The world of work is fragmented. That is true even in the legal sector. Some small law firms are open to older lawyers and staff with niche experience. Other law firms and vendors such as for document review rule out the over-50. A 60-year-old Connecticut lawyer, after so much rejection and being fired after two weeks, landed a dream job in bankruptcy.
More generally, some employers such as Home Depot make it their mission to hire and develop older workers. Others such as many players in Silicon Valley make it their business to only recruit those under-40.
That's the reality.
And, if you are perceptive you will pick up right away in the interview whether you have a shot at being hired. It's fairly obvious when those with the power to hire are simply going through the motions. They don't want you to report them to the EEOC for alleged age bias. So, they will deliver the performance art necessary to protect themselves legally.
When you get it that the interview isn't "real," you, too, just go through the motions. And save your energy and hope for presenting yourself to employers less age-biased.
Recently I did an intensive round of interviewing for a part-time job. I wanted to learn skills beyond my field of communications and expand my network. So, I developed resumes and cover letters for opportunities ranging from retail to processing financial transactions.
Let's cut to the chase. Out of 10 interviews, I received two job offers. Both were a bad fit. One was for only six hours a week. Another involved regional travel using my own car. Even with mileage reimbursed, I would wind up having to buy a new car too soon.
For the rest, as soon as I walked in, it was palpable that I was being written off. Commonplace was the interviewer's settling into a set script. The person has tuned out. The way to handle that, I found, was just do an internal smirk. That preserves your confidence.
Back in my field of communications, of course, I also encounter bias. The solution has been to retrofit my business to 98% telecommuting.
Rarely do I meet in person with the prospect or the client. My line of work has become more transactional than relationship.
Now and then prospects and clients might request face time on the iPhone or video conferencing on a platform like SKYPE. Twice that probably killed the deal. So? Move on.
Aging is a reality you and I have to manage. But, bias isn't a monolith.
A former significant other has solved that problem, at least for now, by enrolling in paid training for a skill in-demand. That's commercial driving. His investment: $7100. Already he has had job offers. It's a sellers' market. Also, there are training programs which are free. They involve a two-year commitment to work for them.
In the long term, we can navigate this terrain. A few weeks ago I consulted with a financial planner. He observed that I was in good shape. In investing, to preserve my principal, I purchased a fixed annuity. I had already had a Roth IRA.
That has been after eight years of emotional and social struggle when I first experienced getting knocked out of the box seemingly because of age. Among my tactics were relocating from the New York Metro area to a location where the standard of living was lower, renting apartments instead of buying and paying off all debt. Finally, I can do some traveling.
The woman who made the offer for a job I turned down told me she would be retiring from that retailer. She had been putting out feelers for part-time work. No bites. What she had decided is that, for her, starting some kind of business will be the only bridge to the future. That is, if she intends to continue to work.
The burden is on each of us professionals to figure out how to find work, keep that income-producer and eventually land better opportunities. Systems thinking won't help out on this one.
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