OK, it’s Friday, and I am probably going to get myself in hot water here..but hear me out…
A lot of material has been published both in print and posted online that has caused older job seekers, especially those Baby Boomers in their 50s and 60s, to be afraid that they are no longer marketable. As a career coach and resume writer, I am finding that even some candidates in their early-to-mid 40s are now concerned about their age when conducting a job search.
Do Companies Really Discriminate Based on Age?
The answer, for the most part, is a resounding “NO!” Most companies do not discriminate against older workers. In fact, in today’s business climate, where organizations have serious concerns about the strength, work ethic, and dedication of the younger generations, it doesn’t serve corporations to do so and workers with more experience are becoming more highly valued.
The Truth Is in the Numbers
First of all, it is a simple fact that Baby Boomers by far outnumber their children’s generation. So basic math tells us that employers cannot afford to be that picky. The whole job market simply cannot be 22 to 40 years of age!
Second, I’m not sure I’ve met many senior managers, supervisors, and advanced-level professionals who are 25 years old. Furthermore, it isn’t like all hiring managers are less than 40 years of age. Many of them are also Baby Boomers or just about. It is a hard sell to suggest they are discriminating against people their own age.
Third, I have yet to hear employers say that they don’t value experience. You simply can’t have much experience at 25, no matter how great you are.
The Real Issue
It seems to me that what many people tag as age discrimination against older candidates during the job search has more to do with the attitudes possessed by that worker. Remember, most older candidates simply have more work history than those job seekers right out of college. With that experience comes the baggage of having been laid off, downsized, rightsized, outsourced, or just simply having had a bad boss.
The Bitter Root
That baggage usually manifests itself as bitterness during an interview. Any trained interview professional will easily key in on underlying bitterness a candidate possesses, even if the job seeker is unaware of its existence. Think about it, whom would you rather hire, candidates that are bitter about their previous work history, knowing that they will likely drag that with them into their new role, or candidates fresh out of college that are enthused, excited, and energetic about the opportunity at hand?
That’s not age discrimination, that’s just simple common sense. Employers don’t want someone who looks run down, tired out, and weary, and is still angry about that old boss in 1982! Employers want to hire people with good attitudes and a good outlook on work and life, people who are up-to-date on their skills and eager to take on a new challenge, who leverage the great experience they have earned (especially from the bad situations) to build a win-win environment.
So Age Discrimination Is a Myth?
No, unfortunately, cases of it have and do occur. Blue collar, manufacturing, entry-level administration…those are areas where it can occur the most. And, thankfully, there are processes in place for when they do. But even in many of those cases, the tricky question is whether someone is being discriminated because of their age or they are being replaced because of having out-of-date skills.
In this day and age, there really is no longer any excuse for not knowing basic computer functions. There are just too many resources out there, many of them relatively inexpensive, that can help you.
The Last Word
No matter how you look at it, in no way, shape, or form is age discrimination occurring at such a level to cause an entire generation of workers to feel they need to hide their experience on resumes or to feel trapped in positions because they won’t be able to find another company to take them.
I really believe now is a great time for Baby Boomers to be out there. They just need to take that knowledge and combine it with an eagerness to still learn new things and to bring to the table the standard of professionalism that is often sorely lacking in today’s corporations.
My company evaluates candidates on all of their strengths and weaknesses, and more often that not, age is not even a consideration…it is the client’s background, attitudes, and abilities that are the focus.