Changed Jobs at Fifty-two

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about new job: Now I feel so out of place here and so dumb and stupid. I am having a hard time learning their system.

I am fifty-two years old and changed jobs, and really regret it. I was the one everyone came to at my old job of thirteen years. Now I feel so out of place here and so dumb and stupid. I am having a hard time learning their system. I gave away so much in my other job and feel that maybe I am too old to change jobs.

Signed, Too Old?

Dear Too Old?:

No, you are not too old unless the new job calls for physical stamina that you had at 20. You might not learn as fast as you used to or you might have come to this new position without the adequate background skills, but age is not the problem. Why did you change? And who decided you had enough smarts to do this new job? It is not likely that they made a mistake. Probably they based their hiring on the special expertise and respect you had earned in your old job. Returning to your old job is not likely an option; therefore, you must swim in these new waters.

If after a reasonable time and effort you can’t swim as is demanded, you will need to consider other options, such as being moved to a job that calls forth skills of which you are capable. The learning curve is steep for you now. Therefore, you are kicking your self for being “dumb and stupid” as you do in this query. You are faced with learning their system. You have buckled down to the hard work of learning it, but have to be told more than once how to do something? You make mistakes. You have to ask again and are afraid to ask again. You are tempted to cover up your stupidity but fear it shows. It hurts to have others going about their jobs without a worry when you are stressed.

Learning to dance is hard even for celebrities who have achieved in their own field. If you were an Evil Kneival or Martha Stewart, at 50 you might find it difficult to learn to dance. But although learning might be so slow that you feel stupid, that kind of motivation to achieve would help on the dance floor. Apparently, learning the new system demands mental muscles that you have not developed.

Therefore if you need special training, admit it and request it. This is a time to keep the communication channels open with your supervisor/manager. Don’t be shy. Don’t complain about how hard it is. Don’t mumble about your stupidity to coworkers. Don’t hesitate to need to have a trainer walk you through a process more than once.Do these dos and don’t make sense? From a distance, my analysis might not apply, but if not, at the very least it should forcefully say, “Age is not your problem.” Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is the spirit especially needed when you’ve entered a new work environment.

William Gorden