Friday, December 5, 2008

Help Wanted: Energetic Network Workstation Administrator

This is something I wrote to the Keene Sentinel's editor:

This article is not about the election. It’s about what happens after the election.
Once the ballots are cast, the choice is made, and victory declared, we still need to lift our country out of the mess it’s fallen into.
The cure for all that ails us will not come only through legislation or pretty speeches; we will need to work together and make sacrifices as generations of Americans before us have done in times of crises.One area of concern is Social Security.
At 59, I could retire in three years. My Social Security payments would actually be sufficient for my needs, even if I take early retirement.My health care needs are already met by virtue of being a veteran enrolled in the VA health care system.
And yet...
I began a master’s program in computer science at the age of 53. I’ve finished all my classes, but still have to finish my thesis (I have a tendency to procrastinate ... sigh). My grade point average is 3.83. I’m not saying this to brag, only to make the point that my brain seems to be functioning pretty well and I can be competitive with people decades younger. I didn't start a graduate program at 53 only to retire at 62.
And yet ...
I recently applied for a job in Peterborough as a network workstation administrator. The basic requirement was an associates degree and two years of experience.There was a code word in the job advertisement though: “Energetic.” My guess is that it actually means young.
I received a phone call from the company during which I was told that my resume “stood out.”I explained that I was looking for an opportunity to expand my experience in IT and was so happy to receive the call.
Unfortunately, a few days later, I received a letter stating that they appreciated my interest, but would continue their search for the “right” candidate.
Twenty years ago I would have been a shoo-in for that job.
I have to ask: Does it make any sense to discourage older workers by denying them opportunity, by assuming that they are unwilling or unable to make significant contributions to the workplace?
We are faced with the dilemma of baby-boomers, expected to live longer and be more active than any generation we’ve ever known, retiring 10 to 20 years earlier than is necessary and drawing on the Social Security system. Current projections show that the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted by 2042.
I suspect that sometime well before that, young people will become very upset with a system that they are expected to pay into without any hope of return.
I know that people experience age differently and for some people early retirement is a necessity. I am not criticizing them. Nor am I proposing that the age for eligibility for Social Security be increased.
I’m just saying that if I’m physically and mentally able to continue working and making contributions, why make it miserable for me and my cohorts?
Why treat us as if our only career path is to wind up a greeter at a Wal-Mart?
It annoys me enough that I’m tempted to just give in and fill my life with diversions and let Social Security pay for my extended vacation.
And yet ...
It seems to me that the patriotic and responsible thing to do is for older workers, who are able, to continue contributing to our society, boosting our economy and paying into the system so that if our children should need it, the money will be there.
For that to happen, the workplace needs to become a bit “older worker” friendly. My sincere hope is that this letter will help start a public discussion of ways to retain and reward older workers with opportunity and a sense of relevancy in a culture that glorifies youth.
Yes, youth is glorious, but as Browning said, “... Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid! ....”
Posted by Patricia Martin on 11/08/2008 @ 05:50PM PST

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