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Opinion

How Ageism Is Keeping Me From Getting Hired

I have more knowledge than I've ever had, so why won't anyone hire me?

By Michael Lubell

Ageism isn't very sexy, and it is certainly not as provocative or prominent in the news as sexism or racism. But as someone in my 60s, I've been living with ageism for years while looking for work, without writing or complaining much and it quite simply is time to speak up.

Crumpled paper on a desk. Next Avenue, ageism, jobs
Credit: Getty

When I search and apply for even part-time/temp positions in sales, marketing or publishing or I pitch a mainstream audience an article I'd like to write, I feel as if I'm operating from within a black hole.

My enthusiasm is met with either silence or a pseudo-conciliatory auto reply.

Of course, it's nearly impossible to prove that age prejudice is the reason for not getting hired. But I do know this: I have the experience and, I believe, ten times the talent required for a low-paying creative assignment or temp position.

Job Hunting Into a Black Hole

The job applications and ideas I submit are as promising as ever, or even more so, because I feel both qualified and passionately interested. All too predictably, however, my enthusiasm is met with either silence or a pseudo-conciliatory auto reply. 

Friends have encouraged me to "do what I love" for a long, long time. After working in sales and marketing for big banks and large corporations most of my life, and with job opportunities in them drying up, I pitched a tent as a freelance writer under the brand umbrella named, "Think…Again…!" (as opposed to my business career which I would now retitle: "Don't Think…Just Smile, Get In Early and Leave Late").

My idea was to transition from grunt work and strategy into the creative realm from my perch in Westport, Conn. For most of my career, I've felt unappreciated writing and developing original ideas and handcuffed with rote, mundane and politically mandated tasks. 

So, I set out to make at least pecuniary income working part-time or temporarily or at a job with flexible hours — anyplace looking for a fresh perspective from an older face.  I also have the writer's lottery ticket, "The Book," sitting in a desktop file, 200 pages long and waiting to be cashed in.

I expected a slow start getting jobs and assignments but managed to build some writing clips from media outlets including Next Avenue and to secure a few $100-$300 jobs writing mostly print and email ads. 

By Year 2, I realized supplementary and more reliable wages were in need. So, I began driving for Uber and Lyft. That wasn't a bad gig, and really kept my head above water for a couple of years. The money was fine, and the passenger interaction exceeded expectations. But I lived with a constant fear of crashing and finally did, leading me to decide the danger wasn't worth the risk.

Driving for Uber and Lyft

In job hunting, I've learned what I think of as the Resumé Deception game for older job applicants: no lies but just noting limited and selective accomplishments and NO DATES.

I thought having "experience" in the job I was applying for was a good thing.  Now it feels like I am considered too experienced and simply not hip enough or techie enough to work with, write or be photographed with companies that are GenX/millennial dominant from what the employee photos on their websites suggest.

From what I've seen, the system of employment search and response has become intrinsically biased towards younger people. Boomers like me have been segregated from other job seekers and ultimately left out of job opportunities, despite our skills and aptitudes.  

Sometimes, it seems like we lose out because we're not as popular on social media as younger people. Friends and Followers go a long way towards impressing employers. Now I'm a frequent poster on Twitter and Facebook, but my followings there are in the hundreds. Unless your social media handle is in the hundreds of thousands, it can be more of a deal-killer than a positive portrayal of your writing style and personality.

Getting an Interview

My sense is that young people with one tenth of my experience are sometimes the ones reviewing candidates. I wonder: How would they value my experience and perspective? How could they?

And, if they did see my potential, would they be bold enough to put me in a group of prospects if their boss would sense me as being old enough to be the father of the rest of the bunch and had an attitude of "no grey hairs, please."

On several occasions, I've checked websites with photos of company employees holding a position comparable or identical to the one I was seeking. The most recent one was a site selling sporting goods equipment and whose employees were paid 100% by commission.  The company's angle was to personalize the equipment through live sales interactions with prospective buyers. Seemed perfect for me.

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I've taught golf, played the sport well since I was eight and ran a business that was practically a clone of this one. After extensive, mostly automated, Zoom-style interviews with this employer, I was told a month later that they weren't interested. All of the "Experts" I found on the site were well under 40. 

Am I Too Old for These Jobs?

I realize that younger-targeted businesses, particularly e-tailers, have to look and feel hip and be directed to their primary customers needs. It was that way when I was starting out, too. But today, due to social media and the internet, management and employees, as well as their messages and products, are so much more visible. It doesn't look too cool to have an old fool selling the latest golf-club technology, I suppose.

It seems like a shame that I can't use the wisdom I've acquired over a lifetime in a more productive way.

I may not know everything about the latest technology or even how to pay the newest way with a credit card. But I know so much more about people and the way business works than I ever did.

It seems like a shame that I can't use the wisdom I've acquired over a lifetime in a more productive way.

I can handle rejection or criticism; hell, I welcome it. But it's the apathy and indifference that's palpable and can be depressing.

All comments, Likes and shares of this story will be duly appreciated. I'd even write a nice Best Man or Bar Mitzvah speech if you need one…

Michael Lubell is a marketing consultant for small- to midsize firms and writing personal and business copy for his own company, ThinkAgain…! He is a proud Northwestern graduate and NYU MBA and father of two living in Westport, Conn. He was an online marketing pioneer who began his career pre-internet at companies like Revlon, L’Oreal and Best Foods.  Struck by the power and potential of the web, he went on to positions with companies like Yoyodyne Entertainment (e-mail games and sweepstakes) and Small World Sports (Fantasy Sports Games). He recently left the mortgage business (sales and marketing) to work in writing and consulting fulltime. Read More
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