Older? Do You Have Modern Amenities?

By Lisa Parker

Time to talk specifically to older candidates again. I’m still hearing complaints about companies not wanting to hire older workers. It’s hard to put a number on what age qualifies a person to be “old.” I’ve heard it from 40 and beyond.

Is age discrimination really about your age? Age could very well be the true issue in some instances. I saw true age discrimination most often when smaller companies were fretting over how to reduce benefit costs. Smaller firms top heavy with older partners struggle with the temptation to hire a younger candidate to keep premiums from becoming prohibitive. Can you blame them? Of course, it’s not legal to go that route. Let’s be honest and admit they’d be stupid not to give it some thought. They have a business to run. Businesses live and die based on the ability to reduce expenses.

The example above aside, age discrimination, in my experience, is rarely about the number of years the person has spent on the planet. More significant than actual age is how equipped the candidate is with modern amenities. Modern amenities are what make the sale happen. Too often older candidates haven’t updated what they have to offer. Just like older homes are less likely to sell if they haven’t been outfitted with cable and air conditioning, older candidates who aren’t strong on the computer and staying on top of current trends will soon find themselves undesirable. It makes sense. It’s not about being unfair. If employers have options that won’t require upgrading or doing without, they will take them. The only thing likely to sway them is if the option lacking in amenities comes at a low enough price to make it worth while. As tacky as it sounds, if your skills are out of date you are a fixer-upper and can’t command top market price.

Many of the individuals I meet who are in this situation dig in their heels. They are quick to talk about age discrimination, but slow to accept what they could do to change their circumstances. There are more resources than ever available to people interested in upgrading their skills. When I talk to them about social media, Excel, PowerPoint and the like, they wave their hands at me. “I shouldn’t have to learn that at this point in my life,” is a common response. Really? Why ever not? If you truly wish to continue working, where is the logic in not learning the modern way of doing things?

It really is a tricky situation. I know it’s frustrating. Keep in mind we all have similar criteria when it comes to buying things. We want modern amenities. I don’t see older candidates driving cars without radios and power steering. Are they discriminating against 40+ year old cars? No. Age isn’t the true factor. We all expect those who want our business to provide the comforts of today. Be fair to employers and realize they share the same expectations.

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Lisa joined the Michigan State University Alumni Association as Director of Alumni Career & Business Services on May 1, 2012. Her primary focus is to develop effective networking and resource channels for experienced alumni interested in professional development and job search strategy assistance. Additionally, Lisa works directly with corporate, education, foundation and government partners seeking to attract qualified talent, retain and develop good employees, and establish collaborative relationships in line with their established goals and objectives.

With 15+ years’ experience in third party recruiting, Lisa offers a balanced understanding of both employee and employer perspectives.

Lisa is a firm advocate of the networking process and considers it a vital element in a successful job search. In addition to helping job seekers develop and best utilize networking contacts, Lisa shares her knowledge and insight-gained aiding corporate recruiting efforts-to give Spartan job seekers an edge in terms of lead sourcing, resume presentation and interview strategy.

Among Lisa’s notable accomplishments: Prima Civitas Foundation Scholar; Michigan Works Association Volunteer of the Year; Pink Slip Mid Michigan Planning Committee; RecruiterUncensored.com career content blogger.

2 thoughts on “Older? Do You Have Modern Amenities?

  1. While it is very true that older workers must continue to upgrade their skills, you seem to be of the mind set that companies live or die by keeping costs low. To the contrary, companies live or die by satisfying customers with the best product at a competitive rate coupled with outstanding service. Comparing people to real estate is a real insult. As we all know, older homes average less on the market. They are in a “neighborhood” that doesn’t allow the price to go up despite the fact that the “owner” has added all the newest technologies. What you seem to be saying is that people need to learn to live with the fact that companies are correct in paying them less as they get older. Gee, it’s nice to know that the person in charge of career advice is so pro labor.

    • Geoff, thank you for your comment. I appreciate knowing how you interpreted my post. You took my analogy a step further than my mind went. I’ll tell you, I am an advocate for more experienced professionals getting paid what they are worth and spent 3 years volunteering fulltime during Michigan’s economic downturn to help the 55+ displaced worker find ways to get the jobs they deserved. Several of the individuals I worked with were able to secure better paying jobs than what they lost. They were hesitant to go for what they felt they were worth, but when they learned how to pair their salary request with what they could contribute to the bottom line of the organization, it eased their nerves. So many of the experienced professionals I sat across the desk from from 2007-2011 felt employers automatically wouldn’t consider them for opportunities because of their age. Imagine the stress of viewing something you can’t control as having the most influence over your success as a job seeker. Age discrimination is real, but it’s not always the reason why older workers aren’t considered for opportunities. At the end of the day, an employer is a buyer just like the rest of us. Buyers have an idea of what they feel they need to gain from a purchase. As a seller of our experiences, contacts and skills, we need to be aware of what a buyer likely has on his or her shopping list and do what we can to showcase our abilities in that area, demonstrate a willingness to acquire what they need or make a compelling case how what we have to sell may be more valuable than what they were originally looking for. Thanks again for your feedback. ~ Lisa W. Parker

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