As a freelancer, I am always on the lookout for new clients and new work opportunities. I have profiles on all the compulsory platforms for professionals, including LinkedIn. For well over 3 years I have been reading job posts and often I find myself incredulous at the job description and the exhaustive list of skills and experience required to qualify for the position. Essentially many companies are looking for hardcore veteran experience on an entry-level budget. They all want 20-year-old applicants with 20+ years of experience.
I’ve been contacted, on several occasions, by companies that were lured by my skills and experience, only to be turned down due to my age. Although they never admitted it, I know it was so.
Age discrimination is a terrifying reality, especially so for women.
Gendered ageism affects women at all stages of their career but most notably when they are under 35 and over 50. That gives women 15 good years, give or take.
Women face ageism earlier than their male counterparts. Lookism puts women under a lens, and as they start showing visible signs of aging they are set aside.
We live in a Gerontocracy, where leadership is namely reserved for elder men and to make matters worse women are being targeted, with long term implications for retirement.
I was young and inexperienced once, but I paid my dues, worked diligently, and navigated my career from backstage, on movie sets, to Broadcast TV where I spent 20 good years, so to speak.
After my first 15 years, I was practically put out to pasture, with no more possibilities for growth. I had been discriminated against without just cause. My colleagues were as shocked as I was. I had earned myself a lot of love and a good reputation which spoke for my integrity as an employee. I sued the company, won the case, and went freelance. It was unfortunate for both the company and myself since I had an excellent record of performance, with yearly bonuses to prove it, but more importantly, I still had a lot to contribute and was not about to get sent to the slaughterhouse.
This story is not only my story it is the story of many. I was merely one of several aging employees being discriminated against. It is also known as mobbing. The objective is to exhaust and discourage you, by erasing you, giving you no work at all, and visibly cutting you out. Soon enough many colleagues start to feel uncomfortable at the thought of having coffee or lunch with you.
Many employees in Italy, where I have been working for the last 22 years, are faced with such a scenario, and just as many are too scared to take legal action, for a variety of reasons. I personally was not going to put up with it -but many do because they have a family, a mortgage, debts, and so on.
It is not uncommon for people in such a situation to spend years, day in day out, doing absolutely nothing. It is sad to see a brilliant mind, and dynamic person transformed into a stuffed animal. You can literally see their posture start to crumble, in time, like the damaged roof of a house. Someone once said ‘The sky is the limit when you have a roof over your head.’ What good is a house with no roof?
These acts, with the intent of violating the dignity of a person and of creating a hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment are more common than one might think.
I’ve always lied about my age because I knew it to be an issue right from the start. I used to add 10 years, whereas now I shave them off. Once I used to be underqualified, so I padded my CV and now I’m over-qualified, so I trim it down. You’re dammed if you do and you’re dammed if you don’t.
During my years in Broadcast TV, I saw the results of hiring inexperienced people. There are as many unappetizing roles in TV as in any other business. What makes these roles less desirable can be a combination of factors, from shift work to poor pay or no room for growth, and this leads to a high turnover of staff. These positions are often filled by inexperienced young newcomers hoping to break into the field, alas their level of inexperience leads to errors where there is little room for error. Losing video, or audio during a world cup game is not something to take lightly in PayTV.
Inexperience may turn out to be a costly proposition, for companies, in the long run. Recruitment is one of the highest staffing expenses, wheras an older workforce reduces the need to constantly recruit.
When I read posts and articles with pointers on finding a job for those over 50, I cringe. The advice ranges from, Embrace LinkedIn to combat the overqualified stereotype, play up your experience, and be sure you sound Tech Savvy.
When I was younger I always kept older company and sought the experience of those that were light years ahead of me in their profession, and I wouldn’t do it any different if I were starting over. I have learned more from experienced pros than I ever learned in school.
Companies that don’t realize the value of experienced older professionals, do so at a loss, with a higher turnaround, and increased margin of errors.
Myths surrounding older workers contribute to the loss of top employees from many organizations. Experienced, older workers bring qualities and skills to the table that most employers struggle to find. They are knowledgeable, dedicated and still willing to learn. The knowledge and professionalism of experienced skilled professionals should be part of a company’s legacy instead of being tossed out.
I can only speak for myself, although I am certain a lot of people over 50 would agree with me when I say, ” I have more to bring to the table now, as a mature professional, than I ever had in the past. I have more experience, maturity, understanding, patience, vision, creative intellect, and know-how than I ever had, coupled with a burning desire to contribute, make a difference and share my consolidated skills and experience with new generations. Take a chance on me.