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Why Employers and Experienced Workers Need Each Other

This director's upcoming film looks at the plight of the older unemployed

By Brandon Ross

After spending three years working on a documentary which focuses on underrepresented job seekers including experienced workers —  title sEVEN (to be released in Spring 2019) — two questions that popped up during the process have stayed with me.

Older Workers
Credit: Adobe Stock

The first is: Why don’t employers recognize the value of experienced workers? The second: Do experienced workers recognize their power to affect positive change for a company?”

What Do Employers Think About Older Workers?

While making the film, I wondered what employers see when they consider hiring an older worker. Have they always had what now seems to be a bias against older workers? If not, then when did this switch in thinking occur?

To provide more context, I examined historical trends concerning the demand for labor.

In the late 1970s, when the labor participation rate reached new heights and exceeded the population growth rate, older workers and people from younger generations started to compete for the same jobs. So it may not have been a switch in thinking about older workers that happened, but a switch to a survival mentality brought on by greater competition, conditioning younger people to see older age as a least in the case of work.

What if Employers Saw Age as a Strength?

What would the employment landscape look like, though, if employers changed their thinking about experienced workers and didn’t see their age as a disadvantage, but as a strength? What if a company looked at hiring experienced workers like buying a sort of insurance policy against difficult business challenges?

In the startup world, where experienced workers are often conspicuously absent, I think a company should look at hiring them as a must. Whether the startup is a tech company or a manufacturer, newer businesses have growing pains and if there are staffers who’ve already experienced these pains, that could help make the firms extremely competitive.

Many companies say their most valuable assets are their employees, but are employers confusing expense with value? Some would argue that an employee’s value should be measured by the skills he or she possesses and what the person can contribute to a company.


The Feelings Older Job Hunters Have

While filming experienced workers go through the steps of trying to land a job, I noticed a feeling of despair that many job seekers feel.

I also noticed a sense of powerlessness. This surprised me a bit, since I perceive people who’ve been in the workforce for a long time as experienced leaders. If I was a new hire at a company and my co-worker had been doing my job for a long period of time, I would turn to him or her for advice.

Searching for a job is a job in itself and a difficult one. It can be tiring, stressful and even depressing. But through all the up and down emotions the job hunt brings on, job seekers mustn't forget the valuable assets they have to offer.

Often, these applicants put prospective employers on a pedestal because they perceive the businesses as saviors from uncertainty, financial hardship and stress. Experienced workers, however, can be saviors as well.

Since older workers are known for staying at companies for long periods of times, they’ve worked through good times and hard times and know what has to happen for a company to get through each phase.

Older age should not be seen as a disadvantage. Instead, it should  be looked at as a competitive edge over other candidates.

Brandon Ross is a documentary filmmaker from Los Angeles whose films have focused on social justice. His upcoming film, title sEVEN, shows the rough road diverse job applicants have when trying to land employment. He is also an Encore Public Voices Fellow and director of marketing and communications for Social Impact Media Awards, an online competition and streaming platform that celebrates documentary films. Read More
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