Let’s address the pink elephant in the room!
Amidst an acute midlife crisis (no, I am not telling you how old I am) I am going under, some subjects resonate stronger than others, and in this case, it is something I wanted to talk about for a long time…
WHAT IS AGEISM?
But what is ageism? Our friend Wikipedia clearly states that it is discrimination against an individual or group based on their age. As this is an IT HR blog, I am going to focus solely on ageism within the workplace, circumscribed to the Spanish market, although I have the feeling that it shouldn’t be much different anywhere else…
Does IT ageism exist in the Spanish work market today? Absolutely! Unless you have a very relevant, valuable, unusual experience you may expect to get a much harder time to get a new role let’s say, after your half a century.
How do I know? I see it every day. No one likes to talk about it but when/if you present a “senior” candidate, there are high chances it won’t end successfully.
Why does that happen? I don’t know but let me give you my take on this.
In principle, hiring “senior” employees is a no brainer. They have an extensive experience and very often, their working heyday has passed, or so it is assumed, so their expectations tend to be more in line with the real value within the enterprises. They are generally not looking for a new job every six months – and recruiters are not bombarding them every day- , so they are perceived as more loyal. By force though, knowing that they are not hot in the market certainly helps…
I am also under the impression that they (we?) are more resilient to frustration. That means that they may undertake more repetitive, difficult, or boring tasks which is a big plus in roles with an extremely high turnover. Call center officers come to mind, with all the daily aggression they take, it makes them an easy prey to burnout.
On the other hand, I think that the consensus is that older people are less prone to change. In a very fast-paced environment, like todays, if that’s true, it is in fact an important con. And yes, I believe that there are some truths to that assumption, but I also think that we are overestimating the amount of change that is going on in many, many roles today…
But something I am obsessed about is, that the true reason many employers do not want older employees is their low corporate bullshit tolerance. Let’s face it! In many companies, politics are far more important that performance. If you get along well with the right people, you’ll be fine, no matter how incompetent you may be.
You got to be in the off-hours party, of course and in the next teambuilding. You got to be charming…and you know how to show that you are having the time of your life… you are a true team player!
Age gives you many things, perspective among them. You have been there before, and probably you don’t like to participate in the masquerade anymore. Probably you have other life priorities. You are not willing to kiss any random mid-level boss’s ass again…
WHEN THE “NEW” FEELS THE COMPANY COLORS
When you start in the labor market, all is new, and you are genuinely excited about everything. You may really think that your manager is super-human. You love going to parties, why not? You don’t have many out of work commitments, so you may center your life around work. Even your personality is more malleable at that point so you can genuinely feel your company colors.
There is certainly nothing wrong with that. It is part of the path. What I would like to stress is that there is nothing wrong with the other side of the spectrum either.
This is not an elegy, “hire a grandfather” type of post. Above a certain age there are great employees and absolute patzers. All I am saying, is that we really need to change our perspective on hiring older people. They cannot be dismissed from processes by default.
I know that dealing with older candidates is more complex. They have an extensive experience, so they are far more difficult to “categorize”. As recruiters, and because of time constraints, we need to see quickly “who” a candidate is: mid senior Java dev, for instance. With some CVs, that is impossible, you need to take the time to dig deeper and get the real value. And then, selling that value to a client that is often not willing to buy that product. I know that it is much easier to hire a 20 something who just finished college!
I am going to state the obvious here, value is not dictated by your age, not at all.
Population is aging slowly but surely so I guess we will see that change by force. That, if ChatGPT is not wiping us all before that anyway.
In the end, most of us will be considered old at some point. However, as the French actor, Maurice Chevalier, once said, “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.” 🙂
Have a nice weekend and go and see your nanny if you haven’t in a while!