Workplace experiences and career advice seem to be a source of endless fascination for 20-somethings, and entire communities of blogs have sprung up offering all kinds of peer-to-peer guidance on everything from getting past the job interview to personal branding.
What you rarely hear is the other side of the story: the experiences of older workers - perhaps retired teachers or retrained blue collar workers, restarting careers in their 50s and facing the daunting world of the connected information workplace.
I first wrote about this subject in my 2008 book, Generation Blend: Managing Across the Technology Age Gap. In the interviews I conducted as part of the research, many of the folks I spoke to gave voice to their frustrations and challenges adapting not only to unfamiliar technology, but to the often-foreign, insular, and relentlessly youth-oriented digital culture. This is the voice that managers and corporate trainers don't often hear - or listen to - but understanding it is the key to successful retraining of older workers from non-tech-centric occupations into information work environments.
Despite their knowledge and life experience, these "Boomerang Boomers" confront their own set of challenges, but lack the Internet-enabled social ecosystem of support and guidance available to their younger peers.
Now that's starting to change, thanks to efforts like those of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), a New York-based non-profit group training approach, which speaks directly to the cultural gap between digital natives and digital immigrants in the workforce and in society (full disclosure - I currently serve on OATS' Board of Directors).
Starting May 1, OATS is hosting a month-long blog-a-thon at its community website, Senior Planet. Dozens of older workers, managers, community leaders and retirees will be sharing their experiences returning to the workforce, learning new technology, and taking advantage of social media to learn, engage and express themselves.
In one fascinating post, the former CEO of a community-based organization describes her experience going back to work for a different group, this time as an entry-level worker:
I am the oldest employee where I work. I know the least about technology and everything computer. I now must ask the 26 year old recent college graduate how to design name tags or how to get something on Facebook or how to Twitter a message to volunteers.
I put together lists....lists of businesses, foundations, petitioners, bicyclists and other nonprofit groups.
When someone walks in the door, I ask them whom they would like to see. Of course, they're not there to see me!
I watch organizing taking place. I want to get in there and lend my voice, my experience, but I'm not asked. Essentially, that's not my job. They can do well enough without me.
This blogger's story is bound to become more and more common as members of the Baby Boom start to reach traditional retirement age but remain engaged in the workforce, often in diminished or unfamiliar roles. Just like their more brazen and career-oriented younger colleagues (and, increasingly, managers), they can benefit from good advice or just the opportunity to vent.
The OATS blog-a-thon may seem old-school, but now that older users are becoming the dominant growth demographic on many social media sites, watch for these type of older-oriented blog networks to move quickly from novelty to mainstream.