Dear J.T. & Dale: My daughter just got a job at a company that works a “flex” schedule. They told her she can work her 8 hours anytime between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. She is planning to go in at 10 and stay until 6. I told her that it makes her look lazy and that she should go in early to show commitment. She said nobody does that anymore and it will make her look like a suck-up. What do you think? – Vanesa
J.T.: Companies are using flex schedules as a benefit to entice candidates to work for them, especially younger workers focused on work-life balance. Your daughter is right – she doesn’t have to go in early to impress. What she does need to do is make the most of the time when she is at work. Flex work schedules are meant to give employees the chance to come in and do their best work at their personal optimal time. So, as long as she exceeds expectations, it doesn’t matter if she goes in early!
DALE: How I hope that’s true. A lot of companies say they work 9 to 5 or whatever, and then reward those who work 7 to 7. There’s an old managers’ boast that goes, “We work half-days here – whichever 12 hours you choose.” Let’s hope she’s found an environment that truly believes in a reasonable workday, and that the company rewards teamwork, creativity and productivity, not just hours. The only way to be sure is to observe the work habits of her co-workers, especially the ones who hold the positions she aspires to grow into.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I’m convinced I’m being discriminated against for my age. I look great for 55, but the last three interviews I’ve been on have been with people 20 years my junior. It’s clear they feel threatened by a more mature worker for fear I might show them up. What can I do to not intimidate these young bloods? – Clint
DALE: Ah, Clint, you’re making me nervous with your self-assessment, and with your conclusion that there were three out of three “young bloods” who “feel threatened” because you’ll “show them up.” One young manager feeling that? OK. But three out of three? I think the issue is something other than them being threatened.
J.T.: I encourage you to step back and imagine you were in your 30s and read what you said to us. Is there any chance you can see how your attitude of intellectual superiority is the real problem? Millennials (people under the age of 35) make up more than half of today’s workforce. And in the past 10 years, they have suffered public humiliation by baby boomers. Now, they sit in positions of power. Can you see why they might have some real bias toward the older workers who said they’d amount to nothing? Add that to your “better-than” attitude, and it’s no wonder why they are all saying “No thank you” to you as their co-worker. My advice, get some humility and realize that they have the jobs you want. It’s time to approach your interviews with a different mindset.
DALE: That’s a bit grim. After all, most older workers have kids, and those kids have friends, and from that there’s a kinship across generations, and respect too. And that’s the mindset for your interviews. The person interviewing you is a future friend, or at least, a future teammate. You’re not there to impress them with how knowledgeable you are, but what a great ally you’ll make. You go in wondering, How can I help the team? You probably won’t know that when you walk in the door, but you ought to know it when you walk out. That is, you walk in with questions that will help you understand the manager’s needs. So here’s the change in mindset: Before, the interviewers felt that if they hired you, you would be challenging them and debating them; with the new mindset, the interviewers should feel that hiring you would make their jobs easier.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.