Getting a job: valuing the young and the old

Job Description


It’s A Levels results week and all daughter one’s friends have been stressing. She did International Baccalaureate so got her results over a month ago. She’s now applying for jobs. “Do you really have to tailor your cv to each job?” she asked in despair. Oh yes. I told her to insert some of the job spec words into the cv. She suggested copying and pasting all the words from the job ad onto the cv in white type so they couldn’t be seen, but could be picked up by automatic searches that often do the first sift through cvs. I would never have thought of that and it may be of no use at all, but it sounded good.

Technology was supposed to make our lives better, but, as with all things, there are pluses and minuses. In recruitment, it seems all to do with whether or not you tick the right boxes and use the right words. I suppose that is a test of sorts, but is that the skill you are actually looking for? I spoke to a woman the other day who had worked in finance and been in charge of a big budget. She moved out of the city and applied for jobs in schools as finance officer. She got turned down for one because she didn’t use the exact job spec wording on whether she had experience in handling money.

It’s all a bit disheartening if you were not born computer savvy. It can be easy to think you are obsolete and all your experience counts for nothing. When I was working in communications I had an email once from a student telling me how to do my job. He suggested some advice on communications strategy, based on three months summer work experience in PR.  Despite my hackles rising, I do realise that I have a lot to learn from younger people and, in fact, all my children, even only son, are called upon in moments of technological distress. But don’t we older people also have something to offer?
Over the summer, I’ve been reading a new book on just this subject which is coming out in the autumn. It has boosted my confidence no end. In the book, Wisdom at Work, the author Chip Conley argues for a multi-generational workplace where the old learn from the young and the young learn the kind of skills that older people can impart based on long years of experience – good judgment based on numerous episodes of trial and error, excellent contacts, emotional intelligence and specialised knowledge.
It seems the perfect combination. Our everyday lives are multi-generational, after all. Work should reflect life in all its diversity.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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