by Jane Genova on June 22, 2012
Schumpeterian forces – that is, creative destruction – are upending many industries. At the top of those disrupted are finance and the legal sector. Employees at all levels and representing all generations are being affected by reductions in hiring, layoffs, blocked promotions, and stagnant compensation.
But, because of overall age bias in employment, bundled with the need to pay your children’s college tuitions and weddings, you, the over-50 might be feeling the worst of this. You are struggling during a period of your careers when you anticipated you would be picking up awards, being sought after as a mentor, and receiving big bonuses. Instead you may be in a panic. It’s tough to find comparable jobs, differentiate yourself for a promotion, and figure out how to shake loose more money from your employers.
What you have to factor in, if you want to get on the other side of all this, is that the American brand of capitalism might be leading you as aging workers to blame yourselves for anything less than professional homeruns. The results? Big time problems. For example, the resulting shame can distract you from fixing your situation. That’s exactly why you have to understand this extra burden put on you, get it off your back, and then push on with finding work, climbing the ladder, and earning more. Millions of the aging are thriving, despite the odds against them. Among them are Rupert Murdoch (media), Richard Edelman (public relations), Betty White (entertainment), Jack O’Dwyer (information), and Larry Summers (economics).
Capitalism, of course, is complex. Thought leaders make careers and brandnames for themselves explaining its basic tenets. The two most apt to ensnare you, especially if you are not temporarily winning the game, are, first of all the hunger for more. That includes more wealth, material possessions, status, influence, and power. Since others will always have more than you, this establishes endless restlessness, along with self doubt if not enough is acquired. It’s inevitable then that, when there’s a setback, you will be confused, preoccupied with “why am I not winning.” The confused can’t focus clearly and realistically on strategies to improve your situations. Your energy is also sapped by negative emotions.
The second plank is individualism or the conviction that you are solely responsible for both success and failures. When sidelined, this drives you to isolate and not broadly reach out for help. Yet, that’s often how new opportunities land in your lap. During the 1970s, graduate sociology student Mark Granovetter discovered in his research what is called the “strength of weak ties” or how going beyond your usual or homogenous networks uncovers the hidden job market.
How this happens is simple. Joe, who works in the deli in the lobby probably knows more about openings in the building than most people. He notices that certain customers don’t come in any more and asks around. So he tips off the unhappy lawyer in X firm that she should check out Y firm. Sylvia in your housing complex has a son who’s an intern at Company ABC.
Capitalism as a system can build wealth for nations, enterprises, and individuals. But if its “oughts” are taken too seriously, during a crisis you can become stuck. Instead of blaming yourself for your current situation, take responsibility for the role you had in getting to where you are, and for the role you’ll have in getting to where you want to be.
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Jane Genova is a contributing writer at the Wall Street Job Report.