Overcoming Age Discrimination in the Workforce

Overcoming Age Discrimination in the Workforce

Age Discrimination

The adage that 60 is the new 40 is absolutely true… if you want it to be! I love being the age I am and wouldn’t trade it for anything — age discrimination and all.

Yes, unfortunately age discrimination is still alive and well, particularly in the job market where it rears its ugly head in not so subtle ways. But there are advantages to being “seasoned,” as you will see.

A friend of mine was laid off from his job as executive vice president for import and export at a major international company. He was 57 at the time — not an easy age for someone to find a job. Not only does he want to work, he has to work. He has two kids in college, two in junior high school, alimony, two mortgages, etc.

He put his resume online with several of the high power career job sites. It wasn’t long before a recruiter contacted him about a potential job that he said “Is perfect for you with your skill set.” They set up the interview with the corporate hiring manager. Then the recruiter called back. He told my friend that the hiring manager had gone on LinkedIn, read his profile and decided he was “too old for the job.” Those were his exact words. As I said… not easy at his age.

And this is by no means a solitary case.

In a 2014 Forbes article Liz Ryan, aged 55 and CEO of Human Workplace stated: “I hear more examples of age discrimination than I hear about sex discrimination, racial discrimination and every other kind put together. I expect that’s because some employers believe that older workers aren’t as nimble or perhaps aren’t as easy to train. Some of them undoubtedly worry that an older person is necessarily overqualified, and thus likely to bolt the minute a better job comes along.” Statistics, though, prove this very wrong. Younger people are just as apt to “bolt” for a better job.

I’m sure most recruiters and employers aren’t even aware that there are laws preventing age discrimination against people over 40. If they were, they probably wouldn’t be so honest about their reasons for not hiring someone.

I personally don’t understand why people on the sunny side of 40 don’t, can’t or won’t appreciate the expertise someone has acquired over the course of their career.

When I shut my ad agency after 30 years of working 24/7, I thought it would be a great idea to work for someone else for a change, and let that persons have the headaches of running a business. I simply wanted to bring my skill set to an agency and be a “worker bee.” I certainly had the credentials any ad agency executive would be looking for, along with extensive contacts in the community.

It didn’t take long for me to discover that I wasn’t going to be hired by an ad agency. If it weren’t so painful at the time, and if the excuses weren’t so over the top, it would have been laughable. What it boiled down to was that the agencies were looking for a younger, sleeker — and less expensive — model. Never mind that they would have to train that person in all of the areas I was already an expert in.

Reinventing Myself

After that reality hit me, I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to reinvent myself. I can look back now and laugh… then, not so much!

The first thing I did was assess my financial situation. I felt I was in a good position since my girls had finished college and both were married. I figured I could go without a paycheck, if I carefully watched my expenses, for a couple of years if I had to. I also knew I didn’t need to make as much money as I had been.

Next, I did some serious soul searching. What did I really want to do at this point in my life? I had thought I wanted to work for someone else, but did I really? I had been the “boss” for 30+ years. Could I really work for someone else? Did I want to work part-time or full-time? Did I even really want to remain in advertising?

I sat down with a piece of paper and at the top I wrote: “In my ideal world what would I really be doing?” After crossing out winning the lottery, I got serious.

I remember sitting there thinking about people I knew who had gone through the same thing I was going through. A high school classmate of mine, after a long career in tech sales followed by the proverbial pink slip became an ex-pat and moved to Thailand. He loves it there, and he’s following his passion — he started a self-publishing company, published a couple of successful novels he had written and is now helping young, aspiring authors get their novels published.

Another friend, after two decades in hospital administration, has taken up sculpting and is now working on his fourth one-man show. And yet another, a highly successful executive for a large media company, set up a consulting business when she was axed. The funniest part of her story is that she’s now consulting for her former company, and making more money than when she was on staff.

And my friend the executive VP for import and export? After unsuccessfully searching for a new “high power” job for a couple of years, he decided to follow his real passion. He and his wife bought a bed and breakfast inn that they now run and love. They meet people from all over the world who come to the DC area to visit. Some of the stories he tells are amazing, and whenever he and his family travel, they have friends — people who have stayed at their B&B — they visit.

I, too, decided to take the leap and follow my passion, writing, and here I am.
Being a freelance writer allows me to set my own work hours, work with clients I actually like, take jobs I find challenging, and find time to work on the quirky novel that’s been floating around in my head for ages.

And I’m not alone. I chat online with lots of people in the same position. For most people, what they’re looking for when they reach “seniority” is a challenge. They want to stay busy, they want to learn and more than anything else, they want to prove their worth to themselves.

But do you want to know the reason I absolutely love being my age? Freebies and discounts! There are discounts for airline fares, movies, hotel stays, restaurants, etc. Discounts are all over the place. Now that’s discrimination I can go for!

For the most current list I’ve found, go to The Senior List of Discounts.

We’re at that point in our lives where our responsibilities to family have lessened and we can do what we want, when we want. And the best thing anyone can do is enjoy life to the fullest.

Be outrageous, be funky… be the best you can be.