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Fishers, Indiana, United States
Brenda gained career expertise as a human resources leader at a global company before becoming an HR consultant. She gained functional experience in a variety of sales roles in the health care industry achieving success for over 20 years. Her passion is participating in, writing about and observing the evolving workforce. For the first time in history four generations work together. It keeps things interesting. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are redefining retirement and what it means to age in the workforce. It is not just about money. Okay it plays a role! At 76.4 million members strong, Boomers are leveraging technology to continue their careers and the personal fulfillment working brings. Managing a late-stage career requires more thought than 20 years ago. Unexpected changes in life force us to consider the future. There is no roadmap or one size fits all answer. This blog is about sharing, networking & finding your own right answer to working later, managing your career, redefining retirement, looking for work in your 50s & 60s and reinventing yourself.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Age Discrimination: Real & Rising

A participant at a recent workshop asked the guest speaker about overcoming age discrimination during a job search. The speaker explained that age discrimination is less of an issue than in the past. Really?

It was one of those moments when you know you should speak up and say something. Before I could raise my hand to comment; the esteemed guest speaker went on to the next question. The person who asked seemed to disconnect from the presentation at that point. Three weeks later, the brief encounter still gnaws at me. Why didn’t I say something? What should I have said? At the very least, why didn’t I go up to the man after the session to validate his observation? So, the essence of this post is YES—age discrimination is a HUGE issue. It is not going away; it is getting worse. I’ll offer a few tips and ideas about actions you can take on the job and during a job search in this 2-part post on Monday & Tuesday.

Consider this:
  • In February 2010 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the job search for (>age 55) workers was 35.5 weeks
  • Experienced workers (>age 55) faced an average job search of 54.7 weeks in May 2011 according to AARP.


You all know the scenario. The unemployment rate is hovering in the 9% range.  New jobs are not being created fast enough because most corporations are uncertain about the global economy. Not one corporate communicator among you wants to answer the calls following the headline, “XYZ Company Cuts 10% of Workforce.” So companies sit tight and don’t hire. Consumers, on the other hand, are scared witless that they are going to lose their jobs—so they don’t buy anything except necessities (and unless it is really gross, we try generics). According to a December 2010 AARP press release, beginning January 1, 2011 about 7,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 each day! The same release says 40% of those Baby Boomers “plan to work until they drop.” I’m assuming that means drop dead. If Fidelity Investments, the largest provider of 401(k) accounts, is right and the average account balance is $71,500, as they reported in June—we know why. So, we find ourselves in an employment cycle ripe for age discrimination.

Problem #1 is the applicant tracking system. These automated systems that run large job boards and the smaller versions that run in companies all REQUIRE dates. The company can easily calculate how old you are when you apply. These systems are designed to collect school graduation dates along with dates of employment. Most will not let you move forward in applying online without supplying all of the information. (entering 9999 overrides the dates in a few applicant tracking systems). While the ADEA (the act protecting employees and job applicants 40+) doesn’t specifically prohibit an employer from asking age or date of birth of an applicant, it is supposed to be for a lawful reason and the circumstances are very limited. Most companies train their hiring managers not to discuss age, but they already know anyway from your online application.

Check out the post from August 6 for more information about online job searching:



Okay, so let’s say you survive the online applicant tracking system, the telephone screening interview and you are invited for a “live” interview with the hiring manager, other staff and human resources. They want you to have the KSAs-Knowledge, Skills & Abilities. But there is something else they are looking for and it is subjective. It is called, “fit” and no HR professional will admit it to you; but it’s there. How are you going to mesh with the other people in the department? Do you fit into the culture of the organization? And you know what? You want to “fit” too. If you are a square peg and the organization is a round hole- no matter whether you are 25, 55, or 73—this is going to be a stressful bad experience for both you and the organization. Seek opportunities where you see other mature workers. Ask your friends what it is like where they work. Some industries, companies and departments are more accepting of experienced workers than others. It is tough searching for a job, but you want to find a place where you are celebrated—not tolerated.  On Tuesday—in part 2—we’ll focus on the interviewing, image and general information.

Thanks for stopping by. Your comments are appreciated and please forward the post on to someone managing their career@40+.

4 comments:

  1. When is part two of this thread being posted?

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  2. Age discrimination is very real. I was recently awarded a settlement from an employer because I had documentation of the things that happened to me from a supervisor who taunted me in front of other workers for being too old to do my job and constantly asking me when was I going to retire. I complained to human resources in writing on more than 3 times. The human resources rep for my section never discussed it with me and never followed up to let me know my concern was being addressed. When I met an appointment to meet with him, the HR person was not in his office and never called or rescheduled. I filed a complaint with EEOC with documentation I had and before anything could move forward, I was offered to leave and a very very generous severance package. I know it was to avoid further action. I took the money and ran out of there!

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  3. I just posted on the part 2 of this post and as a former recruiter still working in another area of HR, I know companies get away with discriminating against older workers. It is not always in your face, but companies move older workers to the side at earlier & earlier ages.

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  4. Thank you for highlighting this very real issue. Older workers are NOT getting hired. And often we are caring for grandchildren and elderly parents in addition to ourselves. I am responsible for 2 grandchildren and my 82-year-old father lives with me. My days never end. I work 2 jobs to make ends meet and I know at 62 I will have to take reduced social security just because I need the money. I wish I could wait until I was 65, but the economy is so bad I cannot. I've worked my entire life and never expected to spend the years that are supposed to be my "golden years" doing all of this.

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