Myths and Ageism
Ron has spent the last 3 hours updating his resume, posting for jobs, and connecting with past colleagues on LinkedIn. His eyes are strained after looking at the computer screen for hours. He takes a sip of coffee leans back on his chair with both hands interlaced behind his head. He looks to the right and sees the photo of his parents and younger brother at his Master’s graduation ceremony. He grasps the thick wooden frame with both hands and thinks to himself, “The world held so much promise then. In the passions of my youth, I never thought it would come to this.” Ron leaves that thought for a moment as his parent’s voice slowly drifted in to his mind, “Study hard. Be the kind of leader people will want to follow. Do good and good things will come.” All of Ron’s life he lived by these words. Quickly Ron rose to architectural fame within his company. He led teams of 30 plus architects on major commercial projects. Ron gently sifts from his thoughts and looks around his home office, there stood his trophy case. He walks over, opens the case, and takes out the trophy he won for Best VP. As Ron rubs his hands over the glass trophy he laughs and says out loud, “Best VP huh! Well guess what… The Best VP has no job”, and slams the trophy on the ground.
Ron returns to his desk sits and buries his head in his hands. His younger brother Richard, who is 37 just landed the job of his dreams at the same company that Ron applied for. Both Ron and Richard went to Ivy League schools. Ron has an impressive resume and more experience than Richard. Ron is 16 years older than Richard. Ron suspects that he is being discriminated against due to his age.
Being young, energetic, and fit is held in high regard and is seen in every facet of our lives. Got grey hair?—Use this dye. Have sagging skin? Get the latest plastic surgery. Too many wrinkles getting you down? Use this cream. Over age 50? Don’t apply for this job. Refusing to hire someone based on age is called ageism. According to the Washington Post, joblessness is defined as 27 weeks or more without employment; joblessness is also progressively worse for workers age 55 and older.
There are several myths associated with higher older workers that may play a role in hiring rates.
- Older workers are a less dedicated and will only commit to working for a few years.
- They call out of work.
- They are less apt to take direction from a younger boss.
- Countless hours and resources will have to be spent on training the older worker on how to adapt to technology.
Reframing the Myths
- When someone is defining a career for themselves they may not stay with the same company for 30 years.
- One million people in America call out of work each day. All of those who call out are probably not older workers.
- When applying for a job one considers a multitude of possibilities and one of those is probably management. An older worker applying for a job has probably given some thought to this idea.
- Today, there is very little that can be done without a computer, from applying for insurance to catching up with friends. Given this idea an older worker has probably had exposure to technology and should not be considered technologically inept. Everyone endures a learning curve when switching careers or jobs and that includes familiarizing yourself with your employer’s technology.
Changing stereotypes on ageism needs to begin with the acceptance of a diverse work force. Twenty percent of Americans over the age 65 are still active in the workforce with the goal of working as long possible . We need to change the way that we look at age as each of us will be considered as an older adult at some point in our lives, and will want to be looked at as a valuable member of society and not by our age.
By: Priscilla Wright
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