly seems like an obvious requirement of workplaces, but sometimes a structural hierarchy can lead to preferential treatment that extends into social spaces. Challenges can erupt when you have unbalanced job designs that result in workload issues or role conflict. This can not only result in giving the preferred employees a disproportionate sense of entitlement but in some cases can result in abuse of other employees creating an unhealthy internal competition.
Conflict Avoidance: When bullying behaviour does happen, ignoring it will effectively reinforce the behaviour. Don’t delay when issues emerge. Address bullying behaviours as soon as possible to avoid future incidents. For tips on how to manage these conversations, check out our article, Tackling Tough Talks
Anxiety: How do you talk about yourself? If you use negative or self-deprecating language to reference yourself or your work, you could be setting the tone for how colleagues or employers engage with you. Some research shows that anxiety, self-doubt, depression and even shyness can result in more frequent incidences of bullying.
Unfortunately approaches for reducing bullying have had inconclusive results. The most significant workplace success has been in increasing awareness of bullying behaviours. The moral of the story is: it’s better to establish an environment that prohibits bullying before it starts!
Increasingly, I am reading articles about our extended lifespans and how these will impact economies around the world. By 2050, there will be more people over the age of 65 than any other age group. Authors who tout a pessimistic perspective and emphasize how damaging the grey tsunami will be are mistaken; they have been proven wrong, time and time again. In fact, living longer has opened up what is commonly referred to as the Longevity Market.
Stria News, a media platform for the longevity market, refers to the longevity economy as “working toward a society that values, supports and serves older people.” In other words, anything that supports the 50+ population is part of this economy. It encompasses absolutely every sector and every service area from housing and learning to fashion and financial services.
On August 23rd Chris Farrell author of the Purpose and a Paycheck: Finding Meaning, Money and Happiness in the Second Half of Life wrote that “the American economy would expand by over $815 billion if the U.S. increased its employment of the 55-to-64-year age group to New Zealand’s level according to PwC’s Golden Age Index.” This prompted me to take a look at the PwC Age Index which, among other OECD comparisons, compares how Canada fares when it comes to the employment of its older workers. Naively, I thought we would be close to the top of the chart, but Canada ranks 18th out of 36 OECD countries. Nothing really to be all that proud about.
Increasing older worker employment rates in OECD countries to the level of New Zealand (the top score in this index at 78%) has the potential of increasing GDP to 3.5 trillion. In other words, if more countries embraced new and more flexible structural and policy factors such as flexible pensions, varied working patterns and schedules, benefits for caregiving, a higher retirement age and more retraining or upskilling of older employees, our world would enjoy much healthier economies.
Canada is facing a shortage of skilled labour in the coming decades. This shortage could be minimized if, and that’s a big if, the value and potential of our ageing population were acknowledged instead of diminished and disrespected. Our world is getting older and we can benefit from the experiences of countries who have been managing older populations longer than we have. We have an opportunity to do better, we just have to learn from those older than us.
For North Americans, September is back to school season. Ads for school supplies dominate television and internet sites and despite our age of technology, stores are still filled with books, binders and other traditional classroom tools. Thinking about learning, however, shouldn’t be limited to “students”. Regular professional development is good for employers, employees and customers.
Continuing professional development ensures that employees keep apace with evolving methodologies, standards and knowledge. It can also mean that employees are continuing to contribute to their teams and business by introducing more effective approaches and depending on the nature of your business, perhaps more safety.
One of the limiting factors around maintaining regular professional development is cost. The cost of courses, the cost of time and perhaps the cost of travel. While not every opportunity can come at a lower price, you can find ways to mitigate costs and stay informed and up to date. Consider the following ideas when the budget is low or it’s not a big-ticket year.
Free Lunch and Learns: Numerous tech and other entrepreneurial hubs across the country offer courses at lunchtime. In Ottawa, Invest Ottawa schedules numerous free or reasonably priced educational courses at their facility every month. You can check out their calendar HERE. They also promote activities provided by others on their site so it’s a great one-stop-shop.
Bring in Professionals: If the cost of taking your staff to conferences is too high, then bring in professionals to deliver workshops. Using your own site or organizing your own rental space can offer a much cheaper alternative while still providing high-quality content. Look to professional associations for ideas on what to offer and don’t forget to check out Top Sixty services HERE https://www.topsixtyoversixty.com/Programs.
Do it for Yourself: Don’t overlook homegrown talent. If you have employees who have knowledge that would be worth sharing, then consider creating a lunch and learn series where individual or paired employees teach their colleagues. Keep in mind that not everyone will be comfortable presenting; make sure that employees have the support they need to make the experience a positive one for everyone.
Online Courses: Online courses offer a flexible and cost-effective way to continue learning. There are numerous courses offered on a range of topics by recognized universities directly or through sites like Udemy or OntarioLearn. Some courses even offer certification. There are also many online courses offered privately by subject experts on platforms like ThinkifIc or Teachable. You can also consider creating online courses from your lunch and learns that will allow everyone to access or revisit content at their leisure. Remember that people have different learning styles and not all online courses will offer the flexibility some people need to learn effectively.
Below is a list of some of the sites to check out for online learning opportunities. Money doesn’t have to be the reason why professional development is halted. It may simply require initiative and curiosity.
In the bustle of the regular business year it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of building strong team relations and thinking strategically. The summer time or any slow season is a great time to make a dedicated effort to build bonds.
In the bustle of the regular business year it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of building strong team relations and thinking strategically. The summer time or any slow season is a great time to make a dedicated effort to build bonds and ensure your team is in synch. The following ideas provide just some of the ways you can build stronger ties in the warmth of the summer.
Introduce More Flexibility To Employee Schedules
With a slower schedule and holidays running interference with regular activities, why not use the opportunity to give employees a more flexible schedule? Long winter hours can be recouped with shorter summer weeks. Leaving early on Fridays, late start Mondays, or no show Mondays or Fridays, is one simple way to reward employees and is a popular move regardless of age.
Get Together With Staff More Often
It’s hard to break down barriers when you don’t spend time together. The summer is a great time to coordinate group activities. Consider building an employee garden, exploring employee creativity with a workshop, or plan a field trip (picnic, trip to the gallery, hike). Whatever you decide, make sure the activity is appropriate for all participants. A strenuous hike is only fun if everyone is fit enough to enjoy it, and a gallery tour will only work if everyone has the focus required to pay attention. Be sure to mix people up so you don’t have the same old cliques reasserting themselves.
Get Strategic With Employees
Summer is also a great time to reflect on activities to date and begin the planning process for the year ahead. Before vacation times start to play havoc with the schedule, have a planning meeting that captures what has already happened and the direction you want to go. Once objectives are set, give employees the summer to consider next steps and their recommended plan of action. Another meeting can be scheduled for the fall to hear their ideas. This will give employees time to research options and develop tactics to achieve goals.
Progressive businesses and organizations take advantage of the slower pace that comes with summer. It’s an excellent way to build group cohesiveness.
I am, and always have been, positive about intergenerational connections, collaboration, living, learning, working, etc. A big component of our business is about helping organizations take advantage of their multi-generational workforces by turning them into productive, intergenerational teams. What I find disheartening is that we need a national day (Intergenerational Day) dedicated to raising awareness about the benefits of connecting across generations.
As a culture, we have become so age-siloed (new word) that we typically don’t have as many connections with those who are differently aged as us. In fact, some research shows that cities are becoming divided by age. It’s a strange evolution of behaviour when you consider that grandparents today are spending far more time with grandchildren than previous generations. Could it be because grandparents are living longer, healthier lives?
The American Association for Retired People (AARP) also has research to show that grandparents contribute quite a bit financially to their grandchildren. The multigenerational divide seems to happen when we move beyond familial relationships and the generations in between.
The problem doesn’t belong to any one generation. We have all grown up in a youth-obsessed culture where the experience and wisdom of an older generation aren’t valued and where media and tv images of the young reign supreme. These images accentuate the advantages of being young and youthful and view ageing as a disease to be conquered.
There is, however, a shift in the media industry; a slow and steady shift that is moving towards representing an older demographic in more positive ways. It makes sense. After all, which generation dominates demographically and which generation holds the purse strings?
When working recently with a youth council in Kuujjuaq, the youth invited an “elder” as a full participant of the group. It was unheard of to not to do so. When questions arose, young people often turned to the elder to ask for their advice. It was natural and normal, respectful with the understanding that longer life means more experience. This belief is venerated in many indigenous cultures. When did we (westerners) begin to move away from seeing experience as an advantage?
Research has proven that children who have had exposure to grandparents and other older relatives tend to have a more favourable view of ageing than those who had little connection with older adults. Other findings show: involved grandparents remain more mentally sharp; grandchildren learn first-hand the historical perspective about how things worked and how lives were lived in the past; and both older and younger benefit from more stable, emotional relationships with reduced depressive symptoms. Intergenerational relationships are a win-win in the personal and professional realms. It’s a shame these realities are not as well-known or recognized as they might be.
Interestingly, the Encore movement in the US has been focused on these intergenerational relationships for many years. The interventions of older adults as volunteers in the lives of younger school children has been proven to show positive gains for kids academically and behaviorally. For older adults, these connections have given them purpose and meaning.
Intergenerational Day in Canada is a novelty but it might encourage future positive interactions among all generations. I am genuinely looking forward to participating with Connected Canadians at Qlik from 10-12 on Saturday, June 1st. If you are interested in learning some digital literacy skills or finding out about the Top Sixty Over Sixty, join us from 10-12 at Qlik, 290 March Road, Kanata. Bring your digital devices to get the help you need and check out the iGen events portal to find other interesting opportunities.
I hope these new intergenerational interactions will provide the impetus to value all generations more equitably.
Not unlike a good wine, many of us over 60 improve as we age. We mellow out, become more compassionate and less competitive and generally have a broader perspective on life. We are interested in the well-being of future generations and have a desire to give back in one way or another.
Well, at long last, there seems to be increasing acceptance of this truth, especially as it pertains to older women. If any of you have watched the recent Golden Globes or seen the NY Times article on this topic, “I am (an Older) Woman. Watch me Roar”, you will understand why I say this.
When women over 60 gain power in positions that traditionally were held by men, the public begins to notice. In many ways it’s unfortunate that they have to gain acknowledgement in the public domain as “powerful” before anyone notices, but if it helps fight ageist bias against older women, I’ll take it.
This January has been an extraordinary start to what I believe will be a new movement. There’s a natural nexus with the women’s liberation and feminism movement of the 60s and 70s, the #Me Too movement and ageism. Nancy Pelosi at age 78 has become the most powerful elected woman in US history; Glenn Close, 71, won actress of the year for the Golden Globes; and Susan Zirinsky, 66, takes over CBC news in March.
These women are all terrific role models and will help start the conversation about how perceptions of age influence decisions that affect hiring, re-employment and general engagement of all older adults. It will help destigmatize some bias, but it isn’t and won’t be enough to penetrate other less privileged socio-economic groups.
It is incumbent on all of us to participate in breaking down these barriers in order to fulfill the real potential of older adults. Everyone has a role to play no matter how small. Starting conversations with younger folks, confronting older friends and relatives about their own internalized biases, and proclaiming with pride how old you are just a few ways to combat the negative understanding of what it means to age.
When my 21/2 year old little grandson started crying when his mother referenced growing up and getting older, he whimpered: ”I don’t want you to get old, mommy, and I want to stay a little boy”. Where does this perception come from so early in life? Obviously, we have to start this conversation at a very young age.
It’s time to change misperceptions about our elders and the ageing process. It’s also time that we begin to own the problem and challenge it personally, with friends, family and in the workplace.
We tend to be unconscious of our own bias against older people, often thinking that the designation of “senior” or “older person” doesn’t refer to us but to “them”. In fact, most healthy people who are over 60 still consider themselves very much younger than their chronological age. The reflection in the mirror does not tell how we perceive our own ages.
Here are some ideas that will help build confidence and defy the notion of your “best before” date:
Don’t shy away from questions about your age. Embrace it and let whoever is interested know the actual number of years you have been around. Be proud of getting to this point in your life and avoid feeling less than adequate.
Change the question about age from “how old are you” to “what is your age”?
Interact frequently with children, youth and adults of other generations, including those older than you.
Move outside your comfort zone and feel the exhilaration of a new experience.
Role-model how satisfying this stage of life can be by talking about the many exciting opportunities you now have.
Foster awareness of ageing with young children so that they don’t fear it themselves. When children as young as 4 are asked if they want to grow old, they tend to reply negatively.
Invite longevity awareness in schools.
Redefine your life course by engaging rather than being enraged.
Take a later in life “Gap” Year or return to university or college to take other courses.
Try out new and different hair styles.
When you forget something, don’t refer to it as a “senior” moment. This just reinforces the misperception that older folks are more forgetful than younger people. Our brains are plastic but like hard drives in computers, they sometimes reach capacity.