Why Using a Flip Phone Could Be Bad For Your Career

Last week we talked about a few of the top soft skills in demand by employers, a few them related to being able to succeed and thrive in spite of conditions like constant change.

Looking ahead, all companies have to prepare and plan for a future where workforces and cultures are built to be agile, but where does this leave the workforce demographics that find change hard?

Before I go further, are you attributing this quality to a particular demographic – one based on socio-economic status, race, gender or age?

That’s a bias, and one that should be easily refutable. Millennials and Gen Zers are thought to be more technically savvy and adaptable, however, it’s hard to go a week in my world without someone complaining about them, who by the way are NOT entry level anymore; many are already managers themselves. The complaints essentially have to do with their inability to be open to criticism, coaching, and wisdom, which are all reflections of resistance to change. Other complaints have to do with a lack of accountability and self-management, attributed to a “participation trophy” upbringing. This, too, is still a reflection of resistance to change.

Bias is the reason for this article. Humans do it. Companies do it. I’m not saying it’s right, but it is natural.

The truth is that all human beings are hard-wired to find change hard; it’s a defense mechanism built into our primitive brain to help us be wary and hyper-alert to potential danger in new situations. We also have more evolved parts of our brains that help us adapt and assimilate to new environments, but not without being uncomfortable, or even downright stressed.

Not all stress is bad, but our culture and media isn’t reinforcing this, and certainly human beings are not built to stay in stress response for sustained and chronic periods of time. People aren’t dying of old age; they’re dying from disease, many of which are traced back to stress.  This can impact any age, race, creed, etc. However it’s the aged population who are the most at risk for serious health impacts; they’ve been responding to stress for more years, and not all are getting better at managing it. In fact, the pace of change, especially in the workplace, can be understandably overwhelming.

The recruiter’s objective in simple terms is to identify value and assess risks of qualified candidates. This is, by law, NOT supposed to take into consideration health, age, race, or creed. However, they can and need to be able to assess how well an employee will perform, collaborate, and develop in accordance with the company’s business operations and plans. Adaptability, as reported in last week’s blog, is fast becoming one of the top soft qualities in-demand.

The challenge is, as with any soft quality, it’s nearly impossible to narrow down a candidate pool based on soft qualities, and unless the candidate has effectively branded themselves as adaptable and provided hard evidence, a résumé and LinkedIn profile will not make adaptability obvious. Recruiters have to look for “signs” of adaptability. This could look like working in diverse technology environments, getting promoted at a rapid pace, evolving with a fast-growing company, working for companies known for being on the bleeding edge, or assimilating to different cultures.

On the other hand, recruiters in their attempt to assess risk may perceive certain things as signs of a lack of adaptability, which may or may not be an accurate way of assessing adaptability and future-readiness, but it’s just another thing that makes hiring and recruiting ripe for disruption.

I remember hearing last decade that “anyone wearing a watch was definitely 40+.” At the time I wanted to be perceived as more mature, so I bought and started wearing a watch. It seems superficial and trivial to me now, and an even more dangerous indication of harmful bias that leaves room for discrimination.  Now I’m hearing, “If someone still has a flip phone they are stuck in the past.” This is also a sign of bias. Someone might use a flip phone because they won’t be distracted by it, and have other means, like a tablet or iPad, of getting other things done.

Back then I would have given candidates concerned about age discrimination to make themselves appear more youthful by accommodating such statements.  Now, with 13 years of success with my clients and unflappable confidence that you can put yourself in a position where YOU have the power of choice over where you land, my advice is to demonstrate adaptability using authentic means. Don’t buy into the bias. You’ll just end up fighting it regularly on the job, and that will diminish your job and perhaps your effectiveness.

Show off the diversity of technologies you have learned and applied

  • Work in internationally immersive experiences to your branded content
  • Tell stories about changes you have championed (mention the business cases and results)
  • Comment on or write articles or LinkedIn posts about emerging trends and technologies
  • Attend conferences and interface with people on the front end of industry disruption
  • Adopt new habits and learn a new skill; it doesn’t even have to be work-related, but will demonstrate your hunger for growth
  • Get out of your comfort zone at least once a week; you may fail at something new, but you’ll have new stories to tell and insights to share

So, using a flip phone can be detrimental in that you may not be considered by a company who perceives it as a sign of resistance to change and progress. However, that company has some progress to make of their own raising awareness about biases, and that’s not your burden to bear.

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.

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