Recently I came across an exceptionally good article on age discrimination at Forbes Magazine. Read it here.
As the author points out, age discrimination continues. Many companies don’t try to hide it. And it’s hard to prove, especially if you’re applying for a job in a competitive arena.
If you sue, you’ll probably have to leave, win or lose. If you get the job you might be laid off a year later. And then you’re back on the job search circuit.
The article falters when the author promises “solutions.” She suggests positioning yourself as problem-solver so the company “can’t afford” to overlook your application.
The truth is, not all hiring executives are rational. Some won’t hire you for your problem-solving skills; they’ll see if they like you and feel comfortable talking to you. In fact, many executives openly acknowledge that they don’t look for a skill set. They look for someone who’s a “fit.”
Even if you do get the job, you might be uncomfortable working in an environment where you have to downplay your experience to avoid stepping on toes. You might not be taken seriously, especially if you’re in a field where everyone knows jobs are hard to get.
Books on encore careers drive me nuts. They paint a rosy, false picture. They encourage readers to be happy with low-paying positions where they can leave a “legacy.”
Then there are those articles with titles like “Best Jobs Over 50.” One such article in money.msn.com drew 392 comments, nearly all derisive. The article suggested that boomers investigate fields such as medical assistant, custom garment maker (seamstress?),assisted living facility professional (“an aide’s responsibilities can range from dispensing medication to taking their charges on outings”), financial adviser, tour guide, and private investigator. Be still, my beating heart.
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know where I stand.
- When you reach your 40s – and definitely your 50s – begin planning for self-employment. Start something on the side, just to get used to entrepreneurship. Some people take the plunge and feel inspired; others feel like they’re drowning in a tub of icy water and they can’t wait to get out. Don’t despair: it’ll get easier.
- I don’t recommend starting with a coach, unless you need a session or two to get going. Take a course at a local community college. Talk to your SCORE advisor at the Small Business Administration. The quality varies widely, but then so do private coaches.
- At some point you just have to get a business license, announce you’re available, and just do it. You can start simply with something like dog walking or gardening. You might create an online business, perhaps beginning as a virtual assistant. You might have to go through two, three or a dozen ideas before something gains traction.
But every time you stumble, just remind yourself of the alternatives. Do you want to be in a one-down position when you’re applying for jobs in your sixties (or even seventies)? Do you want to see the look on someone’s face when you walk into an interview and they think, “OMG, that person is OLD?” Do you want to make a strong contribution, only to be denied promotions and raises because “at your age it doesn’t matter?”
Of course I don’t recommend that you stop looking for a “real” job. Use your network and keep your options open. I know a fifty-something woman who got recruited from a law firm to be a hospital administrator. She’s got an awesome personality and she’s just plain fun to be around – and she’s superbly qualified. The pay is good and she loves the job. She’s also becoming more marketable by the day and she knows it.
But if you’ve been pounding pavements or wonder whether you’ll be recruited for a new, better position, don’t wait. Think “entrepreneurship” and take the first small steps as soon as you finish reading this post.
So … what do you think? Is this advice too strong for you? Please leave a comment in the space below.