“Sometimes older employees have higher salaries because of their longer tenures and it's cheaper to hire a new grad. How does an older employee compete with a younger colleague?”
The key to this is relevancy and, to be honest, some humility.
As chemists, we understand the need to be up to date with the latest science and technology. However, as we progress in our careers and lives, this can take a back seat and complacency can naturally set in. We can develop blind spots in our knowledge and expertise, so when a younger chemist arrives full of energy and passion along with bleeding-edge knowledge and that lower salary, you become expendable. You do not want this! You want to be that chemist that is full of energy and passion too, not to mention the years of experience that you bring to the table.
Make sure that you do not rest on your laurels! Stay up to date! Go back to the days of grad school where reading journal articles for a certain number of hours per day was expected. Take the opportunity to attend ACS Meetings – locally, regionally, and nationally – and network with other chemists to stay up-to-date. Take professional education courses – and ACS offers these, too – to maintain relevance. If your company offers internal training, take full advantage of these opportunities. Make sure that you talk to your supervisor, too. State your career aspirations, get measurable goals for your annual performance review and put these in writing. Doing these things will help you be proactive and competitive as well as help you maintain the energy and passion for chemistry that you had when you started your own career.
Keep in mind that the younger chemist who is competing with you earned the right to do so. Remember that they have earned that spot just as you have earned yours. Treat them with the respect that their position holds. By doing this, you will not only be viewed as relevant, but you will also ensure the respect that you justly deserve in return for your years of experience. You will also grow cross-generational advocates who will help you reach your career goals.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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