Despite being in my 50’s now, I’ve refused, to this point, to surrender to the belief that I am getting old, despite my physical characteristics telling a different story. Even a college classmate tried to enlighten me to the fact that our age was now working against us. While discussing our next career moves, we lamented our lack of success to secure new positions, without even earning an interview. As the eternal optimist, there had to be other reasons, I thought, why we weren’t getting ‘the call’—better candidates being my top choice. Although I didn’t agree with him, a small seed was planted.
It was during a candid conversation with a recruiter that some of the market realities made an impression on me. The recruiter indicated that firms, especially those in high tech, slanted their job searches towards younger candidates. He went further to say that there is now a language used as part of job descriptions which surreptitiously lean towards a young candidate, as an example, job descriptions requiring a ‘high energy individual’. In fact, one job posting I saw recently was titled “Red Bull Attitude Required!!” This is simply anecdotal evidence which doesn’t pass legal rigor, however.
Trying to understand this bias made me think: is enthusiasm and energy restricted to the young? Can old dogs not learn new tricks? Or, are firms looking for someone that will stay with them for twenty-five years and retire collecting their gold watch? However, sometimes we find even young people lacking the get-up-and-go necessary for a position, or they may not possess the foundational skills and experience to learn the new trick. Similarly, the probability of spending your entire career with one firm is almost laughable these days. If there is discrimination based on age, it is not well founded.
In spite of all the arguments I can make, affirming the value of an experienced worker, I need to dig my head out of the sand and face the new reality—firms prefer a younger workforce! Rather than fighting the prevailing winds, experienced people, such as me, have to find a way to make ourselves more relevant in an ever-changing world, don’t you think?
Ryck Marciniak (guest blogger)