Every day, I correspond with experienced professionals who share the same story. They’ve worked hard to get into college, steadily climbed the corporate ladder and started earning a nice living. These people did everything they were supposed to do, according to the norms of our society. Now, in their late 30s, 40s, 50s and older, they find themselves callously laid off and discarded.
These people are white-collar professionals earning in the neighborhood of $150k to over $300k. I’m sure that some of you are going to roll your eyes and not read any further. Please stick with me, as this is a problem we will all face. Unlike gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and other differences, we share this one common fate—we all grow old.
The experienced professionals rose to mid-to-senior corporate levels after decades of hard work, dedication and suffering all the daily indignities accompanying corporate life. This was the time in their lives they believed to be their peak earning years—a chance to put away some money for retirement and pay for their children’s college tuition. Due to the intense trends of nearshoring jobs to lower-cost states, offshoring to places like India, the rapid advancement of technology, ageism and the aggressive push by executive management to cut costs, these people have been unceremoniously let go.
At first, they would take some time off—a first since high school—to regroup, refresh, contemplate what just happened and mentally prepare for getting a new job. After a little break, they start searching. Then, the realization and fear sets in about their new reality. This is what I hear and read from them:
- Companies do not respond to their applications and résumé submissions. If they do, the human resources person will say that they possess too much experience.
- Job listings call for only three to seven years of experience and it’s obvious that they’re being excluded from these opportunities.
- When they interview, it’s clear the that the company wants someone younger.
- They feel that their years of relevant experience aren’t valued. In fact, they’re seen as a liability in our youth-obsessed culture.
- Even if they say they’ll accept less compensation and a lower title, the company does not care.
- They wonder, “How crazy is this?” If a person was financially struggling, needed money fast and offered to sell you their Rolls Royce for the price of a Honda, anyone would jump at the opportunity because it would be such a steal. Companies don’t see it that way, as it relates to them. The hiring managers, human resources and other company professionals are willfully oblivious to the value that’s being offered to them.
- How could you pass up on someone with over twenty years of experience, in favor of a candidate with barely four years, especially when she’s not asking for any more money compared to the junior person?
- People involved with hiring clearly have a built-in bias against their experience and tenure.
- Sometimes, it seems that the hiring manager is intimidated by them.
- It feels as if they’re worried that, if hired, the experienced person will take over her boss’ job or leave once a better opportunity arises.
- Instead of viewing their age as a positive, they attribute negative traits to them, such as they’ll act like they know everything, won’t listen to younger colleagues, want to do things their own way and won’t be able to fit into the corporate culture.