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Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Posts Tagged ‘Boomers

Is Hiring Overqualified Workers a Good Idea?

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With the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent (at least until Friday), and 12 million or so Americans out of work, there are still a lot of things related to the economy worth fretting about. Hiring, however, is not one of them; as this New York Times article makes clear, there’s never been a better time to get talented, experienced workers through the door—with many businesses reaping the benefits of hiring people who are plainly overqualified for the positions they’re applying for. The question, however, is whether that’s something you’d want to do.

On the face of it, there are plenty of very good reasons why you’d want to hire someone who was taking a step down in terms of their career: they’re much more likely to be able to do the job you’re hiring them for well, while in many cases also contributing extra just to stay interested. And, overqualified or not, they’re just as likely to be grateful to land whatever they can as anyone else.

As the Times piece makes abundantly clear, there are also plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want to hire from the “overqualified” pool—the number one reason being that you’re much more likely to experience turnover as soon as that person finds something that’s more in line with their experience levels and salary expectations.

Indeed, the final sentence of the Times article sums up the greatest problem employers will have with hiring overqualified workers: the employee they profiled “wonder how long simply having a job will be enough.”

If you take all that into account and decide that you’re going to take your chances on someone who’s overqualified, here are a couple of ideas to bear in mind.

Hire with an eye on the future

Sure, unemployment might be high right now, and not projected to dip significantly for several years, but that alone isn’t going to keep top talent in positions that just aren’t enough for them. If you’re going to take the risk of giving a job to someone who’s overqualified for it, try to identify areas where their skills might be of use in months and years to come, even if they’re not crucial to the role you’re currently hiring for. That’s especially true if you’re thinking of expanding, or if you know you’ll have other employees leaving in the short to medium term.

Find ways to keep them engaged

If “simply having a job” isn’t likely to be enough for a candidate, find out what would be closer to “enough” for them: maybe they’d be interested in leading professional development initiatives based on their past experience. Or maybe they’re more the mentoring types, and would be willing to take on a younger or less experienced colleague. Additionally, highly accomplished careerists have usually mastered the ability of multi-tasking, and may be able to pitch in in entirely unrelated areas of the business, and develop new skills and experiences of their own into the bargain.

Accept that they’re going to leave

Some things in life aren’t meant to last. If you can bring in someone with an abundance of talent and experience to give your company a temporary lift—and possibly raise the game of everyone around them into the bargain—then it may well be worth doing even though you know it’ll only be until something better comes along. While hiring can be a drawn-out, expensive affair, companies in this environment won’t struggle to find people either at or seeking to step up to the level of hire you’re looking for. So why not take a chance on hiring someone above that level and find out what someone in the position could be capable of. There’ll still be plenty of “good enough” candidates to fall back on when it’s absolutely necessary.

Boomers: Too Old for High Tech Careers Today?

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AP Photo/Jerome Favre

The information infrastructure of the last thirty years has primarily been built on the backs of the Baby Boomer generation.

From microcomputers to minicomputers, from servers to PCs, and from tape drives to disk drives, the plumbing for the internet was essentially created during the Boomer generation’s prime earning years.

The four horsemen of the internet (Sun, Oracle, Cisco, and EMC) employed and advanced the careers of thousands of Boomers both during and after the dot com boom.

Many Boomers are wondering if their run in high-tech is over.

As they approach retirement age they are witnessing the rise of the most technology-savvy digital natives in the history of humankind. Is there any way for Baby Boomers to compete with a generation that has been completely immersed in technology since birth?

The answer is an unequivocal yes.

There are two important dynamics that can still tilt the odds in the Boomer’s direction: certification and reverse innovation.

The first dynamic is the relative lack of university curriculum that addresses the explosive growth of digital information. Browse the course offerings at any Computer or Information Science department and count how many courses address the critical topic of information storage.

There aren’t many.

Of the four horsemen, perhaps no technology company is sitting as pretty as EMC. The information storage company has diversified its product portfolio to include information security, cloud backup, document management, and information compliance (to name just a few). Most college grads, however, lack the basic training in key information technologies such as snap copy, replication, deduplication, and virtualization.

This levels the playing field for those old dogs that are still willing to try a new trick: certification in information storage technologies. EMC’s Gina Minks explains:

“There is a critical lack of skilled storage professionals. This is a big problem, given exponential data growth, ever-increasing business and regulatory requirements for data retention, and the widening array of devices that generate information. Poorly designed and/or managed infrastructures put all of that data at risk. Certification programs, such as the EMC Proven Professional program, are a formal validation of storage expertise. The program provides instruction and hands-on practice for individuals interested in learning about everything required to plan, deploy, manage and leverage an information infrastructure.”

Minks goes on to explain that different levels of certification can address different types of job offerings:

“High-tech enthusiasts can sign up for ‘open’ certification (which focuses on all segments of information and storage management) or they can focus on EMC-specific certification. There are three levels of certification for all tracks that are based on a person’s ability: Associate, Specialist, and Expert. Whether they take the open track or they focus on EMC technologies, certifications can open many doors during the job seeking process.”

In fact, employers that can’t find qualified candidates will often send new employees to certification programs in order to train them more quickly. Certified professionals have already self-organized and formed “Proven Professional” groups on LinkedIn (over two thousand certified professionals are currently members of this group).

The lack of extensive university training won’t last forever.

EMC itself has bumped up against this problem as part of its own hiring needs. They’ve begun to partner with hundreds of academic institutions as part of the EMC Academic Alliance. The window is still open, however, for Boomers that want to work through a certification program.

The second dynamic in favor of continued Boomer high-tech employment is the global phenomenon known as reverse innovation. For the last twenty years large corporations have strategically planted R&D centers in developing countries to take advantage of cheap labor rates. Boomers once again played a large role in the creation of these “off-shore” locations. In many cases they built strong working relationships with their foreign counterparts, and learned how to conduct business with different cultures. Innovation was often created in the US and a portion of the work was transferred overseas.

In 2010 reverse innovation is taking place.

The global R&D centers are creating products for developing markets and exporting the new products back to the US. This situation places a very high value on those US employees that are experienced in the transfer of high-tech product specifications and collaborative development.

When it comes to this type of international high-tech collaboration, Boomers are preferred.

Distributed development teams are complex and difficult to manage efficiently; experienced

Boomers can add value by drawing on their previous experiences.

In the short term, the iPod-toting, cell-phone using, Facebook-savvy all-digital generation does not necessarily have the advantage when it comes to tech jobs. Boomers can still work hard at understanding the information plumbing of the internet. They can continue to leverage their international experiences.

And they can start to tweet about it. All the way to retirement.

-Posted by Steve Todd, EMC Distinguished Engineer. Read more of Steve’s posts on careers in the tech field on his Innovate with Influence blog.

Written by Phil Stott

March 11, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Boomer Careers: Where to Next?

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AP Photo/John Cogill

As the Boomer generation approaches retirement age, it’s only natural that members of it should stop and reflect on what they have contributed to society—individually, collectively and in their careers—and where they can possibly go from here.

As a Professor of Physical Therapy and Director of the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse’s Clinical Education program, Gwyneth Straker is as close to the top of her profession as she feels she’s going to get—at least without expending more time and energy than she’s willing to give at this point. At 60, she’s also feeling both the pull of retirement and the pressure to keep going for as long as possible—something that is driven both by financial concerns (her 401(k) took the same hit as everyone else’s recently), and by her desire to keep mental deterioration at bay by remaining active and involved.

“I was planning to retire two years ago,” she says, but now acknowledges that she’s looking at “at least another six years, if not eight,” in the workforce. Not only, that, but “I’m working longer and harder than I ever have, and if you factor in inflation I’m making less than I did ten years ago.”

The one consolation for Straker is that she’s reached a point in her career where her skills and knowledge are in huge demand, prompting her to consider a switch into the consulting world: something that likely resonates with many workers in her age group.

“Ideally, I’d like to do around 12 to 15 hours per week,” says Straker, envisioning a future in which she parlays her experience into conducting workshops, seminars, and on-site evaluations. Not that the remainder of her time would be spent idly; an active participant in her church, she says she’d like to do more service-oriented work. Anything, in fact, that will keep her busy. “We know so much more than our parents did about how keeping active helps prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia,” she says. “I can’t imagine retiring just to spend more time in the garden.”

In addition to success, Straker has enjoyed something in her career that many younger workers will likely never experience: the stability of having had one employer over most of the last two decades. However, even that has come at a cost, she says—something that she puts down to a trait instilled within her generation.

“We grew up believing that if you were loyal to your employer, they’d show you loyalty in return. That’s a stark contrast to what I’m seeing in these times. It doesn’t feel like there’s any loyalty any more.”

That last point, she says, goes for Gen X and Y workers, as well as for employers, resulting in a change in attitudes among workers that she’s been happy to see: “The younger generation have a threshold where they say ‘I’m not going to do that.’ That’s something I admire.”

As a member of the first wave of female employees who entered the workforce on a theoretically equal footing with her male counterparts, Straker says she struggled over the course of her working life to strike the proper balance between working and raising a family, and with the added pressure of “having more than our parents had”—a phenomenon she characterizes as the Boomer generation “getting sidetracked by greed.” That, plus the concept of loyalty to employers has left her feeling like her generation “did it,” when it came to balancing priorities, “but at a price we didn’t know we were going to pay.”

For each member of the Boomer generation, that price will obviously be different, but for Straker hers is clear: “I’ve sacrificed my own professional goals—and to some extent my personal ones—to meet the needs of my employer. That was a mistake that I don’t think this generation will make.”

“We set out to change the world with grand plans,” she says of her the Boomers—comparing it to what she sees as the “pragmatism” of X and Yers—”and I still think in those terms.” With that in mind—and an increasing number of Boomers looking to extend their stay in the workforce and still seeking to take their careers in new directions—it’s entirely possible that there’s another act yet to come from her generation.

For information on consulting as a career choice—whatever stage you’re at—click here.

Vault’s top 50 consulting firms.

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