Today we’re touching a really sensitive topic – your age and how it impacts you as a business analyst. Almost every week, we receive a question around, “Am I too old to be a business analyst?” I always say no, you are not too old – because I believe with my whole heart that anyone can accomplish any goal they truly desire to achieve.
As someone who just turned 41, I honestly didn’t want to go any more deeply into this topic. I didn’t feel like I had a good answer, and I didn’t feel fully informed about the challenge.
And then I realized that while I don’t have a full answer to the challenge of ageism in the workplace, I can contribute to a part of the story. And my contribution is what it was like for me, as a 28-year-old-new manager, to hire a talented man in his 60s who had at least 2 decades of experience in a profession I was just figuring out.
So that’s where we’re going in this week’s video! Please watch the video (or read the transcript) and leave a comment below with your contribution to this important topic.
Hi, I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap. One of the questions I receive often is, “Am I too old to be a business analyst?” I also hear stories that I believe are true that there’s a judgment or perception, particularly, of older workers in an IT environment that tends to be younger.
Now, I just turned 41. I cannot give my firsthand experience of what it’s like to interview in your 50s or 60s and what it takes to be successful in that interview.
But the piece of the story that I want to share with you, the piece that I have to contribute was the process and mindset and somewhat limiting beliefs I had as a 28-year-old manager who hired a 60+-year-old business analyst.
I know that ageism exists in the workplace. I know that there are all kinds of unfairness in the world. I’m not here to solve that problem, but I am here to share my piece of the story to contribute a piece of the puzzle and, hopefully, inspire you to not allow any factor about your life, personality, characteristic as a human being to hold you back from the true success that you really want as a business analyst or any career goal that you might have in your life.
Let me just share a little bit about how this went. I have some notes so I don’t forget to share all the key points because this is an emotional story for me.
My First Fear – That an Older Worker Would Be “Too Experienced”
The first objection I had – I was young and I was a great business analyst. I was like a superhero.
People wanted me on their projects, but I had very little experience managing at that point in my life. I was just like, “Does he have too much experience?” We’re an informal startup. We were in an informal environment and I was nervous that we didn’t need a BA with too much experience because they might not fit in and they might bring too much methodology and too much, “We have to do things this way” to this informal environment. Even just as I said that, I was like that was the most ridiculous thing to think in the world.
And my current 41-year-old self knows that 28-year-old self had some pretty significant limiting beliefs. If anything, we needed somebody with that kind of experience to bring the breadth of experience to this young thriving organization that had huge growth plans. That was the first thing that I brought up.
My manager, the CIO, was like, “You need to interview this guy.” He threw the resume back at me and was like, “Interview him.” I was like, “Okay, let’s do this.”
My Next Fear – That the Older Worker Would Know More Than Me
Then the fear came up of, “Well, maybe he knew more than me.” He probably did know more than me about business analysis. He had a huge deep technical background. Way more experience and education and qualifications than I did for that role. I wasn’t worried about my job or my role. Some people might be. You might interview with a younger manager who’s worried that you’re going to overstep them. That wasn’t the fear that I had.
I was worried about looking like I didn’t know what I was doing. What if this guy comes in and is talking past me and I actually can’t effectively manage him because he knows more than me? That was, again, limiting belief. Fear. Got past it.
The Fears Don’t Stop – What If He Didn’t Want to Work For Me?
The next fear that came up was, “How would he feel working for me?” I put myself in my own 60-year old shoes and was like, “Why would I ever want to work for some young quick start kind of person? I want to work for somebody who has more experience than me.” That was my reality at the time because I was always the youngest person in any role and everybody that had ever managed me was older than me.
I’ve seen, now, how age is less of a factor. It’s about capabilities and your qualities and what your genius work is and what you’re best at in the world. But at that point in time, I had never seen an environment where a significant age gap where somebody older was being managed by someone younger. It just made me feel he was going to feel uncomfortable with me was, again, my limiting belief.
I asked him that question flat out in the second or third; whatever the final interview was. “Are you okay being managed by me or having me as your manager?” He was like, “Yeah, I’m fine with that. Of course.” He was in the third interview putting out what he had into the interview process. Of course he was, but I asked the question and he was like, “Yeah, no problem.” That was, for me, the light bulb went off. Okay, I can do this. He’s okay with it. I need to figure out how to get me okay with it.
Not All Managers Interviewing Older Workers Are Aware of Their Fears
Not every manager might be aware that these fears are coming up for them. It’s probably some version of this, though. To be honest, what was coming out for me was more about my discomfort in being a manager than it was about the age difference or the capabilities. This is only the second person I’ve hired at that point. The first person I hired was older than me but not by so much. It was the thing that was out there and it was easy to see.
Why am I sharing this? It’s not because I want to be a hero about this situation. Obviously, I was not a hero. I worked through a lot of stuff in order to make this happen. It’s not to make the story out to be your story. There might be pieces of it that land with how you have shown up either as a young manager or as an older person seeking employment with a younger manager. You might resonate with some of that.
Even As An Older Worker…It’s Not About You
I just wanted you to see what was behind the scenes because that empowers you to see it’s not just about you. None of what I shared was really about him; it was all about my own stuff.
When you’re thinking about that situation and you’re afraid of the reaction, how can you turn that around? How can you make that person feel super comfortable with you? How can you make that person, use your BA skills, to help them see how you’re going to add value to the organization and bring more to the organization, ask great questions, rely on them, and collaborate, then, with them in an appropriate manager/employee relationship; that you’re ready to embrace that role and you’re excited to work with them, to make them feel comfortable as well?
Try Not to Take Rejection Personally
The other thing is to not take that rejection personally. Job searches are hard. Most likely you’re going to hear more “No” than you hear “Yes.” Very few people fly through life and get every job that they ever apply to and never hear a “No.” It’s kind of like dating. Very few people meet, date, marry, and live forever with the very first person they ever dated. It happens, but it’s very very rare.
Most of us are going to hear “No” somewhere along the path.
But Also Don’t Let Being an Older Worker Be The Excuse
What you do, though, when you make it a factor of a quality that you can’t control is that you give up hope and you let yourself off the hook for taking personal responsibility for what you can change.
You can’t change your age.
You can change how you interview.
You can learn how to interview in a better way. You can learn how to connect with people easily. You can leverage your best skills. You can do all kinds of things that will influence your job search process. If you just say, “It’s never going to work for me because I’m older. I guess I should just throw in the towel,” you’ll never be inspired or motivated to change the things that you can control.
You Can’t Control Everything
I’m not saying there’s no unfairness in the world and that people don’t make decisions on factors that they shouldn’t make decisions on, but all you can do is take charge of the pieces that you can control and move forward in spite of the “No’s,” and learn from the “No’s” when you can, and when you see that it’s truly a judgment, it hurts, but as easily as you can, move forward until you find the person who is going to work through their own limiting beliefs to hire you. Because you have so much to offer.
The piece I haven’t shared yet is that person brought…that experience was so valuable to our organization. I learned so much from him about business analysis. That’s still part of who I am today. You have that gift of experience, knowledge, and acumen that often a younger person doesn’t have because they haven’t seen the depth of the situations and the encounters that you’ve had. Use that as your strength, your experience. Be excited to offer that to the world. I just wish you the best in finding the job that’s the perfect fit for you and finding the right person who sees you for the qualified, excited, engaged individual that you are.
Again, I’m Laura Brandenburg at Bridging the Gap. Thank you for being here. We help mid-career and advanced career professionals start business analyst careers. I don’t think you’re ever too old to be a business analyst. It’s just when is it your time, when are you ready to stop. That’s up to you. If you’re ready to get started, we’re ready to help.
Again, talk to you soon.