It really is sad. There is so much focus on making sure that employers do not discriminate for a wide variety of reasons, yet there is almost an acceptance or embracing of negative age decision-making.
If you think I am joking or over-reacting, then let me update you on the latest public example. No, I am not referencing the on-going insurance commercials about “not being your parents” as if anyone over 50 is stricken with some type of lifestyle/decision-making illness. Instead, the founder of a company (who shall remain anonymous…but is a high-end activewear company) recently released a social media video where they spoke of only hiring “Gen Z.” Now you would think that a message like that would be condemned by the media, creating a need for a very public apology. Rather, the initial response was primarily praise with one news website even writing that “it sounds awesome.”
When Inc. magazine called the company out for the video, the company claimed it was all just a “silly video” and pointed out how they also hire millennials. So, a person is left to assume that also hiring people in their 30’s makes everything OK.
If you are over 50 years of age, then you are well aware of what you are up against when it comes to perception. The false conclusion that you are not computer savvy, are resistant to change, can’t learn new ways, unable to work with younger generations, and always a step behind are just some of the horrific stereotypes that have to be overcome.
There are several ways that someone from the Generation X or Baby Boomer groups can combat age discrimination. Let’s highlight the top three and what you can do to help yourself.
1. The clearest path to employment is to be the opposite of the stereotypes. I listed above all the negative connotations that are attached to a worker getting older. Don’t be that person. Be sure to keep your compute knowledge up-to-date in terms of both software and the latest terminology being used. Show up for your interview looking professional but contemporary, with plenty of energy. Provide examples during the interview regarding how you have worked well with a cross-section of employees. If you have led a team of younger generation employees, then communicate how you have connected with them for success. A challenge to overcome is when your prospective Manager will be much younger than you. A key in this situation will be to highlight how your experience will assist this person in their own personal success and career growth.
2. Screen out companies that slight Generation X and/or Baby Boomer workers. Companies that go out of their way to communicate how they cater to young employees should be evaluated with a wary eye. All of their social media postings may be a subliminal message out to candidates that older employees need not apply. Rather, focus on the companies that highlight those retiring after distinguished service, or employees who have their milestone tenure dates with the organization. Examine photos being posted to see if there is a healthy cross-section of not only race and gender, but also age being displayed. Focus your job search efforts on those companies that you know will appreciate the unique skills and experiences that you will bring to them.
3. Don’t just accept age discrimination if you believe it has happened to you. If asked an inappropriate question, then you are well within your rights to either not answer, or redirect. This could range from outright being asked for your age, to something more subtle such as repeatedly questioning your work stamina. If you sincerely believe that you have become the victim of age discrimination, then you deserve to do something about it – not only yourself, but for others who have been impacted in the past. You can make a visit to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office to see if your situation warrants action by them. Unfortunately, one of the most insidious aspects of age discrimination is that it is often stealth in its actions and very difficult to prove. Usually, companies do not make an overt mistake such as asking a blatantly illegal question or making an inappropriate comment, but rather they just quietly filter out the more senior candidates.
There appears to be a misguided drive by some companies to hire predominantly young talent as a formula for success. Not only is this type of hiring practice illegal, but it also is a poor business practice. Employees over the age of 50 years-old have so much to offer a company that it is foolhardy to overlook the benefits of their experience and wisdom. You can help yourself during your job search by not allowing yourself to fall victim to age stereotypes. Don’t give the prospective employer a reason to apply negative age stereotypes to you, and never just accept it when a company illegally filters your candidacy out due to your birthdate.
As always, the best of luck in your job search.
The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.
Joe Stein WNY Human Resources Professional
Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at: Joe Stein