There is a belief among many mature workers that there is a conspiracy, or at least a preference, to hire and retain a younger workforce; of letting mature workers go to lower insurance and payroll costs; that job seekers are passed over for being “over-qualified.”
Of course, since age discrimination is illegal, no employer will say they are discriminating based on age. But is it truly the case that two-thirds of workers age 45+ have experienced age discrimination?
Or do these workers perceive discrimination when the true cause might be something else?
Many mature job seekers are feeling very real pain, and many can give specific examples about how they have been mistreated, overlooked, or ignored.
However – and I know this is controversial – I believe that ageism might exist, just not to the extent that many job seekers believe.
Many mature job seekers that I work with are slow to recognize that the world of work is vastly different now than it was even five years ago. Today, companies:
- Are leaning on staff to do more work with a smaller workforce;
- Are requiring employees to adopt new work styles and new technology;
- Have an increasingly greater emphasis on current profitability over long-term growth.
All of these factors work against job seekers, mature or younger, who are slower to adapt.
At least weekly, I hear, “All I had to do was show up and shake an employer’s hand and I would be working that day.” I experienced this, too, once upon a time. It is okay to complain to me and to wish things were different, but at some point, you have to recognize that this is not how companies hire today.
Job searching is much more difficult now than ever before, the workforce is much more competitive, and job seekers often are forced to change careers or accept a lower-paying position than they used to.
But, it is not impossible.
I point to myself as a case study. I surprisingly find myself in the age group of “mature workers” (though, I hasten to add, on the younger end). I am blessed with good health, I feel younger than my age, and I make an effort to keep up with current trends. And, I have been offered three positions since 2009, because I used my experience to reinvent myself to what is marketable today. I did not rely on the outdated notion of “a handshake gets you hired,” or on the false belief that sending hundreds of copies of my resume will be successful. Today I am exactly where I want to be, despite not being able to name a single Justin Bieber song.
I feel for the job seeker, mature or younger, who is having difficulty finding employment. Based on my experiences, though, I know there is a better way.
Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.