Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Does Age Discrimination Really Exist?

Let’s face it, I’m not a Pollyanna. Sure, Age Discrimination exists in some places, just as other forms of discrimination exist in some places.

However, my feeling based on professional recruitment experience since 1981, is that Age Discrimination is not as widespread as some people feel.

Go back to my second post, “The Best Qualified Candidate Rarely Gets Hired.” If managers have not been taught how to interview, what measurements will they use to decide on the qualifications of a candidate?

In my experience, if someone decides that they are the victim of Age Discrimination, they will allow the Law of Self Fulfilling Prophecy to kick in and will do things subconsciously to torpedo their job search.

On the other hand, Impact Performers will shrug off the occasional perceived or real Age Discrimination with the proper attitude – “If that’s the way they are I would not want to work there anyway.” Then they go somewhere they can continue to make impacts.

Several years ago when I was working with one of my clients we recruited a 63 year old IT Auditor and moved him to Florida. Why? He had a great audit career at one of the automakers, worked for one of the (then) Big 6 Accounting firms for 5 years, and then worked at another company for 2 years. The group was a young group and the Regional Manager felt he needed some seasoning in his group to groom his staff. The result? Six months later, the Regional Manager moved to headquarters to take a bigger job. The IT Auditor became the Regional Manager and is now the Assistant Director of IT Audit. He tells me that he will continue to work as long as he can make impacts and have fun (and sneak in the occasional golf game).

This is a person who is an Impact Performer and came across nicely as one. No one cared how old he was. We were all looking at his potential and his experience. In the interview he had a nice amount of energy and enthusiasm.

No matter your age, I am looking for the same qualities. How does your experience match the requirements of the job? How do you come across to me? Can you help my client solve their problems in your area of expertise? How will you mesh with the existing organization (having an “attitude” does not benefit you or the organization)?

Just as in any other time in your life, take control of your search and network your way into a position that you enjoy. This is the time to reinvent yourself and try new things while using your prior experience to solve new problems.

Remember, in many cases today you will be interviewing with a fellow Baby Boomer. Use that relationship builder to your advantage.

The better question to ask is if Age Discrimination will affect you. That’s your decision.