5 Myths and Facts about Engaging Seasoned Independent Professionals
Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers make up nearly half of the independent workforce.
In spite of this, there can be a reluctance to hire seasoned independent talent.
The enterprise that includes seasoned professionals in its independent talent pool can realize big benefits from the expertise and deep knowledge of multi-decade veterans.
Though an increasing number of Millennials and Gen-Z members are going solo, Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers still make up nearly half of the independent workforce, with 26% and 23% respectively. These professionals are demonstrating the value of their experience and perspectives to the companies that engage them.
Seasoned independent professionals of all ages have retired, but not from work. They’ve retired from the office, from schedules they don’t control, and from being tethered to one location. Income is a factor of course, but many make their career choice for a variety of reasons beyond money. Many enjoy the schedule flexibility that allows quality time with family or the opportunity to travel or pursue new hobbies.
Solopreneurship is made for seasoned professionals. Often, the choice to go independent is rooted in a passion for their work and a desire to contribute valuable expertise and knowledge to their clients. With decades of experience in their skill area and a wide perspective on the highs and lows of the market, they can set up their own businesses with relative ease.
In spite of all this, there can be a reluctance to hire seasoned independent talent. Myths about people over a certain age can create unconscious bias against them, when in fact they can be of immense value to their clients.
These are five common myths about seasoned independent professionals that can get in the way of realizing their business value.
1. They’re 55 and older
This has been the default age bracket used by researchers to draw conclusions about “older workers.” In reality, anyone over 40 is fair game for the “older worker” label. And depending on the business area, a seasoned professional can be considered “older” as young as 35.
2. They’re out of touch with the way we do things
This myth is well-embedded in fast-changing areas like marketing, creative, and technology. The assumption appears to be that once someone learns to work a particular way, they’ll never change. In fact, seasoned independent professionals are often experts in change. Research has shown that age has no relation to resistance to change (busting another myth about seasoned workers). In fact, having learned coping mechanisms from almost continuous change over their careers, seasoned professionals have generally reached a higher level of comfort working in transitioning environments than many of their younger colleagues. Many are lifelong learners and are eager to stay up to speed with new developments in their skill areas. They keep a finger on the pulse of the market and keep current with business news and trends.
3. They’re not up to date on technology
This myth covers the types of technology that are used across all business areas. While seasoned independent professionals may not be among the early adopters of a new technology, they tend to be fast followers once uptake is certain. They adapt as needed, whether to a new generation of smartphones, digital collaboration tools that support a remote workforce, or processes and workflows with significant online components. In fact, research has reported that older workers adopt technology at the same pace as their younger peers and with less anxiety.
4. They’re inflexible and hard to work with
This could be called the “grumpy old person” myth. Seasoned independent professionals can be in a “cut to the chase” zone when focused on work, and therefore be quite direct in their communication. They are also likely to ask “why” more often, seeking the reasons behind a particular strategy, decision, or change. This type of behavior is not deliberately contentious, though it may seem that way. Confident in their skills, experience, and perspective, seasoned independent professionals are often far clearer about what they need to understand to get the work done than their younger counterparts.
5. They cost more
Lots of experience means lots of money, right? Not necessarily. Seasoned independent professionals tend to produce faster and more error-free results than younger contractors. What usually takes three hours to do can take one hour for seasoned talent. Also, seasoned workers who have had successful careers will often “semi-retire,” that is, they’ll take on roles that tap skills that they particularly enjoy. For example, an IT manager becomes an independent software developer, or a marketing director becomes a freelance copywriter. They don’t expect to command the same pay rate as they would if they took roles based on their previous positions, so their clients get a cost-effective contractor who produces great results and contributes insights and suggestions based on their backgrounds.
Some or all of these five myths may live in your company, and you may be missing out on almost half of the independent professional workforce. Enterprises that step out and include seasoned professionals in the independent talent pool can realize big benefits from the expertise and deep knowledge of multi-decade veterans.
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