Generation clash: Teens face stiff competition from seniors for summer jobs
Welcome to Job Search 2013.
In the right corner is 18-year-old Mikey. He’s
got a B in biology, worked two summers at Camp Morning Wood, and once kissed a
girl behind the bleachers at a school football game.
And in the left corner is 63-year-old Barb. She’s
been through two careers and one divorce, raised three kids, and knows
Place your bets now.
That’s the scene this summer, apparently, and
likely beyond. With teenagers entering the job market, and a load of people
over 60 out of work, the two will be duking it out for seasonal and part time
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each age
group and how can you increase your odds if you belong to either one.
But first, let’s get this out of the way: yes, it’s against the law to
discriminate on the basis of age. But good luck proving your case, and who’s
going to bother? Are you really going to sue people for not hiring you?
Probably not. So, for most people, the law is moot. Moving along…
Now, we all know the stereotypes about each
group, most of which are grounded in truth.
Teenagers are lazy, entitled, self-involved and
unreliable. They think the world owes them and that anyone over 25 is an idiot.
They’re also technological geniuses, compared to their elders.
Seniors, meanwhile, are reliable, hardworking,
and, because they know what it means to go through tough times, grateful to
have a job. But they’re easily technologically confounded. Anyone who has tried
to explain social media to their dad knows this. And they’re not on top of the latest
trends in media or…well, anything.
Yes, I know all this isn’t always the case.
Don’t get sniffy. We’re generalizing. But what employers have to say on the
subject tends to back me up.
David Mason, of Kitchen-Cabinet-Hardware.com,
says “I’ve hired both teens and seniors to work in my company. The
contrast has been quite dramatic. The seniors have been great for customer
service. Their people skills are often fantastic. Teens in my experience often
lack the maturity to know what it means to do a task well and to engage in
professional interactions, but at the same time use the computer like it’s an
extra limb. So for low tech, people oriented tasks, the seniors are wonderful.
For high tech, non-people oriented tasks with clear expectations, the teens can
And career counselor Lynn Berger says, “For
the past 10 years, I’ve had an assistant who was hired after the age of fifty.
Her attendance record is impeccable. Because of her various life experiences
she is of great help to me in many areas, personally and professionally.
Colleagues of mine have made similar decisions that have worked out well for
On teens, she says, “The benefits of hiring
teens is their ability to use technology and social media. However, many teens
are a bit lazy about appearing to work on time and might not have the loyalty
and devotion to the position that an older worker has.”
The people I asked also pointed out that teens,
when you get the right one, can often bring a fresh perspective and a lot of
enthusiasm to the position.
So, what can you do to make yourself stand out?
Emphasize your strengths. If you’re older, emphasize your experience and
amazing work ethic. Play up your people skills.
You young whippersnappers can stress your fresh
perspective and computer skills.
Lynda Zugec, Managing Director of The Workforce
Consultants says, “Mature workers can most effectively land a job in
today’s competitive market by showcasing transferable knowledge, skills, and
abilities that are mainly obtained through experience. Mature workers are
typically better equipped to communicate effectively at various organizational
levels, resolve conflicts favorably, and exhibit greater patience than their
younger counterparts. Relaying such skills through a resume or in an interview
will demonstrate the value that can only be obtained after years of
The young people that stand out, she says,
“are those that have done some research on who we are and are able to
provide suggestions for improvement. Regardless of whether a suggestion
includes small or large scale changes, it demonstrates initiative and creative
thinking which are valuable characteristics to the growth of our
Finally, it can’t hurt to work on your
weaknesses. Older candidates can get a younger person who help them bone up on
their computer skills, show them how to use the Twitter machine, so they at
least know what it is. And younger seekers can learn to be reliable and
interact on a mature level. Then accent those skills in your resume, so
employers don’t write you off as typical of your age group.
Older candidates may find the deck stacked
against them, but remember that your skills and life experience do make you
valuable. So, don’t be afraid to really push them forward. You never know. Even
that shorthand may come in handy.