Age – and assumptions.

Over the past couple of days the issue of age – and the issues that are associated – have come up for me.

Firstly I was part of a LinkedIn group discussion about how employers consider that older folks ( 50+ in this case) will be less likely to engage with social media tools in the workplace than younger ones.

I can understand where this comes from of course but as someone who is  – ahem – a wee bit into that age range and who uses social media widely I know that I am not alone. The impression is that young people have grown up with social networking  so they will be able to make it work but in my experience although they are usually comfortable with the tools they still need to learn how to apply them effectively in a work context. I run workshops for students demonstrating what is possible in using social networking during the search for jobs and it takes a bit of a mind- shift for many of them to see how what they do for fun could lead to a job. Maybe they will learn how to use business related tools more quickly but I still think that  the assumption that folk at either end of that age range would be better or worse than the other in learning need to be proved.

Then  – along with a couple of my fellow board members – I was interviewing the young people ( 16/17 year olds) who have just completed the Young Enterprise Scotland Company Programme .  They formed companies; raised capital ; appointed directors; decided on , marketed and sold a product; kept accounts; dealt with people issues; built relationships with suppliers, customers and stakeholders….in short every aspect of business.

It is hard to explain how the YES participants engage with the programme. Seeing is believing. They have the opportunity to present and sell at an event before Christmas each year and then at the Awards Night in March. I defy anyone who attends either of those events not be impressed by the range of skills   and level of enthusiasm.  They have a far more authentic experience of business issues than many of us will  ever have in a lifetime working in organisations.

It is easy to categorise people by age. Based on our own personal experiences we will have our own assumptions about others in certain age brackets. But it is worth testing those assumptions regularly!