Let's first be clear about what ageism is.
According to Medical News Today, "ageism is prejudice or discrimination against people based on their age. It typically applies to people who are older but can also affect young people." While ageism can apply to any age group, it seems to significantly impact those in the older age bracket.
Are we, then, as Gen Xers, discriminated against based on our age?
A Perspective From Experience, Observation and A Global Study.
We often say, "age is just a number", but is it?
Compared to my younger days, calls from headhunters and opportunities to explore job vacancies are few and far between now that I am in my late 40s. I have also spoken to peers who left their jobs confident they'd be able to gain employment within six months but remained jobless one or two years later. I'm sure we've all heard many other stories from our Gen X peers who find the job market more challenging now that we are older.
Of course, the reasons for not being hired depend on experience and suitability for the role, but ageism does exist, according to research conducted by Generation.
Generation, a global nonprofit organization on a mission to improve employment success, published a paper in July 2021 exploring the challenges faced by those aged 45 to 60. The study found that midcareer individuals find it harder to gain employment and that age is one of the biggest barriers. The global study also indicated that the challenge might lie with hiring managers having a negative view of job seekers in the older age bracket.
So, what exactly are the negative perceptions hiring managers have against job candidates aged 45 and above?
The survey indicated three top concerns with hiring older candidates:
- the reluctance to try new technology
- the inability to learn new skills
- the perception that we have difficulty working with other generations
However, when asked about the actual job performance of midcareer employees, the findings tell a different story.
"Asked about the performance of 45+ individuals compared to their younger peers, hiring managers declare that 87 percent of their 45+ hires are as good as—or better than—younger employees in terms of their overall performance on the job. They add that 90 percent have as much—or more— potential to stay with the company long term."
Overcoming Hiring Manager's Age Bias.
Hiring employees should be based on individual capabilities, experience and suitability for the role, but how do we fight bias based on age?
It will take a lot of education and awareness to overcome ageism. Unfortunately, we can't change a hiring manager's perception of individuals based on age, at least not alone and definitely not overnight. In the meantime, we probably need to be more creative in our job search strategy.
Taking further cues from the survey, it's clear that midlifers must demonstrate expertise in digital savviness, willingness to learn new skills, and ability to work and connect with people of different ages and backgrounds in their resumes.