The Age Thing

by on March 25, 2015

The Age Thing

Function AgeI remember in the last year of my corporate career in 2007 being first exposed to the topic of “generational diversity”.  I was an attendee at a conference for my department and one of our speakers was brought in to alert the management team of its emergence.  We were informed of the fact that the American workforce was beginning to experience for the first time in its history four distinct generations being a part of it.  The values, issues and attitudes of those four generations had stark differences, many formed by the way they had been brought up and the events of their generation.  The purpose of the talk was to increase the attendee’s awareness and also to begin realizing that this was a factor which was going to be part of their life going forward.

Move forward eight years and I am no longer part of a corporate culture, though many of the job searchers I work with or meet certainly are.  Additionally, the talk I attended was prior to the late 2008 economic downturn which altered the landscape of the working world and the job search process that is a part of it.  I hear a lot of different feelings expressed by those in search with whom I come in contact, but right up there as the number one item is what I’ll term “the age thing.”

I’ll term it “the age thing,” because it actually has many facets.  Those of the Baby Boomer generation express it as “discrimination” in their search for a job.  However, be present in a group of Millennial, and they will express that their age is a handicap to them in the job market because of their lack of work experience.  There are comments made about work styles, ways of communication each generation uses, tools they use to complete their work and items stressed as to what is most important to them in the work world.  Not all of these comments are flattering, especially when a member of one generation is referring to an individual of a different generation.

I guess what gets to me the most about “the age thing” is just how much it bothers many of those with whom I come in contact.  There are some that will let it stop them in their tracks in terms of pursuing job positions.  Others will get past that point, but will be sure to point out that the person that interviewed them was as old as their son or daughter.  Still others will lump all companies together indicating that they’ll be not considered the right candidate because of their age at any company.

Am I saying “the age thing” does not exist?  Of course, not!  However, it is not going to go away.  It is a part of the landscape of 2015 in the United States (and also the world), and from every indication I read it is here to stay.  So, how does one cope with it?

Personally, I don’t think about it.  I have worked with clients in their 20’s through their 70’s.  While the individual issues are different, fundamentally they come under common areas of dealing with life transitions and acclimation and putting together the best strategy for a career search.  I can’t change my age in working with my clients.  However, I can listen to what they are saying.  I can ask them questions about what they are feeling and experiencing.  I can offer up suggestions on how they may want to approach that which it is that they seek.  And, most of all, I look at them as individuals, not someone with a number stamped to them.  Additionally, if they choose to work with me, I’ll explain to them the ways I work with my clients and let them choose what may work best for them (in person sessions, telephone sessions, Skype sessions).

Yes, “the age thing” can be frustrating, especially when you believe it is the only reason why someone is turning you down for what you want.  However, an Electrical Engineer who was hired last year at 65 years old by an organization who wanted him for his skills and knowledge based on a process he had written about 25 years before said it best for me.  “Once I present who I am and what I offer, then they have to overcome their bias if they don’t want me”.

Make “the age thing” their issue and stop letting it be yours.

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