I understand the issue of age discrimination; I have even considered and stated it to be an issue. I am also sure that there are occasions when age discrimination occurs.
Is it age or attitude discrimination?
After some of my recent conversations I have come to rethink that mindset and see it more likely as an attitude problem or an excuse for not getting a job; “they did not want me because I am too old.” The excuse works; it is acceptable; people do not question it – not only do they not question it; they will offer it for you!
What I see
What I see, in my role as a career and job counselor, is the fact that those that have proven themselves over a long career often want to and some even feel they deserve to – rest on their laurels. At the same time those doing the hiring have become accustomed to and come to expect and choose to avoid even a hint of that mentality. If there is any suspicion of the “coasting” mentality; the avoidance mechanism kicks in and the recruiter/hiring manager moves on.
I frequently hear comments from those in the over 50 group about 3, 5, or 7 years and then heading off for retirement. Those doing the hiring interpret that as someone that is looking to “serve out” their time and then move on to what they really want to do. The coasting mindset does not serve anyone; least of all the job seeker.
What business wants
Businesses want people that are hungry, want to contribute, and even have a desire to once more make a name for them. Whether that is or is not the typical mindset of the older person; many have decided that it is the mindset.
Another issue is that those doing the hiring see the older person as having a salary expectation that may be consistent with past performance, but question whether it will be consistent with future performance? The job seeker has this perception that, “the businesses do not want to pay me what I am worth.” Is that the case or is it that the business wants to give good value and be sure they will receive good value in return? Again, I believe it is the latter. Employees are an investment and like any investment there must be a positive return on that investment.
If there is any suspicion that future performance will not meet the expectations of need; it is off to another candidate. Hiring managers simply do not know what to expect and if there are any doubts will rule a candidate out. What those doing the hiring truly want to know is what can and will you do for them and is the benefit worth the cost?
What is your commitment?
How committed are you going to be; when you make a comment about something for the next 3 – 7 years? Does that sound like the commitment you would want? Would you hire that person? You must look at your comments, qualifications, and mindset from the business perspective.
The age 65 and out mentality
Part of the problem is the perceived retirement age of 65; this is a psychological barrier for the older employee and for the hiring manager as well. Just this last week I was listening to a sports commentator discussing Bobby Bowden at Florida State and whether it was time for him to step down; he is 80. Many people think it is time, but because of Bowden’s tenure; Florida State says it is up to him to determine the time and place.
It may be time for Bowden to go, but interestingly in a few areas the “65” factor does not apply: sports coaches and managers, politicians, physicians, clergy, speakers and motivational speakers, consultants, and some others. But without fail it applies to employees of a business. If you are over 50 there is that business perception and maybe it is a misperception, but perception none the less; that you will be retiring soon and simply want to coast.
The “Coasting” mentality
There are coasting jobs such as greeters at Wal-Mart or jobs at McDonalds. This is not meant as a negative for Wal-Mart and McDonalds; those are just not career positions and neither is the 3 – 7 years and out mindset. The Wal-Mart and McDonalds jobs for many simply present the opportunity to get out meeting, greeting, and doing something worthwhile.
What are you doing to improve?
What you must decide is whether you have the desire to contribute and are willing to demonstrate that to the person doing the hiring. If you are an older and especially if you are unemployed these are some ideas of what you could be doing:
- * Adding value to your offerings.
- * Reading relevant materials to your job.
- * Getting that additional education you need.
- * Presenting yourself as a contributor.
- * Identifying your chronological history of contributions.
- * Being active with charitable, non profit, church related, or other activities.
- * Learning new skills or technologies.
- * Teaching yourself new skills with computers or Microsoft applications.
- * Networking with current and past friends and coworkers.
- * Helping others through education and mentoring.
Do you need to reassess
It is time for the over 50 crowd to reassess how they are presenting themselves. Are you looking like a contributor; somebody that will add to the organization or do you present as someone just waiting to call it quits. If you are unsure or there is any doubt; it is time for you to reassess.