Thinking about work and my age got me thinking about a couple of friends of mine who are currently looking for employment. They are both around my age. One friend, like me, worked in media her entire career. I have known Wendy since my radio days at CFCO Radio in Chatham, Ontario. We were even roommates for a period of time. We were Lucy and Ethel, although to this day, I’m not sure which one of us was Lucy and which one of us was Ethel. Wendy and I cried together, laughed together and always had the most amazing and honest discussions about our lives, our loves and our hopes, dreams and fears. Wendy is one of the most talented and gifted women I know. Her most recent job was with a radio station in Barrie, Ontario. She had been with the station for 20 years when she received the devastating news she was being let go; a victim of downsizing. Wendy took some time, deservedly so, to enjoy life a little before beginning her search for a new job. It hasn’t been easy.
Another long-time friend resides in Calgary. Anita has spent most of her adult life working in sales. In her last full-time job she worked selling photocopiers and was very successful at it. At her peak, Anita was making a 6-digit salary. Currently she is employed with a bank, getting about 20 hours a week, at far less the money she was making in sales. Anita has searched and searched for full-time work. She was short-listed for several positions, but in the end was told SORRY! Both Wendy and Anita are intelligent, hard-working individuals with incredible track records and impressive resumes. They would be assets to any business or organization out there. So why are they finding it tough to find full-time employment? I know in my conversations with Anita, she believes her age is a detriment. She says on paper she looks great but the minute she walks into a room for an interview she can see the surprise on the interviewer’s face. As long as I’ve known Anita she has always dressed impeccably and her hair always styled beautifully. She presents well! But she says she knows when she sits down for the interview the employer is focussing on her age. She can sense it.
So, my question is should your age be a detriment to getting the job you want and are qualified for? It’s a valid question, given the number of older workers who are losing their positions and finding themselves hitting the pavement in search of new opportunities. Many of these older, experienced workers are being replaced by younger, less qualified candidates. And why are so many companies and organizations opting to let their older, more experienced employees go? Is it simply because the younger employee is cheaper? If the bottom line is the sole reason, I argue there are more pluses to hiring an older, more experienced worker.
The word “experienced” is an obvious plus. Older workers are also part of a generation who understand and believe in employer loyalty. It rarely exists with today’s younger workers. Many are looking for that next job, almost as soon as they step in the door. There is also something to be said about having a history within an organization. As managers are replaced, there is always a tendency for the new manager to come in and shake things up. I can appreciate that but, many times, their new ideas really aren’t all that new or innovative. The employee with a history knows it won’t work and why it won’t work. Remember the saying “been there, done that?” It rings so true for the employee who’s been around for a while. Older workers can also be mentors to the younger, less experienced worker. The older worker can serve as an example to the younger employee.
And let’s talk about home-life balance for the older worker. As I mentioned earlier, I’m in a good place right now. With young adults in the house, I can rely on them to help out more with daily household chores. Well, that’s the hope anyway. I also don’t have to deal with sick kids, child care and running kids to activities anymore. I remember those days when I was juggling work, kids, activities, grocery shopping, cooking and the dreaded laundry. I remember taking my daughter to swimming at 5:15 in the morning and sleeping in my car in the parking lot until she was done at 7:30a.m. I then had to rush to get her breakfast and off to school by 8:30a.m. That was around the same time my son’s hockey games were later in the evening and we weren’t getting home until 10:30 or 11 o’clock at night. By the time I arrived at work, I was exhausted and I would leave work only to have to do it all over again. Those days are behind me now, although at times, I do miss them. Did I just say that?
Don’t get me wrong. This article isn’t meant to discount the capabilities of younger applicants. With youth comes excitement and exuberance and young employees have that drive and passion to take on new challenges and prove themselves. I was young once too looking for my first job. Young workers are also more accustomed to working with technology. Let’s face it they’ve grown up with it. That being said, that doesn’t mean you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
There are pros and cons to hiring both demographics. It is my hope that when employers assess the capabilities of applicants and determine how well they will fit into their company or organization, they will stay clear of a person’s age. Don’t discount the older applicant based solely on their age! A person’s age shouldn’t figure into the decision- making process.
I surmise today’s workforce needs and would be better off with more Wendy’s and Anita’s.