Age Discrimination – One Professional's Story

iStockphoto.com |  OSTILL

iStockphoto.com | OSTILL

Age discrimination is very real. And as workers get older, they find themselves in situations where their age suddenly becomes a factor, much to their surprise. After all, it wasn’t an issue before. Sometimes, it culminates in rethinking an entire career.

Kay in her, early sixties, worked in the non-profit sector at the executive level for over twenty-five years. To be near her children, in early 2018 she voluntarily left her previous job and moved to a different state.

After a year and a half of interviewing, Kay is now one of the many disillusioned older workers who have all but given up on being offered a meaningful job commiserate with their past experience and compensation.

With family support, she has had to reinvent herself and create her own opportunities, and while she has already successfully launched herself as a consultant for causes she is passionate about, Kay believes ageism is the main obstacle she faced finding a new job doing what she was doing at the highest levels just a short time ago.

Are you actively searching for jobs right now?

 “I’m not actively searching for jobs. I decided to go out on my own since I won’t discriminate against myself.”

 

When was the last time you applied for a job?

I recently applied for one. I follow up on personal recommendations, but beyond that no. I’m building my consulting business.”

 

How would you rate ageism as a factor in your decision to go out on you own?

“Well, it is always something I wanted to do, but because of the ageism, which I believe is the most socially acceptable form of discrimination, it really became a huge factor to do it at this point in time.”

 

Give us an idea of how you see yourself as a job candidate.

“I have a history of interviewing well and getting positions that were well regarded in the non-profit industry. I’ve kept up to date. I’ve expanded my knowledge. I’ve even been a presenter at national conferences.”

 

You’ve used the word ‘discrimination’ a couple of times. In your experience, describe the kind of age discrimination you have faced.

“Since I moved, I interviewed four or five times when I noticed I was hearing the same things over and over. That’s when you know there is something happening.”

 

What have you heard over and over? 

“Well, it really starts with organizations that are excited to interview you upfront. You are well received on all points, and hear things like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to meet you,’ or, ‘You sound like you would be an ideal candidate’. I remember one Zoom call I had where the principals of the company told me, ‘You are exactly what our organization needs’.”

“Then you go in and get, ‘How old are your children?’ or ‘You seem to have many years of work experience,’ or ‘Do you plan on working for much longer?” and you think, ‘Here we go again.’”

 

Since you moved in 2018, how many interviews have you had where you had a serious chance of getting the offer?

“Ten times [since interviewing] I’ve been one of the top finalists.”

 

What’s been your most difficult experience?

“With this one organization, a large national organization, I went through seven interviews. The CFO, four regional and national Directors, the CEO, oh, and I they had me talk to three employees that I would be supervising as well. They flew me across the country to their headquarters and I met with a man and a woman, both who would be my bosses.”

 

When they flew you to their headquarters was it your expectation that you would be given a job offer and were there to sign an employment agreement?

“I wasn’t told I would get an offer, but I was told it was a big deal, and it was a very expensive ticket. The HR woman later apologized to me and told me she never would have sent me there if she knew what was going to happen.”

 

So what happened at the headquarters?

“I met with the man who would be one of my bosses. He was the second highest person at the organization. We had a great interview. We had both lived in the same small town, and had common work and personal history, and when it was over he walked me all the way to the CEO’s office for my scheduled interview with him. The CEO was my second to last interview. At the end, he said to me, ‘I hope you get to do what you do for our organization’. When I was leaving, one of the Directors I met with saw me and left a meeting to come say goodbye and he told me he hoped we would get to work together. All the feedback was great. I felt like I was there to be rubber stamped.”

 

But you didn’t get it?

“No. They hired a much younger person, and it would be impossible for her to have the expertise I have because she is too young. Call me naïve, but I had no idea my acumen would be drowned out by my age. I was shocked. I thought about legal action.”

 

What other obstacles have you faced because of ageism?

“It’s not just about getting a job; it’s the kind of job too. I started off interviewing for jobs that were over $100,000, then $80,000, then $65,000, and suddenly you’re two or three rungs lower than what you’re use to and then you’re overqualified. This was a life changing realization. I had no idea I would be facing this as a professional woman.”

How do you feel about the tips and tricks on job hunting sites for older workers, like leaving out dates and limiting how much work experience you put on your resume?  

“Background checks reveal your age. Once they meet you, they know how old you are and if they’re not sure they can always find out if they want.”

 

Now you’re consulting for non-profit clients. Consulting is synonymous with experience. Do you feel that you have found a way around ageism? 

“I’m not advertising my age. Being a consultant, age tends to work in your favor. It’s actually a benefit, or can be a benefit. Many people do not know I am as old as I am. But my earning power would be greatly increased if I could look ten or fifteen years younger than I do. But I can’t even do that and be hired because a background check will show my age anyway. I don’t ever want to retire. I love working so much I don’t want to retire. So, this has been very disheartening. I now live with one my daughters. I used to be the reliable, stable one in my family, the one who helped out others financially, the one who could be generous. I was making very good money. You go from very successful, to being treated like an idiot, to being treated like you’re useless. Ageism has brought me to the cusp. If it weren’t for my friends and family, I don’t think I would have made it, and I’m now on all the social services you never think you’re going to need. It takes away all the dignity you hold dear, and I don’t think most people realize how much dignity they have until they lose it. This is a problem everybody should be concerned with, everybody at every age, because you’re going to be next.”


Philip Roufail contributed to this article.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

Facts And Tactics To Help You Battle Age Discrimination In The Job Market

iStockphoto.com |  fizkes

iStockphoto.com | fizkes

Age discrimination is a lightning rod of a topic. Ageism quite real, and it can serve as an invisible barrier to being considered for a job to anyone over 40 years of age.

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission’s (EEOC) 2018 report, The State of Age Discrimination and Older Workers in the U.S., concludes that, “After 50 years of a federal law whose purpose is to promote the employment of older workers based on ability, age discrimination remains too common and too accepted.”

DATA TO CONSIDER

We all want very experienced people when our lives are on the line (doctors, pilots, firefighters, etc.) or to design and build items that aren’t going to fall on our heads or explode (engineers, contractors, rocket scientists, etc.), but to older workers searching for a job ageism can seem like a pervasive, guiding principal of the labor market. Consider the following:

  • The Wirtz Report, the study that led to the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), concluded the primary reason for age discrimination was, “unfounded assumptions about ability.” This perception can be just as strong today as it was in 1967, maybe even more so given the dizzying pace of contemporary technological changes and “start-up” culture, which can be translated as youth culture (EEOC).

  • According to the AARP, “Two out of three workers between ages 45 and 74 say they have seen or experienced age discrimination at work, and job seekers over age 35 cite it as a top obstacle to getting hired. And if you happen to work in the high-tech or entertainment industries, your chances of experiencing age discrimination are even higher” (AARP).

  • “From 1992 to 2016, 56 percent of older workers are either laid off at least once, or leave jobs under such financially damaging circumstances that it's likely they were pushed out rather than left voluntarily.” Of that 56%, 9 out of 10 workers never reach their previous earning power, or become unsuspecting new members of the “Gig Economy” (Urban Institute & ProPublica).      

  • Multiple studies from the last five years reveal the majority of workers believe age discrimination is “common”, and have seen or experienced it first-hand. Rates are higher for certain demographics, women, and those employed in information technology (EEOC).

  • After being sued by unions and civil rights groups, Facebook recently agreed to eliminate targeted job advertisements that screened out certain categories of job seekers, including older workers (NY Times).

  • Over the last twenty years (1998-2018), 18% - 26% of complaints filed with the EEOC alleged age discrimination. That was roughly 1 in 5 complaints (EEOC).

  • Since a 2009 Supreme Court ruling created a higher burden of proof to prove age discrimination than other forms of discrimination (sex, religion, race), the EEOC pursued a smaller percentage of age discrimination cases (SHRM.org).

  • Proving age discrimination is difficult and costly, and since many of those affected have been thrust into financially precarious positions, the likelihood of a legal fight has decreased to levels too low to be an effective deterrent (New York Times).

 

THE GRAYING OF THE U.S. WORK FORCE

Workers over 65 years of age are projected to be the largest growing sector of the labor market through 2050 (EEOC). Additionally, a perfect storm of demographics, societal shifts, and historical events over the last twenty-five years impacted, and continue to impact, older workers in ways that could not be anticipated at the time of the Wirtz Report. The resulting landscape for older workers is a hyper competitive labor market in which they are battling the same ageist perceptions, competing with younger workers, and competing with more workers their own age that cannot leave or must re-enter the workforce.

Not only are older workers generally healthier and have longer life expectancies than previous generations, this directly translates into an increase in older workers who will remain in the workforce longer (The ADEA @ 50). Changes in Social Security benefits have resulted in increases in the “full retirement age” to collect benefits, meaning older workers must stay in the workforce longer before they are eligible to receive full benefits (Congress.gov). Additionally, traditional pension plans and other employer driven retirement plans are declining rapidly, shifting the responsibility for retirement to individuals and reducing retirement income (EEOC). This combined with many individuals impacted by the Great Recession, resulted in an increase in older workers remaining in the workforce longer (EEOC).

 

BATTLING FALSE PERCEPTIONS

At the same time, older workers and employers battle the same false perceptions, just from opposing points of view. Older workers need to be aware of the extra obstacles they face, know their rights, and learn how to shuffle a stacked deck. Here are some of those perceptions, and some tactics for older workers to negate them and effectively compete for jobs:

Perception: In salary and benefits, older workers cost a company significantly more than younger workers.

Reality: A 2015 study by AARP contends that, due to reward/benefit systems with a “more age neutral distribution of labor costs”, hiring workers age 50+ results in only a minimal increase in total labor costs, and that is without factoring in the true value the employee brings to the company (Aon Hewitt).

Tactic: Understand the market for your skills. Individuals who spent several years with the same company may find themselves with a pay structure that is generally higher than the market for their skill set and level, due years of compounded raises (or lower – sometimes individuals who stay in the same role don’t get raises that can come with changing roles. Use salary tools like Paysa.com to get a clear picture of the value for your skills in terms of salary in your market. This will arm you with the correct data to help you negotiate an appropriate salary. When talking to the company recruiter, try to focus on your enthusiasm for the role, and minimize the salary discussion until it makes sense to get into the weeds. By the way, don’t forget that you have value – your experiences and knowledge can clearly help an employer.

 

Perception: Younger workers will spend more time at a company than older workers.

Reality: In 2018, median employee tenure among workers 55 + was three times higher (10.1 years) than median employee tenure among workers 25-34 (2.8 years) (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Tactic: If you’ve had longevity in prior roles, play this up in the interview. Make clear that you’re looking for a place to work in the long term. Don’t mention retirement; it’s important to convey that you intend to be there a while.

 

Perception: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Older workers are perceived to be less capable at learning and understanding new technology. As Mark Zuckerberg once said, “Young people are just smarter”.

Reality: This is simply not true. Experienced workers create a more productive workforce and excluding them in hiring and promotions has produced a major “skill gap” fueled by institutionalized bias that older workers have less to offer (Marketplace).

Tactic: Don’t get stale. Always be training to keep up on the latest technology. If you see some new tool emerge in your industry, learn it. And make abundantly clear in your resume and interview the currency of your skills.

 

Perception: Older workers will not be as engaged as younger workers.

Reality: Study after study rates older workers with higher levels of engagement than their younger counterparts. An AARP research study found that 65% of employees age 55+ are considered engaged based on survey data, while younger employee engagement averages 58% to 60% (Aon Hewitt).

Tactic: I’ve seen this play out many times, where hiring managers are drawn to the younger employee due to their boundless energy. You’ll need to really amp up your presentation. Sit on the edge of your chair during the interview. Smile. Be engaged, friendly, and in the moment.


Philip Roufail contributed to this article.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

5 Tips For Athletes Planning Ahead For Their Next Career

iStockphoto.com |  bluejayphoto

iStockphoto.com | bluejayphoto

In the 1988 sports film Everybody’s All American, star college football player Gavin Grey, played by Dennis Quaid, says this prophetic line, “I’m special as long as I keep making touchdowns,” and what follows is the all too common story of an accomplished athlete who has no plan for what comes after the glory days.

Sports fans are bombarded with the splashy big money deals, like Los Angeles Angels slugger Mike Trout’s 12-year $430 million contract, and sweet deals like that may be available to a statistically small group of elite athletes, but when the curtain is pulled back, the reality for the majority of college and professional athletes is not nearly as glamorous or lucrative. By the numbers:

  • Out of approximately 500,000 college athletes, fewer than 2% will go on to be professional athletes. (NCAA)

  • 180,000 college athletes are scholarship recipients, averaging $16,000 per student, for total annual scholarships of $2.9 billion. (NCAA)

  • Approximately 12,500 college athletes get injured per year, 25% of which are “serious or severe.” This often leads to loss of scholarship, and may end their athletic career. (National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research)

  • The average length of a professional career is short. In the National Football League it’s 3.5 years; the National Basketball Association is 4.8 years, Major League Baseball is 5.6 years, and the National Hockey League is 3.5 years. (RAM Financial Group)

  • Professional athletes earn a median annual salary of $47,710. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • In the United States, only 11,800 people were employed as professional athletes at a time. And they experience more than 1,000 injuries per 10,000 players. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Most importantly, the money stops after their career in sports does. 78% of NFL players are bankrupt, or near bankrupt, two years after retirement, and 60% of NBA players are bankrupt, or near bankrupt, five years after retirement. (Sports Illustrated)

With those kinds of metrics, every athlete knows that they will have two careers. College athletes who do not “go pro” will start their second careers along the lines of their non-athlete peers, but professional athletes won’t until they “retire”. Some make the transition with ease and grace. For others, Act IT is more challenging.

Here are five job tips for athletes to consider on the journey to their second career.

  1. Think Beyond Game Day. If you’re a college athlete, chances are your primary focus has been on your athletic talent since an early age, especially if you are on a sports scholarship, and/or in a sport that has professional leagues to which you aspire, so it is challenging to think ahead to the day when you must do something else. Education is important – carve time out to be a student, and to think about which degrees will best position you in the future. For example, a student-athlete with a business degree will have a good deal of flexibility in the workforce in terms of career paths, and can potentially go on to earn an MBA.

  2. Plan for the Big Picture. Athletes face constant uncertainty. Even if an athlete is at the top of his or her game, the specter of a career-preventing or career-ending injury limits earning potential, and is ever-present. It helps to have a backup career plan in place – early. Under such circumstances, planning ahead not only makes any future, or sudden, professional transition easier, but also provides greater peace of mind that curtails the uneasiness surrounding the typical arc of an athlete’s career. If you develop a plan early, you’ll be better prepared to almost immediately deal with the sudden changes.

  3. Leverage the Off-Season. Schedules, responsibilities, and obligations vary, that is understood, but to whatever degree it is possible, the off-season can be used to develop an athlete’s future career, whether college internships or practical work experience in career-oriented jobs that will carry forward. Unless they’re drafted with a top pick, minor league baseball players are paid far less than their major league counterparts and often need off-season jobs to supplement their income. If that off-season job helps build career skills, the inevitable transition will be easier when it arrives.

  4. Focus on areas in which you have talent - and develop those. You excel at a sport. Spend time discovering your other passions and areas in which you excel. If you make that discovery in college, all the better, but if it happens later, or even post-retirement for pro athletes, always be open to new opportunities that may introduce you to your next life. For example, celebrity-athletes are exposed to many types of ancillary endeavors during their careers – broadcasting, TV/film, athletic administration, product endorsements/partnerships, and investments to name a few. Each connection is an opportunity to discover secondary talents that may thrive as a second profession.

  5. Don’t be afraid to finish or earn a degree. Our modern world has an unprecedented number of ways to attend school, with more top-level colleges and universities offering flexible and online paths to degrees and/or certifications. The same is true for continuing education and professional training.  After his junior year playing basketball at the University of North Carolina, Michael Jordan left college to go into the NBA draft, a huge story at the time. Jordan went on to earn $100 million with the Chicago Bulls, remains the highest paid athlete of all time, and has a current net worth of $1.9 billion through related endorsements and investments (Source: Business Insider). And even he returned to UNC to complete his bachelor’s degree.

Bonus education facts: Shaquille O’Neil has a Doctorate in Education from Barry University, and Tony LaRussa has a law degree from Florida State University


Philip Roufail contributed to this article.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.