Ageism is everywhere. Don’t expect otherwise. What this means is that you have to bring your game and constantly be training. The paradox is that you cannot show off at work, nor can you scoff at the younger folks for not knowing something. If you’re going to be miffed because the younger folks are doing things a different way, then you’re setting yourself up to be tossed. Remember, if the employees are in their 20s or early 30s, that means that their hiring manager is in her late 30s or early 40s. Guaranteed. If you’re 50 or 60, you’re already on the outs. You’re not in their circle of after-work activities, so they don’t think about you. Or if they do, it’s the on the butt end of a joke. In fact, they’re happy when you leave so that they don’t have to think about you or worry that you’re viewing them as a child, the way a parent might judge his daughter or son. No one likes this. This is why a good sense of humor is important. A sense of humor keeps you likable. It has to be a good sense of humor though, not something inappropriate, bawdy, or mean. Irony works well. Use it. Here, I will even offer you a joke I heard the other day.
The professor [on Gilligan’s Island] could make a record player out of a coconut but he couldn’t fix a frickin’ hole in a boat.
So though ageism is a problem, does it really have to be? That depends. If you’re a government worker who depends on unions, filing grievances or lawsuits, then you’ve got your work cut out for you, for the only real costs that employers face when they get pinned by evidence of age discrimination are legal fees. A Yelp review does nothing. Companies that rely on social media generally have a social media manager who accentuates positive comments at their Yelp page and effectively dust off any negative criticism as a celebration of free speech, which is all that it amounts to. The company wins. So don’t think that you’re really going to stick it to a company via Yelp. About the only thing that Yelp might be good for is corroborating evidence. Maybe. Can’t even be sure that that’s admissible in court. The company is not going to shut down. It’s not going bankrupt. A company is not going to be penalized by the state with a temporary closure. If you prove your case effectively AND you win a judgment, the only thing that will happen is that the company will offer a plea deal and settle out of court. Now the amount has to be worth your time. Sad thing is that the amount in damages is never worth the amount of production you could have had or should have been committed to while you were suing an employer. You will lose time, you will lose money, you will lose productive value. You will learn, too, that as you press your case in a hearing that the attorneys and judges themselves can be unscrupulous and try to
extort extract money from you in fees for this, fees for that if you want a certain motion filed. I don’t mean to be cynical, and if you ever do decide to take someone to court, I wish you all the best.
Leslie Steven-Huffman writes at Dice Insights on the tricks that employers play to discourage older applicants. This message is interesting but it is not THAT helpful. It’s not that helpful because if you know that employers are trying to dodge you based on your age, do you really want to work with them? That’s one. Two, if age is the employer’s primary concern, does that mean that they’re trying to build a youth culture at their shop? Could be. Fine. Then don’t interview with them. Find places where your value can be better applied. But you need a job and you’ve got the skills. So what to do? Keep reading.
First, let’s consider Stevens-Huffman’s article. I found really only two good or interesting points. One is how job advertisers use the “Depending on Experience” phrase and acronym, DOE, to filter out certain candidates.
DOE SALARIES The popular job-posting acronym DOE (Depends On Experience) implies that the employer is willing to negotiate salary for the right applicant. However, some employers intentionally offer lower salaries to older applicants and refuse to negotiate, noted Helen Dennis, a columnist and specialist on aging, employment and retirement.
She’s right. Other key words or buzz phrases used you recognize immediately. Don’t let them get you down. What they tell you is that the employer is looking for a youthful culture (who knows–they could be looking to hire a young 20-something gal from college to prospect for marriage). Here are a few other choice phrases.
RECRUITING DIGITAL NATIVES
In job postings, employers often state a preference for “high-energy pros,” “recent grads” or “digital natives.” This is often code for “older professionals need not apply.” They also dissuade veteran applicants by requesting proficiency with brand-new technologies, or by promoting an environment that feels more like a frat house than a business.
The other point that I liked was that she reminded us where it is that companies recruit: college campuses. It was on campus where I was recruited back in 1993.
Proving age bias in these cases is very difficult, explained Donna Ballman, an employment attorney who represents employees. After all, employers have the right to hire for cultural fit, or to recruit on college campuses and coding challenge events that cater to junior-level workers.
But this was about it. There was little in the article to encourage or direct or redirect older workers or workers in transition. Gary North on the other hand has examined this situation in a bit more productive detail.
What would you advise? Compare your answer with his.
Nick Corcodilos: What I teach the candidates I work with is no secret. Here it is in a nutshell: Be ready to walk into a manager’s office and demonstrate how you’ll contribute to the bottom line. Managers love to hire people who can do that.Obviously, a lot goes into demonstrating that, and it starts with picking the right company and cultivating the right contacts. I know age can be an obstacle, but I find that good companies look past age when they can clearly see how a candidate will make their business better. They ignore the grey when they see the green.
Here, behind a paywall, are North’s instructions.
Start with meeting people connected to the companies you’d like to work at. So if you want a job, don’t go where the jobs are. Go where the employers are.
If you go where jobs are–job boards, newspaper classifieds, job fairs–you’re just encountering competition! Go where the competition isn’t. Figure out where employers hang out and join them.
Try, for example, a local chamber of commerce meeting. I love these for scoping out a town or a city. Then find industry and professional events as nearby as you can. Attend, mingle, don’t ask for jobs–get to know people. I know it’s a lot of work, but so is waiting for job boards to deliver.
The big benefit to this approach is that you will meet a lot of people and that’s where you will get referrals. You will face a lot of NOs, but you need only one YES. It sounds trite, but it’s true about many things in life.