Business/Finance

Happy freaking birthday, geezer: job hunting and ageism

ageism in the job search

Job hunting is hard, and a lot harder once you hit 50. It’s important to keep your head up and stay focused on your value, but only hiring companies can actually do something about the very real problem of ageism.

Here in Denver job seekers are fortunate to have Andrew Hudson’s Jobs List. Andrew has developed an extremely effective channel helping area employers and professionals find each other, and beyond that the site is rich with valuable insights for both audiences. Every market should have an Andrew Hudson.

This morning he sent around one of his periodic letters to subscribers, and in this one he directly addressed those of us who’ve maybe been losing hope as the search goes on and on (and on, and on) with no results.

It was precisely the right message. But I thought about my own situation and decided to respond. Not because he was wrong – he was absolutely right and if you read his News & Tools section you’ll see just how completely he gets it.

First, here’s the full text of Andrew’s letter. My response follows.

_____

Dear Sam:

Job seeking is hard.

I know from meeting with hundreds of job seekers how tough it can be.

You wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and see someone who is: too old, too young, too inexperienced, over-qualified, under-skilled, resume sucks, struggling with interviews, can’t get their foot in the door, isn’t hearing back from resume submissions, etc., etc., etc.

BUT……..

This is the person you should be seeing in the mirror:

The person with experiences, strengths, skills, promotions, accomplishments, past bosses who LOVED you, clients and customer who benefited from your hard work, colleagues and teammates who trusted and relied on you, expertise, education, values, ethics…..all the things that make you a premier candidate for that next job you are looking for.

Don’t let the temporary and normal frustrations, anxieties and typical job-seeking rejections define you. Most of the negative reflections you may have are of your own making based on a job seeking blip in time. Your REAL history is a record of important work and accomplishment.

No question that you have to constantly adjust your job seeking strategies and tweak your resumes and cover letters and continue to learn how to be a better job seeker. No question you have to step out of your comfort zone and try something new from time-to-time. Yes, you have to develop strategies to overcome the frustration and disappointment of not getting the job you REALLY wanted ….. but ….. maybe it was just not meant to be. Maybe the job that was meant for you is still waiting just around the corner.

Keep optimistic. Keep moving forward. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to make those cold calls. And most importantly, keep reminding yourself of the strengths and skills, experiences and accomplishments that make you valuable!

Continued good luck in your job search!

_____

Hi Andrew, and happy Friday.

I first want to thank you for all you’ve done for job hunters here. There’s no telling how many professionals and companies are better off for your efforts – you’ve made Denver a better place to be for many, many people.

Second, I want to say thanks for the missive this morning. I take it you’ve been hearing a loss of hope out here on the beach, and your advice is going to be really useful for folks.

But. You knew there was a but.

I’ve spent some time with that person in the mirror you mention. That guy has accomplished a good bit in his career. He’s smart, he makes others better, and he’s posted results that sometimes read like typos. He has a lot to offer a company. A LOT.

The problem is, he turns 58 tomorrow. And he’s been aggressively looking for work for a year and a half. He’s about out of hope.

My résumé is pretty damned tight (after years and years of constant iteration and review by all kinds of experts), and it tells the story of a guy who innovates, drives efficiency, and works well with his teams to accomplish things that move the needle for employers and clients. It masks my age (no deception – just using strategic omission the way recruiters have advised). And it has earned me some interviews (including a few with companies I found on your list).

So I go to the interview. They aren’t all magic, of course – sometimes it’s obvious I’m not quite right for the position – but on several occasions I’ve walked out knowing I jacked the ball into the upper deck. The fit is ideal. I’ve actually been outstanding in similar roles in the past. There was a chemistry with the interviewers. Surely this is it, I say, crossing my fingers and knocking on any wood I can reach.

Face to face, though … I look my age. I’m sure it isn’t always about age, of course – there are a lot of other really talented people in Denver and there are going to be plenty of cases where I’m simply not the best guy for the gig. I get that.

But rejection … 100% of the time

I have zero doubt my age has cost me opportunities, and there isn’t a credible staffing pro in the world who’d deny that it happens frequently. And as all the birthday wishes I’ll be getting tomorrow will inadvertently remind me, I’m not getting any younger.

I appreciate your words of encouragement today and will absolutely take them to heart as I redouble my efforts.

But if you have any way of encouraging employers to rethink how they hire when they have a really, really qualified older candidate across the table, I’d be eternally grateful.

Thanks for your time.

Sam

7 replies »

  1. Your response was exactly what it should have been. Yes, to all of the Andrews of the world, we KNOW job hunting is hard. I know this is moderated and you don’t even have to make this public. I just wanted to say thank you for this post.

    Over the past few years I’ve had this conversation with both old friends, and others I’ve met who are looking for work. If you’re over 50 NOBODY wants to hire you. You have great qualifications, a fantastic resume, you’re awesome on paper, you ROCK, but for some unknown insane reason nobody will hire you. We don’t matter anymore. 35 years of work don’t mean anything. Forget all of the AARP articles, the “thoughts and prayers” of well wishers, and of course those who tell you that you’ll be bored in the job. I have so many stories, including my own. I was laid off from my job at age 55. It will be four years tomorrow. So many interviews and so many hours writing up long answers and essays and filling out applications, and writing countless cover letters. Most of the time I’d never hear back from anyone. I spent years mentoring and helping writing letters of recommendation, only to find myself with absolutely no help.

    At 59 I’ve reinvented myself. I went from managing a department at a manufacturing company to selling antiques and books on eBay. It pays for groceries and utilities. Luckily I have a spouse with an income but it hasn’t been easy. I have another friend who was in publishing and is now teaching photography part time to Senior Citizens. We met doing volunteer work with a lot of others like us. I know people who rent out rooms in their homes on airbnb to make ends meet. Whatever it takes. I continue to reinvent and reinvent and reinvent.

  2. I’ve been out of the job seeking market for about 10 years. I was in my mid 40s then, and it was surprisingly rough. I can’t imagine how it would be at over 50.

    There’s an impossible standard for those over 50. Older candidates are assumed to be set in their ways. Behind the times. Slow to innovate. And hesitant to take direction from inevitably younger managers. All while being strangely intimidating from all the experience they bring.

    Is it fair. Absolutely not. But very, very real, I can confirm.

    Thanks for this, Sam.

  3. I’m still trying to figure out some means to utilize all the highly talented and motivated people who are out of work – my age – out there. Frankly, I’ve decided all those younger managers/owners who aren’t hiring you/us are out of their minds. We need a new paradigm of our own design. We know what we’re capable of and the world is in great need. Let’s pool our skills and inner resources to figure some things out!

  4. Thank you so much for this post.
    I am about to start my dream job which I landed just before Christmas.
    After Temping for 2 year and joining 10 and more employment agency’s, and going to over 300 interviews. I began to think it was my age. I will be 50 soon and yes you do look in the mirror and think of all the negative things.
    When you look in the media that’s the pressure we face young dynamic and power hungry.
    After working 30 plus years, raising a family running a home other things take a priority.
    Finally things all change and suddenly you get your life back and yes you can have that renewed energy.
    I am going to embrace 50 and my new work life as they say 50 is the new 40.
    Let’s get out their and enjoy help and encourage our youngsters remember we are the ones with experience knowledge and wisdom on our sides.
    Thank you again
    😁

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