With the exception of diesel fuel, the choice of train engineers, truck drivers and automobile owners who are indifferent to this highly corrosive fuel  causing serious damage to a car’s paint job if left unwashed, most drivers select from three octane levels: regular (87),  mid-grade (89) and premium (93). Today’s vehicles are technologically advanced enough to tell the difference between lower octane gas and higher octane gas. The electronic fuel management systems detect the switch and adjust the ignition timing and fuel injection to cope. Similarly, Applicant Tracking Software aka ATS can match a resume against a posting and determine whether a candidate match is regular, mid-grade or premium.

Older vehicles are more susceptible to the problems caused by an ethanol/gas mixture, such as water in the gas tank, stagnant gas and rubber hoses. Older cars typically run on leaded fuels with a high octane rating, but since they were scrapped in the early 2000s, classic car enthusiasts have had to look for other alternatives to keep their motors on the road. Cars built for lead-based fuels don’t work well with modern unleaded variants. Lead is needed to protect compounds in the fuel valves and without it, old engines can suffer serious damage and wear. Similarly, job candidates need to be career-long learners and constantly upgrade their skills to meet ever-increasing employer needs and the availability of positions.

For older job seekers, fueling their candidacy with the right transferable skills, experiences and achievements can make all the difference in being considered for new opportunities; especially when the road is heavily trafficked by younger candidates.

There are two types of intelligence that fuel our cognitive processing: Fluid Intelligence (Gf) and Crystallized Intelligence (Gc). Fluid intelligence peaks earlier in life and is our capacity to reason and solve novel problems independent of knowledge from the past; a boon to younger, entry-level employees.

Crystallized intelligence (Gc), by comparison, is our ability to use skills, knowledge and experience, including occupational, vocational and avocational knowledge, to understand and solve problems.  Gc is the Energizer Bunny of cognitive fuels that keeps on igniting well into middle age and beyond.  In a business world chock full of comparisons between older and younger workers, the shortest route to compensating for declines in youthful Gf is to select jobs and career goals that optimize Gc. Ideally, a mix of Gf and Gc powers peak performance. But, the greater the acquired Gc of job knowledge, the more equipped older workers are to perform exceptionally well in an age diverse environment.

In terms of human development, Gc is largely accumulated and maintained over one’s lifespan, whereas Gf begins to decline in early adulthood. Gc is the job performance gift that keeps giving because, in contrast to Gf, it has been estimated to continue to increase until around the age of 70, an age that most working adults are retired by in the United States. Crystallized ability is a robust predictor of job performance.  Measures of Gc that capture an individual’s past performance with respect to learning are the best predictors of future performance.  High Gc Individuals exhibit an openness to experience accompanied by higher levels of learning motivation, another factor related to job performance through its association with greater job knowledge and skill acquisition.  Openness to experience is positively associated with the adoption of a learning goal orientation. Individuals with a learning goal orientation tend to use more effective learning strategies, set challenging goals, display greater effort and planning and seek more feedback; all prize commodities of the older job candidate.

The Gc takeaway is for older job seekers to play to their crystalized abilities and emphasize their well-honed knowledge that comes from prior learning and past experiences to see problems from a wider vantage point. The concept of leveraging experience has become so important to many business models that some companies recognize fulltime Chief Knowledge Officers among their leadership ranks. Seasoned CEO’s are rewarded handsomely for their experience.

Take stock of your Gc fuel and promote your broad knowledge that you have acquired and brought to bear in solving business challenges, your accumulated industry experience and your well-honed communication skills. It’s your knowledge born from experience that is your greatest asset and sets you apart from younger candidates. Thinking critically is the primary responsibility of any manager in any organization and a leader’s capacity to engage in this process is largely determined by his or her acquired experience and intelligence. Older workers have the seasoned expertise to appropriately define a problem and differentiate essential objectives from less-relevant concerns; anticipating obstacles to achieving their objectives. Older workers are more savvy about corporate cultures, business politics and human relations and can  navigate the complexities of interpersonal situations in an intelligent way. Among these are recognizing the underlying agendas of others and considering the probable effects of one’s actions. Older workers, compared to their younger counterparts, are more experientially secure and less maturationally self-focused and therefore able to recognize personal biases or limitations in their perspective and pursue feedback that may reveal an error in judgment so as to make appropriate adjustments.

When you’re assessing your LinkedIn Profile, updating your resume and preparing for an interview, older workers should not only focus on transferable skills, achievements and thought leadership but  on the Gc strengths that set them apart from younger job candidates. To do so without opening the lid to ageism will ultra fuel your career search.

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