Is Age Discrimination Real?

I have been hearing comments lately from over-50 workers why they don’t use Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter in their job search. When asked why, the usual responses are: I’m concerned about identity theft, I’m not very computer literate, or it’s just for kids and younger people.
The fact is that it is not for kids or younger people, unless you consider the recruiters out there (who are probably younger than you) that are using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as the initial screening tools. Why remove yourself from the game before you even got a chance?

I watched the movie “Up in the Air” recently about a “Transition Specialist” (George Clooney) who travels the country from company to company firing people. One scene has a clearly older man getting upset that he has just been fired. “What am I gonna do now?” He wails. “I’m 58 years old, for Christ’s sake!” My immediate reaction was he thinks he’s old, so therefore he is old. (It’s a great movie, by the way.)

Contrast that with a person I interviewed years ago for a project management position in my organization. I knew him personally as one of the most upbeat, positive people I’d ever known, yet had big misgivings about his moving into a new industry. He showed up in a suit (unusual at that time) and I’ll never forget what he said:

“JP – I’m only 52 years old – I have at least another 15 years of contribution I can make. And you know what? I’ll be the best damned project manager this company has ever seen!” I hired him, and he was right. He was promoted twice within 3 years and was a terrific leader.

My point is this: we are as old as we think we are. Does age discrimination exist? Sure it does. Does that mean you have to accept it? Absolutely not. If it is an issue with the company where you are interviewing, go find another one.

If you want to be perceived as a valuable contributor, then that’s who you are and who you must believe yourself to be. Focus on the value you can bring to the company and the problems you will solve for the hiring manager.

My friend used his age and experience as an asset because he believed it was an asset and he sold it. Why can’t you do the same?

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile
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