The age issue

This post was inspired by one of our former clients who contacted me some time ago with a question that transpired both curiosity and frustration,

“Why don’t employers want to hire people 50+ or even 40+?

I will try to answer this question by basing them on what we’ve experienced and observed with our clients from that age group that could be easily divided into 2 groups.

Group #1: Stuck-in-the-past (read: afraid of change)
Passive, resistant and reluctant towards learning. You can hear them say “I have been doing this that way, I don’t need to learn another way” or “I don’t need to learn online marketing. I prefer traditional marketing.” They are scared of the “new” and feel a bit lost. They see reasons and faults in the external environment, and not in themselves.

Group #2: Up-to-date
Active, always developing (usually on their own initiative), familiar with the newest technologies and trends, “they are not scared of computers”, they are fluent in “Internet” (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). They have iPhones, tablets or other similar gadgets. They are courageous and proactive. They are “equal” to the 30-year-olds when it comes to “technologies” but they are “worth more” when it comes to their experience. Clients like these do not search for a job for more than 6 months.

Of course, there are always people who are somewhere in between.

Clients from the first group demonstrate a psychological phenomenon called “self handicapping”. Read more here. In short: they unconsciously find excuses, distractions, reasons to not do what they should be doing to find a new job; which, as an observer is frustrating, because as Career Angels, we know, how relatively little it takes to be successful.

To provide a full picture, please allow me to also give examples of positive cases:

Managing Director
Age when he contacted us: 55. I asked him, “What is your dream job?”. His hesitant reply, “My dream would be to start / develop operations of a company from the DACH region. But who would want to hire an old guy like myself? They probably prefer 30-year-olds”. He was open to our suggestions and 4.5 months later he started as the CEO of a small start-up that he developed from 15 to over 65 people within 2 years.

Finance Director
Age when she contacted us: 53. Her words, “HQ has decided to ex-change the management board. Everybody tells me that I’ll have difficulties finding a new job because of my age. But I don’t feel that old.” 5 months later she became the CFO of a construction company.

Is it as easy to find a job for 55-yr old managers as it is for 35-yr old ones? Probably not. But it’s possible. Apply to companies that embrace experience, value maturity and celebrate generational diversity.

Some might say: but that depends on the industry. And the country. And if we have a crisis.

That reminds me of an article I read the other day written by Miłosz Brzeziński “You are the best”. He refers to prof. Dweck who states that a person can have 2 attitudes toward self-development:
1) static: “This is how I was born”. “This is how I have been doing it for like ever.”
2) dynamic: “I can improve”. “I can change”. “Who I am is my choice”.

That seems to correspond with our observations.

One of our Career Angels, Valeria Lebedieva, adds, “It can be argued that the ability to be flexible declines with age. The counter-argument would be that the HABIT of being flexible declines with age as many adults stop learning and developing once they graduate from university.”

So, which group are you? 1 or 2?

One of our former clients (50+ job hunter) has commented on this post here.