Does Age Discrimination Really Exist?
Since I started writing for The 405 Club in 2009, I have covered many subjects related to job search. There is, however one subject that I have not written about recently. That subject is age discrimination.
There are many people who believe that age discrimination is a fallacy and that it only exists in the mind of the older job seeker. Others, especially older job seekers, insist that age discrimination exists, and feel it is one of their largest obstacles to re-employment. So where do I stand on this issue?
The plain truth is that there is age discrimination in the job market. As an older job seeker, I have experienced it firsthand. During my 2009 job search, there were instances where my age was the main obstacle to being the candidate of choice. I wrote about one such instance in “My Worst Job Interviews” back in 2010. Many employment search firms, including one that helped me with my 2009 search, also acknowledge that age discrimination is a factor in the job market.
Age discrimination is illegal, nonetheless, it exists. It affects both old and young employment seekers. I spoke to a recent college graduate, who gave me an interesting perspective from the younger side of age discrimination. He told me the following:
“I gave one prospective employer my best elevator pitch; I was sure that it would have a positive effect, however the interviewer just stared at me. After what seemed like an eternity, the individual interviewing me responded”…
“Son, I am sure you would make a great worker, but I can’t hire you. You do not have enough real world work experience.”
“Mr. xxxxx”, I responded, “You are the fifth firm I have interviewed with this month. The other four firms told me the same thing. If no one will hire me, how will I get your ‘real world’ experience?”
“That is not my problem”, answered the interviewer, who promptly escorted me out of the building.
“I can tell you; it’s not easy finding employment as a recent college graduate.”
Think about the above scenario. Was this individual rejected due to lack of experience, or is the above scenario a well disguised version of age discrimination?
The fact of the matter is that age discrimination co-exists with many other forms of discrimination, including race discrimination, sex discrimination, long term unemployment discrimination, and even weight discrimination. These are all obstacles the job hunter has to face. So the real question is, what can be done about these forms of discrimination?
Usually this is the point in my writings where I come up with some bullet points or suggestions on how to deal with age discrimination. This time around, however, I do not have a list of bullet points. Instead, I have a viewpoint I’d like to share with my readers. It is called the 33/33/33 philosophy.
The 33/33/33 philosophy states that 33% of all prospective employers have a very narrow view of the individual they would like to hire. If you do not fit the extremely specific model the employer requires, there is nothing you can do to change their mind. No matter how hard you try, you will not land a position with that company. The second group of prospective employers (about 33%) also has a specific view of the individual they would like to hire. Unlike the first group, these employers are willing to listen to your “elevator pitch” and if you are persuasive enough, you have a fighting chance of being hired by this company.
The final group of prospective employers (you guessed it….around 33%) have an open mind as to who would be best qualified to fill their position. This is what I call the “sweet spot.” If you are lucky enough to interview with these employers, you have the best chance of obtaining the position you applied for, as long as your presentation is strong, and you mesh well with the interviewers.
The point of this philosophy is as follows: At least two thirds of all prospective employers will give you a fair chance of obtaining the position you applied for.
So what do you do if you feel that you are a victim of age discrimination, and what do you do about the 33% who will not give you that “fair chance” to obtain the position you are interviewing for? There is no easy answer. I often tell my friends, contacts, and family that life is not inherently fair. The best thing you can do after a negative experience is pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep trying.
My viewpoint is also shared by another 405 club writer, who recently said the following:
… just be the best you can be. Don’t you diminish yourself to yourself or be less because of corporate shenanigans. You gotta make a living so just get on with it and ignore the naysayers.
I have one additional thought I’d like to share. Almost everyone has experienced some form of discrimination. It is a sad fact of life. The best you can do is stay positive and focused; do not give up until you have succeeded in finding the job you are looking for. I know you can do it! Good Hunting.
-Howard K. Young
Art by Samuel Gray