September 28, 2009

Readers’ Forum: Old, talented and sidelined

Filed under: Job Search, Readers' Forum

It’s the question on the lips of the ever-growing over-60 population. (Hey, you’re not over 60? Just wait a few minutes… because when you get to 60, it’s gonna feel like just a few minutes ago that you were younger.)

From the new Ask The Headhunter Newsletter Readers’ Forum:

I’m a 64-year-old (healthy and talented) TV director with two Emmys, one Peabody, and a dozen other awards. I love my job as an adjunct professor of television production and writing at a respected university, but at best it’s a part-time thing that brings more satisfaction than income. TV is staffed largely by young people who either perceive me as their father or ask why would someone like me be looking for work with someone like them. I’m afraid I’m not alone in my quandary: old enough to have a distinguished career, too old to be thought employable for any number of reasons. I have no intention of retiring. What would you do?

Forum: There are lots of articles on this topic in lots of publications. The Net is awash in advice for “old people” looking for jobs. But I’m not interested in the conventional tips for this reader. (Dye your hair. Act young. Leave dates off your resume. Learn the new lingo…) Can we do better than “the career experts” and their mushy apologies? We’d better, because soon it’s gonna be us kicking and screaming while they try to drag us to the sidelines…

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10 Comments on “Readers’ Forum: Old, talented and sidelined”
By Deb
September 29, 2009 at 10:46 am

I’m finding that all to often we limit ourselves by our own attitude about age. Please view yourself as someone who has a lot to offer and paint that picture for those who you interact with. You have some great accomplishments that you can highlight and you have experience that no one else has. Sell yourself for what you can offer to employers, don’t limit yourself.

By Tam
September 29, 2009 at 11:09 am

I know, I have my 20-something law clerks looking at me the same way and I am a youthful 50-something.

The best answer is the truest, at least for me: because I LOVE this stuff, I LIVE for this stuff and I CAN DO this stuff. In translation: you want/need the job because doing this work is your life and your passion.

I think this shows the energy the youngsters may think we lack, along with addressing any qualms that we are going to retire or just skate through, but since I have been having some problems, I would love to see others’ thoughts.

By Lucille
September 29, 2009 at 11:42 am

My husband, 46, was worried about age discrimination. In this economy, I don’t buy it.

There are so many people looking for jobs that hiring managers get like deer in headlights and start looking for the cheapest bargain they can find. Even if they keep looking for months because the next cheapest bargain is around the corner.

I told him not to blame himself and to start looking for a job where he can actually do the work better than anyone because of his experience.

By Fran Holm Hogan
September 29, 2009 at 12:30 pm

It’s not just the youngsters that have misconceptions about the “old people” in the workforce. Older managers and executives also resist hiring them. Whether the problem stems from the youngsters or the oldsters in power, it will not change until their thinking does.

No amount of hiding dates on resumes, dying hair to look younger or looking/acting energetic is going to help if you are dealing with preconceived notions.

Can we do better? Sure…..but the oldsters who were out there looking for work when we were young thought we could too.

Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life. Every generation gets dragged kicking & screaming into seniorville. Every generation complains when they get there about the unfairness of it all.

Can this be the generation that finally changes this sad state of affairs? Can this be the generation that finally takes advantage of all the experience & talent that is now made to feel outdated?

I hope so but the bad economy isn’t helping to foster good intentions.

By Peter Miller
September 29, 2009 at 1:39 pm

When I started in this biz, 40 was over the hill(with one well known retailer, once you got past 30 you were on thin ice)gradually the late 40s, then early 50s became acceptable.
This is one of those areas where 60 being the new 40 is not the case. People over 60 need to be the sharpest interviewers and need to work their the hell out of their networks (if they are not adding at least 20-30 people to their network every week they are not really looking for a job, they are waiting for a job).
Dyeing hair & plastic surgery are not the secrets. (Anyway, some young wise-ass is going to ask you what year you graduated so they can verify your degree).Nevertheless wearing the dynamite suit you bought in 1983 is not wise. You need to look like a resident of 2009.
You better interview smarter than anyone else.
You better as Tam suggests above be truly enthusiastic.
You have the experience to work smarter. You better be willing to work harder at your search because they are plenty of jerks out there, frequently HR folks, who are hiring to a template that won’t rock any boats especially theirs.

By Nick Corcodilos
September 29, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Whew — this is one of the best discussions I’ve see on this topic, with lots of angles presented. Here’s something I wrote quite a while ago that I think is still valid today: http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/harocknroll.htm

Some of you may have already read it. All change starts from within – and often, you can’t change the other guy at all. So find the solution in yourself, because sometimes there ain’t nowhere else to turn. Forget the manager’s prejudices — show off the person you are, that the boss needs you to be. If you don’t, someone else will.

(I’m surprised no one brought up something I get regularly: Younger workers who complain of age discrimination in the other direction.)

By Ray
September 29, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Attitude is the most important thing in getting a job – and even in doing/keeping a job. However, there are limits. I’m 72 and may have to look for a new position in about a year.
I was considered one of the top 10 people in the world at what it do – 30 years ago and there are still folks in the NY financial community who think I walk on water. The reality is that no matter how badly an employer needs my skills and how good a fit I might be, at 72 he/she knows damn well he’s not hiring me for the long haul. Even if he or she only needed me for a couple of years, they’d worry about me having a heart attack or stroke. That’s why if the I’m not retired by next summer, I’ll end up consulting – consultants are throwaways.

By Nick Corcodilos
September 29, 2009 at 5:09 pm

@Ray: Hey, if I were in your business and didn’t hire you, I’d be more worried that my competitor would hire you — than I’d be worried that you’d have a stroke.

As for the implied interview question you might be asked (“So, where do you see yourself in 5 years?”), I think the best answer is, “Uh, is your company going to be IN BUSINESS in 5 years?”

;-) Keep on truckin’, Ray!

By Chris Walker
September 30, 2009 at 10:11 am

See also Nick’s article ‘Age discrimination or age anxiety?’ Attitude really is everything!

By Mary Budzinski
October 10, 2009 at 10:40 am

I think you are brilliant! I am 60, have my B.A., some of my Master’s and now going back to pursue a minor in Writing Oregon State. We need to remember this: The young follow the stately leaders (us).

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