Age Discrimination Revisited: Can Old People Get Jobs?

Job Action Day Badge-BlueYes, that is an inflammatory title.  I hope it gets your attention.

By old, I might mean older than 40.

When I was 32 I was in the job-search-that-would-become-JibberJobber. I faced age discrimination. I was too young and inexperienced to continue to have the title I had (general manager), and I realized I was too old to compete with some of the newly minted college graduates (who could make a lot less than I needed, and had junior/entry-level roles, compared to what I was ready/qualified for).

In the past few years I’ve spoken across the United States to job clubs. Guess who comes to these?  Maybe one GenY person, usually one the three GenXers, and the rest are Baby Boomers. That didn’t make sense to me until a friend explained that GenY tend to do their networking at other social events, not at job clubs.  In every single presentation I have done, the #1 issue that is on everyone’s mind is age discrimination.

Of course, there is all kinds of discrimination we face, and none of it is fair.  But we aren’t going to fix the issue of discrimination on a big scale.  So how do we deal with it in our job search?

Check out this blog post I wrote in 2010: Age Discrimination, Old Job Seekers, Options. It’s always fun to revisit old blog posts.  That one had about 20 comments.  There is an amazing conversation, wisdom, and evidence of discrimination in those comments. I recommend you read the post and answer my questions, and then see what my readers had to say.

So, can “old” people get jobs? Yes. Absolutely. I’ve seen it.  Coaches and resume writers see it every day with their clients. Job clubs and outplacement firms might have people come in and “ring the bell” when they land… or bring donuts for everyone, and share their message of hope and “hang in there.”  I’ve sat through these and enjoyed the success stories.

I’ve also talked to people who I don’t think will ever have a traditional job again.  Close to retirement age, but not ready to retire, some of these people don’t have the skills to do the job, or they don’t have the networking or branding skills to make a case for themselves. There are options, although none of them are necessarily exciting to think about.  BUT, THEY ARE OPTIONS. And having options means you have hope.  And that’s something all job seekers need.

What are these not-exciting options?  Perhaps downsizing your expenses and get a job that is less pay, but also less stress.  I know some of you think that’s a disgrace and an embarrassment… I know others think that actually sounds pretty good!

Another option is to start your own business. I love telling teens to start their own business because they will learn SO MUCH from it.  And usually a teen has very little to lose from a lost business.  I’m not suggesting that you take your life savings and invest in some no-name questionable franchise, although franchising might be a good option.  There are plenty of opportunities to make money through your own business, though.

Of course, you can keep on with your job search, and for many people, that’s the right answer. I suggest that you get REALLY smart about your job search.  Like, really do the stuff!  I’m not talking about thinking about your job search.  Get a very strategic plan in place and do things, even if they are hard.  Figure out your brand, and communicate it well. Call people who you might be afraid to call… this is your job as a job seeker.

The cool thing about being in a job search later in your life is you have more maturity than younger people (I hope). As I’ve talked to people across the country, it’s obvious that they have a much better idea out of what is fulfilling to them, and what their boundaries are. Instead of working in a role that they wouldn’t like, but just “putting in their time,” they know that life is short, and they should spend time in an environment or with a challenge that they enjoy.  This maturity is worth something… don’t discount it.

Like I said, discrimination is everywhere. Sometimes you will do better to walk away from a bad situation than to fight the discrimination.  Move on from the ignorant, and keep looking, and you’ll find what’s right for you.

Now, having said all that, let me share a bit of my story:

I lost my job, and was anxious to find something better.  My job search was horrible and depressing, and eventually I saw a light at the end of the tunnel: It was starting my own business.  Here’s the twist: After I started my own business, I got MULTIPLE job offers.

It was night and day, going from a job seeker to a business owner.  Maybe, just maybe, owning your own business is the best job search tactic you could employ!

This post is my contribution to the Job Action Day series. Click the link and read other posts tied to the 2015 theme “Act II: Finding Career Satisfaction After 50