A buddy of mine just wrote a story about Annie’s Restaurant in Elsmere, Delaware, that provides patrons with glasses because so many of them can’t read the menus these days.
The owner, Wendy Scully, is an entrepreneurial genius. The population is aging and they can’t see her menu.
But this story also got me thinking of a larger issue. Americans today don’t want to accept growing old. They’re ashamed of it and make excuses for it. And this my friends is a recipe for career disaster and a lot of unhappiness.
Lately I’ve been getting tons of letters from readers who are 40 and up, wondering if they’re too old to start new careers, or ever find a job they’re happy with.
One email I included in my MSNBC.com “Your Career” column this week summed up the sentiment out there:
I just turned 46, and for the past 17 years I’ve been a flight attendant for one of the United States legacy carriers. As you know, my job has changed very dramatically in the past 5 years, especially when it comes to job security and my paychecks.
I’ve been interested in the fields of network administration, network security and computer forensics. However, due to the years wasted as a flight attendant, I now see that my age might be an issue if I decide to pursue a change of careers.
I am very unsure as to the possibility of finding a job opportunity so close to the age of 50. Do you think it would be impossible to find another job at that point?
Folks, if you think an employer isn’t going to want you when you’re 50 then you’re right, they won’t want you.
No one wants to hire a sad sack who is down on themselves, not in this economy or any economy.
Confidence in yourself and your ability is infectious. That’s what opens doors.
I talked about this in my column and got some “you’re-an-idiot-Eve” responses as a result:
The author Eve Tahmincioglu is too optimistic and unrealistic.
Unfortunately many work places have a prejudice against older people. So if I’m 50 and going from sales to accounting, it is hard to get a decent level/paying accounting job. Many places do not want the health care increase associated with older employees. If your 50, it can be even harder trying to work your way up the ladder or to have the patience for the education. Companies like, young, married, fresh, inspirational, and somewhat experienced employees.
Young. Fresh. Married. Inspirational. Somewhat experienced.
If you have three or four of these traits, you’re probably in pretty good shape no?
Since when do young workers have a corner on the fresh, married, inspirational and somewhat experienced market?
I also got an email challenging my premise from “Rob,” who claimed to be a headhunter but did not want to divulge the company names he’s worked for.
I am a 36 yr old headhunter and have been one for about the past 14 years.
I am inundated with resumes of late 40-50 yr olds who have all the credentials to do the job, but my managers wouldn’t consider these candidates as “A” candidates, because of the age and experience. And while that is total discrimination and highly illegal, it is the reality of the current workplace. When you don’t hear back for a job or find out that the company which had 30 postings, doesn’t have any real openings….it’s not them…it’s you. It’s the only legal way HR managers or recruiters can reject you without actually rejecting you.
First off, this is a 36 year old individual who should know better, and should step forward if age discrimination is so rampant.
And it sounds like these employers he talks about are no place a person of any age should strive to work for.
I think there’s something deeper going on here.
“Rob” goes on to write:
And I can’t say I entirely disagree with the stereotype that has been created on this group. When they call to speak about an opportunity, they do not necessarily follow the proper job channels, in some cases feeling a sense of entitlement to speak to the CEO or COO of the company because of their years. AND THEN, the laundry list of bills that I hear about (tuition, healthcare costs, mortgages, etc) as rationale to why I NEED to consider them for this role.
He doesn’t like the “sense of entitlement” these older workers have. It seems to be pissing him off. I guess many of the people he encounters are much older and don’t give “Rob” the respect he thinks he deserves.
“Rob” clearly has his own biases, but he makes a good point and one I’ve talked about before for any age job seeker.
No one wants to know about your personal problems. DO NOT share these during an interview, or in a cover letter, or to the secretary who you’re sitting next to when you wait for the hiring manager to call you into his or her office.
Aside from that, we all have to accept the inevitable. We’re going to grow old, if we’re lucky of course.
You can choose to revel in it, be proud of it, find a new chapter in your career to enjoy it. Or you can bitch and moan about your gray hair and go to your grave unhappy.
Many have chosen to boogie down before their funerals are scheduled.
This comment from another reader, Dixon:
I’m a 55 year old engineer who has always worked in the furniture and cabinet industry with technology such as CNC and robotic machines. Several of our manufacturing locations are being closed in July, and my job is ending in mid-June.
Despite my age, I see this as an opportunity. I am going back to school this fall to start earning a degree in graphic design, photography, and Web design. I found that there is much help available through grants and government programs to help me acheive this. My final goal is to open my own business.
I’m actually very excited about starting a new life.
Let’s all get excited people! Are you?
An old friend of mine Margo Hammond, the former book editor of the St. Petersburg Times, just left me a message on Facebook regarding this issue and I wanted to share it:
tell them about my mom. She started a new career — writing a newspaper column — at 86. See “Post Scripts: A Writing Life After 80″). Or how about Helen Hooven Sootmyer. She penned a best-selling novel at 88. It’s never too late. Except, of course, if you want to be a ballerina or an NBA star.