As a baby boomer and brand new empty nester I was really apprehensive about re-entering corporate America. I enjoyed a lovely 5 year hiatus to pursue a passion project, put in my 10,000 hours and was starting to see the first fruits of my labor. Of course, you all know what happened next. Covid hits, panic, fear, loss of a dream, yadayadayada-back to the workforce I go.
Now, after a year of freelancing in modern day corporate America, I have accomplished some pretty amazing things. I was able to:
Stabilize our finances after the pandemic
Sooth my empty nest sadness
Fortify a retirement plan
Restart my advertising career and sharpen my freelance skills
Socialize and meet some really interesting people
Challenge myself and expand my world view
Learn, learn, learn new things everyday
I hit the jackpot with my remote graphic design position with a wonderful company; SE grocers in Jacksonville, Florida. This diverse, creative and passionate studio of over a dozen designers has been some of the best co-working camaraderies and work families I have ever experienced. I unexpectedly discovered that working with people who are my children’s age is a wonderful kind of diversity and not something to be overlooked. Here are a few tips I learned if you, my boomer friend, are thinking of taking the plunge.
Go full blown adult on them
Go easy. In my interview I was asked some interesting questions for which I had no creative answer. What would I do if I found an elephant in the backyard and how would I build a spice rack in space. What I wanted to ask in return was; What would you do if your teenage daughter said she was going to the movies with a girlfriend but instead ended up at some guy’s house who had a pet kangaroo? Now that’s a question.
Take to much advice from your adult and teen children.
They will always view you as a dorky parent to inept to be of use or know what to do, not as the professional you are and have always been. That being said, don’t go crazy with the gifs or trying to be to funny. You already have amazing friends and a fabulous life. DO rub it in to your children when your coworkers think you said something funny and when they invite you to happy hour.
Ramble on like an old person.
I was interviewed by multiple people in the studio to make sure there was cohesion and chemistry AND they wanted to know if I could handle the stress. (LOL) What would I do if I was under a deadline and how would I deal with stress was the question. I did not tell them I was promoted to production manager at the age of 20 for the advertising studio of hess’s department store. It was my job to my make sure a staff of 60 people; copywriters, layout designers , graphic designers, artists, photographers, traffic people and typesetters made their deadlines for ROP of 72 stores on time and under budget. I did not tell them after missing the late fedex pick up for another 6 person digital advertising department of my own making, I had to buy a seat on a plane to get an ad to the paper in New Jersey for press in the morning. I also did not tell them that I handled the stress of a single motherhood. Always on the verge of homelessness and worried constantly about creditors, keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table for myself and two small children…working several jobs and eventually losing my home…instead, I smiled, and said I would get a snack or take a quick walk. That’s all they wanted to hear.
Be yourself. Be confident.
You may not be able to pick the coolest gif or get all the cool kid references- but you got life experience baby! You know what’s around the bend with relationships, kids, careers-life! 10 points to Gryffindor (they love references to Harry Potter, Star Wars, Marvel and other pop culture). You should see their little faces light up–they ‘re adorable. What you lack in techno skills and pop culture references you make up for in life skills and experiences. The peace, ease, the confidence, the lack of corporate ladder climbing- knowing you’re not going to melt every time there is something wrong at work. You know everything will be ok because you’ve been through everything and it turns out to be O.K. There is dignity & grace in that ease and confidence that no degree but the degree of life provides.
DO. Employers, this is for you.
Give boomers a chance. We may not know where to plug in our email -just kidding, I know its battery operated now, or know how to code or know what UI or UX means. We do have an amazing work ethic, are willing to learn, not afraid of making mistakes, asking for help or are easily offended. We really care about doing a good job and are not after your job. We care about people, life, spirituality, compassion and the joy of giving of ourselves. We are a real asset to any team, are a wealth of information and will enrich your work life with real life experience in a way no 20, 30 something can do. Plus bring a diversity that only we can give. You won’t regret it. Go ahead, ask your mother, see what she thinks and really listen to her this time.