Ageism Still Occuring as Older Workers Struggle to Find Employment

Nancy Anderson
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Workplace discrimination isn't a new concept, but much of the conversation centers on women and minorities, leaving the plight of older workers in the shadows. According to new unemployment numbers, ageism in America is alive and well, and affecting professionals over the age of 55.

Although the overall unemployment rate in the United States is relatively low, older workers are not seeing an improvement. According to the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School, 12 percent of people age 55 and over who want to work remain unemployed, including those workers unable to find full-time work or who stopped searching for work after four weeks.

Technically, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects older workers from age discrimination. Under the ADEA, employers may not use age as a deciding factor in hiring if the worker is over age 40.

Illegal or not, both statistics and personal reports indicate that employers prefer younger workers over older workers. In 2013, AARP released a study entitled "Staying Ahead of the Curve 2013." The study reported that 64 percent of workers between the ages of 45 and 74 have witnessed or personally experienced age discrimination. What's more, 92 percent of those people believe ageism in America is "very common" or "somewhat common."

Ageism is a growing topic of concern among analysts and workers, particularly given the increasing age of the American workforce. In early 2016, the Pew Research Center analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that 18.8 percent of people age 65 and older still work — the highest percentage since 2000. Analysts expect this number to grow in coming years, given the lack of solid pension plans and increasing retirement costs.

Unfortunately, discrimination against older workers is both prevalent and difficult to prove. With many employers lacking motivation to hire mature workers, older professionals must find ways to stand out. Technology is a natural starting point; to stay competitive, workers over the age of 45 must be equally capable as younger workers in industry standard programs, apps and devices. They must also be fluent in the language of technology, social media and modern communication. After all, a single outdated reference or an accidental blunder can mark an older person as clueless or out of touch.

Other ideas for competing with younger candidates include using age and experience as a selling point during the hiring process, leveraging industry contacts as references, and looking polished and modern for job interviews.

There's no question: older workers face an uphill battle in the job market. By becoming aware of age discrimination and finding ways to fight it, older professionals can remain a viable and active part of the American workplace.

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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Michael thanks for your comment. And so true. Companies want the best employees they can find but they don't want to pay for the skills and experience. They figure that if you need to work that you will accept the salary that they offer. Truly is sad but it's the time in which we are living.

  • Michael C.
    Michael C.

    Yep! They want experience without the age. They also want to pay minimum wage for Master Mechanics. Something's wrong...

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Raymond thanks for your comment. It is true that we need to have the skills to compete with the younger generation. Getting the certification does not really give you the experience that companies are looking for but it might get you in the door. And to answer your question, I would hire my parents in a heartbeat because they would bring with them maturity, common-sense, an excellent work-ethic, would not need time off to raise a family and so on. Companies are losing out on so much when they pass over the older generation's resumes!

  • Raymond Morgan
    Raymond Morgan

    well, do you have 30 years experience or one days experience times 30 years? Have you grown your skill set? MBA? PMP? etc. While we are green we are growing but once we ripe we rot as Ray Kroc said. I am not saying it does not exist but would you hire your parent to work for you? Find a company that needs your skills. If not, create the skills a company needs and then apply. PMP, CISSP, and other certification are in high demand. If you argue for your limitations you get to keep them.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Jorge thanks for your comment. Is truly is unfortunate that companies treat their more senior members this way. That they let all of the talent walk out of the door knowing that it will take that new kid out of college years to get to where you are right now as far as experience, skills and knowledge. I just noticed a bunch of ads coming out on TV, prior the election, where they are trying to come up with plans to get kids through college faster and for less money but they them all set up to receive a "starting" salary of $100,000! So you have to wonder - is it really the salary that companies are objecting to?!!

  • Jorge A.
    Jorge A.

    It is probably the salary. If you worked for a company for so long you probably built up great income and companies are simply not paying well any longer. They'd rather hire a kid out of college with absolutely no experience and train him than pay an older worker for the experience.

  • JAMAL J.
    JAMAL J.

    I completely agree with you. I worked for Southern California Edison Company for 26 years and at the age of 59 they discriminated against my age and separated me from the company. Recently, Edison uses something call reorg and get rid of older people.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Robert thanks for your comment and so sorry to hear that your job search isn't moving forward. Have you by any chance tried to go through a recruiter that specializes in fundraising? What about non-profits? Have you attempted to go that direction? Sometimes volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door. And volunteering experience on your resume will really help you. Right now employers are looking and saying - this guy hasn't worked in the field for five years so he is outdated for how we do things today. That's why volunteering might be a good thing.

  • Robert C.
    Robert C.

    I've been seeking a full-time position in the field of direct response fundraising (mail and digital) for five years -- FIVE YEARS. Hiring managers, and recruiters do not need to see me to know I'm sixty years of age. All they need to do is the math -- when I graduated college, when I entered the job market and how long I've worked in the field. Despite my experience, carefully worded customized cover letters, great references, solid portfolio and a top notch resume, the calls never come. I can only assume it's my age.

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