Is Age Discrimination really happening?
Yes – it’s real – at least in the Bay Area. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear someone share a personal story about being passed over for a job because of their age. They’re told they’re “overqualified”, “their salary is too high”, they “have too much experience” or my favorite, they “wouldn’t fit in.” Is the issue with the candidate, or could the issue really be with who’s doing the hiring?
I know I’m going to tweak a few nerves with this article, but I think the overwhelming emphasis on technology in the Bay Area has created a hiring culture that favors the young (Gen Y and Gen Z) and sees Gen X and Baby Boomers as dinosaurs who move slowly and are out of touch with today’s fast-paced world. We’ve created an environment where companies would rather train someone who’s young and has somewhat decent people skills rather than hire someone with work experience, life experience, proven problem solving skills, and a desire to do whatever it takes to help the company succeed (e.g. stay late, mentor someone new, find new ways to get the job done on time and under budget, etc.).
Companies are telling Gen Xers (in their 40s and 50s) that they’re overqualified and the company’s afraid they’ll get bored and leave. At the same time, companies are complaining that they’re worried about millennials and Gen Zers getting bored and leaving. Are both true? If you really think about it, which group do you think is more likely to get impatient and move on to another job?
Companies have lost the ability to value, build, and retain a diverse workforce. Not just a workforce diverse in culture, gender, lifestyle, and background, but a workforce that’s multi-generational, and that brings both a historical perspective and a desire to be part of the here and now. Many cultures place a premium on age and experience, but that seems to be withering away in today’s market.
Last weekend I watched The Intern with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It sends a good message about the value an experienced employee, in this case an intern who spent 40 years moving up in the same company, can bring to a young CEO who’s experiencing rapid success in a highly competitive market with a very young staff. De Niro’s character was beloved in the firm because he could stay calm under pressure, see problems that needed to be fixed and fixed them without asking, saw that others needed help and gave his time without wondering what was in it for him, and when he saw the CEO was struggling with a tough decision about her own future, he coached her through her options. This is a wonderful example of the impact an experienced person can make on a very young organization.
One of the most common things I hear from people in their 40s, 50s and 60s is that they want to work. They want to contribute. They want to be a part of something. They have education, experience, resiliency, and tenacity, and it’s incredibly frustrating to be overlooked and told they’re too much or not enough.
NPR has an interesting article on how one man took on R.J. Reynolds for blatant age discrimination, his case may be up in front of the Supreme Court.
Forbes also takes on this issue here, and talks about pending bipartisan legislation in Congress.
For years, staying at a company for a long time was highly valued. Tenure and longevity made a difference when being considered for another job. It showed that a person stayed around to learn, grow, try new things, experience cycles and trends, and be a part of a team in the truest sense of the word.
With so many companies fearing that they’ll lose employees before recouping the cost of their training, why aren’t they seeing that there’s a HUGE segment of the population that can be and wants to be the best hire the company ever made?
Julia is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach, and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals showcase their unique abilities and talents in order to amplify their presence in their chosen fields and when re-entering the job market. Julia uses her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients have the career they always wanted. Learn more about Julia at www.JuliaHolian.com, www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolian, https://Twitter.com/JuliaHolian (@JuliaHolian) and www.Facebook.com/JuliaHolian.