Over lunch, a colleague mentioned that she had been on a job interview where the recruiter pointedly told her, “We have a YOUNG team here.” Do I need to mention that my colleague would not be considered “young” but what you might call “more seasoned”?
I suggested she should have replied, “Oh, then a more seasoned professional would be a great fit with your team.”
And it would; those of us with some years in the communications business have talent, experience and training, not to mention an extensive list of contacts and resources to draw upon. Chances are, we know our way around social media, too, and we have a good grasp on the importance of strategy and measurement to making a social media campaign – or any other kind of communication – work.
My colleague didn’t think the recruiter had meant the comment as a reference to her own age, but I’m not so sure. There are laws that would prevent him from rejecting her strictly based on age, but that doesn’t mean her resume wouldn’t end up at the bottom of the pile anyway.
Former IABC chairman D. Mark Schumann has a three-part (so far! there may be more to come) series on age bias in the communications profession. Like the colleague I mentioned above, he ran into a recruiter with the opinion, “This is a young person’s profession and there’s not a lot of room for older people.” Ouch!
Mark wrote a post about it, saying he thought he would “simply experience the therapeutic benefits of blogging” after the encounter.
But it struck such a chord among his blog readers that it triggered a second post and a third. Suggestions included how we can keep ourselves “ageless,” do what it takes to take age out of the discussion, and educate business on “how essential the contributions from experienced communicators can be.”
I haven’t run into the issue myself, yet, although it’s probably only a matter of time.
The good news for an independent is that age is probably less of an issue; we’re often hired for a particular skill or to complete a particular project, when being “seasoned” is looked on as a good thing. But that doesn’t let independents off the hook for educating business on the value of our colleagues.
Are you a “mature” communicator who has run into subtle age bias? Or are you a younger, less-seasoned professional running into the reverse? I’d love to know if the issue is widespread in both the U.S. and Canada, or if there are any differences in how we value communicators of any age.
As a seasoned, mature, experienced professional communicator I know first hand about age bias.
I’ve I have been interviewed by hiring managers who are younger than my children. From statements that were made it seemed to me they feared hiring their mother.
Going back into business of my own was the only reasonable solution.
Mary, you’re right, they were probably afraid you’d catch them doing something they shouldn’t!
Coming from a different part of the age spectrum, I always find this an interesting conversation.
As someone who graduated from college and hit the workforce before I was legal drinking age, I feel that I spent The Early Years trying to be taken seriously. Now with more than 10 years of progressive experience, I’ve felt that increasingly less value is placed on experience.
This seems obvious when it comes to social media. I know more about social media than many, less than others. But that comes from one (ageless) factor: an interest and commitment to learning more about it.
I think there’s a dangerous assumption among some that being young is somehow a qualification in itself. I had a bit of an argument during a marketing course; I noted that a friend in their early 30s was completely overwhelmed setting up a Facebook page – nobody believed me.
Interestingly, most of the experts I trust and respect in this area are probably not even under 40; they have years of experience that they have parlayed into a more in-depth understanding of something that’s still relatively new to everyone.
So, I’m not sure what the Right Answer is! Seems it comes from all directions.
Thanks for commenting, Amy. The experiences you mention really underline that it is dangerous to make assumptions about anyone, under or over 30!