North Bay Business Journal


Companies are recruiting people with “grit” to fill their job openings. This attribute provides an insightful way to recognize valuable applicants for hire.

The term “grit” is based on author Angela Duckworth’s book, which describes how a person has acquired the strengths of “courage, perseverance, resilience, creativity, a knack for problem-solving and an openness to learning,” writes Ellen McGirt in the February 2018 issue of Fortune.

Employees with these personal assets are participative and productive workers.

They “accept feedback better, work harder, and bounce back faster from setbacks because of their life experiences. Instead of bemoaning their failures and challenges, they have an ongoing quest to master life’s complexity,” McGirt wrote.

These are “signs of potential that standard credentials don’t always capture,” wrote McGirt, and often identifies the type of employees that companies want.


Painful personal histories shape attitudes and behaviors. Those who choose to overcome adversity and stretch beyond perceived blocks also know how to bring positive energy and innovative ideas to company goals and projects.

Here are two examples of famous people, who used “grit” to rise beyond their limitations.

As a young boy, Thomas Edison’s parents pulled him out of school after teachers called him “stupid” and “unteachable.” He spent his teenage years working and being fired from various jobs. Despite these setbacks, Edison never deterred from his true passion, inventing. Today we are grateful for his 1,093 inventions, which include the light bulb, phonograph and alkaline battery.

J.K. Rowling’s teenage years were complicated by her mother’s diagnosis with multiple sclerosis and a strained relationship with her father. As an adult she was jobless, newly divorced, a single mom, and living with her sister because she was broke.

But, that failure led her to strip away what was unimportant and focus her energies on the only work that mattered to her. Thus, Harry Potter and all of his adventures were born. She recently said, “Rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”


The older adult job market is filled with potential employees who have internalized, honed, and embraced the qualities of “grit” over their lifetimes. Why would a recruiter use age to dismiss this talent?

Mature job candidates need to be seen for their value, born of “grit,” and not dismissed by preconceived thinking about people who are older. Ageism, like all the other degrading isms, needs to be eliminated. We need to reframe outdated thinking and see individuals for the contribution they bring to a job that expands their organization’s bottom line. After all, isn’t that the goal?

Yet, age discrimination continues to block the path to new careers and job opportunities for older adults. But, research proves that the preconceived ideas of how age affects people at work are false.

Peter Cappelli, co-author (with former AARP CEO Bill Novelli) of the 2010 book “Managing the Older Worker,” has looked more closely at the list of negative reasons companies give for not hiring mature workers, reports Nathaniel Reade, AARP The Magazine, September 2015. “From pulling together research from fields like economics, demography and psychology, Cappelli determined: virtually none of [the reasons] holds up when it comes to actual job performance. Every aspect of job performance gets better as we age,” wrote Cappelli.


Even if employers do not hire older workers today, they will need to in the future. The National Council on Aging reports that “as the population ages, older Americans will play an increasingly important role in our economy and America’s leadership in the world marketplace. By 2019, over 40% of Americans age 55+ will be employed, making up over 25% of the U.S. labor force.”

A growing number of organizations are waking up to these facts, and beginning to welcome older workers. Some are even designing programs that merge mature workers’ skills and attributes with company needs to develop competency for open job roles. This forward-thinking effort will not only attract valuable older workers, it will also retain them.

Beat the competition, and find the best employees for your company by overcoming ageism and adding the qualities of “grit” to your job descriptions. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to tap into this growing pool of talent.



The New Retirement: A Paradigm Shift ( is a recurring column by Gloria Dunn-Violin (415-259-7090,, [email protected]). She is a professional speaker, seminar leader, and business consultant through her company, HAVING A LIFE After Making a Living. She has over 25 years experience in organizational behavior and development as a trainer, facilitator, consultant and coach. She also advises financial, insurance, and other businesses on how to provide their clients and employees with meaningful advice about aging and retirement.