No question, ageism exists. There are millions of terrifically competent people who are over 50, over 60, over 70, who are not working. Some because they have given up, and some because they have been in youth-oriented businesses and getting older impacts them unfairly.
Some encouraging data around age:
First, the BLS unemployment data [www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea10.htm] does not support ageism. Monthly they track unemployment by age, sex and marital status. Historically the unemployment rate for 55 and over is significantly lower than the 25-54 age bracket.
Second, let’s look at the age of the C-suite in US businesses. This is from a study by Korn Ferry, one of the countries largest Executive Search firms.
- Average age of CEO’s is 59
- Average age of CIO’s is 55
- Average age of CFO’s is 54
- Average age of CMO’s is 54
- Average age of CHRO’s is 55
In my humble opinion, many of us “older folk” are the problem, not the hiring organization. And I say this as someone who is well north of 50.
Why do I say this? Well, a little background. I am a career coach who works with senior managers and executives who are looking for their next gig. I have been doing this for over thirty years. I have worked with over 1,000 clients in the last 18 years and over half of them were over 50.
Here’s what I have observed that makes me think a part of ageism is created by us … the candidate.
- Our dress is out of date, or worse, we show up for an interview in a suit and tie [or the female equivalent] with a company that stopped wearing suits years ago.
- We tell interviewers we are “not really into that social media stuff.”
- We have not stayed current in our field or we aren’t articulate about trends and challenges in our field.
- We take notes on a yellow legal pad versus an iPad Pro.
- We are not physically fit and often overweight.
- We have so much experience we don’t spend much time preparing for the interview. Fact: Top candidates spend 8-16 hours preparing.
Let me ask, if you were the hiring manager and a 30-year old candidate walked into your office and displayed even half of the six points above, would you be excited about them as a candidate?
My message is, if any of the six points apply to you, then make changes! The good news is all six are easily solvable. However if you disagree, I can recommend a good career coach. 😎