Thursday, March 18, 2010

40 is the new 60??

Yesterday I saw two articles about how hard it is for "older" workers to land jobs. The first was from CNN and provided "job tips for older unemployed workers." A quick scan of the article, and it referenced the AARP and its free Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). The article also provided some startling facts: "Unemployment for mature workers is up 331% over the past decade," according, again, to the AARP.

But this isn't anything I really need to worry about, right?? Well, article number two was from The Ladders and was titled, "
Facing Age Discrimination As Young As 40."
Hey, wait a minute.

As it turns out, the article was written in August of 2008, shortly prior to the onset of the Great Recession - and just before many talented mid- to upper-level managers lost their jobs. It cites that "many companies have reservations about hiring older workers based on preconceived notions — namely, that they have reduced energy and higher salary expectations and are unwilling to learn new technology."
Higher salaries, sure... but reduced energy? Not willing to learn new technologies?

Define 'older.'

So, not only are many of us facing a crowded job market in general, but the article states that "the increasing pace of technological change, globalization and economic instability means age discrimination has crept into the lives of working professionals as young as 40."

True, globalization has changed how things are being done, as off-shore resources have dramatically reduced the number of home-grown jobs. This is more prevalent, though, in the technology sector. I've seen web dev being off-shored, but you're not going to see many strategic marketing roles going to India, China, or Brazil.

But this isn't just about me. The topic of age discrimination has come up at numerous OCA meetings. "Should I 'hide' my age on my resume?" "Should I just focus on the past 10 years?"

There's no doubt our group skews older. The talent pool we have is extremely, for lack of a better word, talented. Ivy League educations, MBAs, former VP and Director-level titles, and in many cases, 15-20+ years of solid marketing experience. Sure, there are new ways of doing things and trends that affect marketing approaches and techniques - but do you think that hasn't been the case since these people first entered the workforce?

40 is supposed to be the new 30, not the new 60. If 40 means it's time to put me out to pasture, I'll go kicking and screaming. There was a time when I half-expected to be retired by 55. Now, with the way Social Security is, I'm expecting to work until I'm 70. So, I don't plan on running out of steam (or "energy" or the need to continually learn) any time soon. In fact, I'm just getting going.

Now, by even addressing this, am I setting myself up for possible discrimination? You tell me. You're reading it. It's a blog. Social Media. Wait a few, and I'll tweet about it, too.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic of age-related hiring and work. I applaud your courage for highlighting a topic that is pervasive, toxic, and charged with emotion. It’s an issue with many layers. Such a conversation can only be actionable if it includes HR people, business leaders, and perhaps even government leaders. But until the topic’s complexity is disassembled a bit, there is little incentive for such a broadened discussion to ensue. So let me try to separate out one of the key issues as I see it:

    As the Oldest Person in the Room, I believe the real issue you are referring to is what I call the Amish Principle of hiring. What’s important is less the age of the person and more the age of the skills and the depth of that person’s passion for the job. Anecdotal indications suggest this is a serious concern especially in Business 2.0 firms where updated skill sets are essential. Many of us in marketing today are focused on serving businesses in that category. However, consider what has happened to marketing in general over the last decade.
    • As product life cycles have been reduced , many marketing processes and skill sets have had to be shortened to accommodate the change. Media planning sure isn’t what it used to be.
    • We have changed the processes for how we launch new products from how it was done even five years ago. Look at how Apple launched their new I-Pad. Via what I consider an extremely smart launch, they took a tech concept that has been emerging for twenty years and made it into something totally new. Initial sales projections are going off the charts though it’s not yet released!
    • In the past many marketing people came from liberal-arts backgrounds. Today, marketing decisions have to be made on hard quantitative data. But how many marketing people over 40 have been formally trained in SEO and web analytics?
    • Today, MRM systems are now fundamental, but most firms like Eloqua or MarketBright didn’t exist more than five years ago.
    • How likely is it that a marketing person over 40 is trained in Flash?
    • And in 2010 if a brand’s content is not viewable on mobile devices, for many target demographics, it is not available at all. So if you can’t make that happen you can’t add value.

    Bottom line: my personal insight is that twenty-plus years of excellence in driving marketing activities that were critical a decade ago, doesn’t really prepare you for competing now. Many of the old ways of reaching out and acquiring customers are no longer meaningful; some of those old methods no longer work. So skills learned in 2001 are now less relevant or desired. If Betty White, who is 88, was clearly an expert in Flash, SEO, web analytics, and social media, I bet she could find a job as a marketing manager. (Fortunately for the rest of us, Ms. White has other activities that she is focused on.) On the other side of that coin, I would wish someone who is 26 and doesn’t have those skills “good luck” on trying to break into the business. Volunteers are always welcomed, but otherwise it could be awhile.

    Sorry for the long response; it’s a complex topic.