Ageism in Tech
As people stay productive well into old age, (isn’t 60 the new 30?) it’s not hard to run into social barriers in certain fields – specifically ageism in IT. But before you decide to hang up your spurs when you manager begins to ask you to share your work methods with younger teammates, consider some tips from Karen Wickre from Wired below:
- Socializing – In an era when we’re encouraged to bring our authentic selves to work, after-hours socializing is part of the deal. For older workers (and others who aren’t quite a “culture fit”), tone-deaf get-togethers can cause emotional or logistical havoc. I’ve survived karaoke, rock climbing, and a folkloric overnight ski trip myself. There are good reasons for groups to let off steam and get better acquainted, but please, managers, make sure everyone feels comfortable about socializing in whatever way and at whatever time that you think will be so much fun…Done right, employee socializing leads to understanding between ages, cultures, genders, and all the rest. Done badly, corporate “fun” can lead to disaffected employees—or worse.
- Career development – As long as you’re still working, professional development shouldn’t stop. In my corporate jobs I’ve noticed that virtually all the skill building the company pays for is geared to people starting out or wanting to climb the ladder. Career help is often tied to what’s called an “up or out” management approach—which means you either have the wherewithal to be promoted steadily up the chain, or out you go. But programs that encourage job rotation—job shadowing, shifting to another office or partner site—work for all kinds of employees, not just younger ones
- Phased retirement – The vast number of us boomers (some 10,000 a day) rushing headlong toward 65 calls for more creative ways for us to eventually disengage from jobs. Companies shouldn’t want all that institutional knowledge to walk out the door all at once. Beyond that, people don’t want to—and often can’t—retire at one predefined age. We want and need to work; at the same time, we want to have more free and flexible schedules. Companies should devise programs (like these) to adjust workloads and responsibilities so that valuable workers are engaged as long as they’d like to be.
Although your qualifications should speak for themselves, you can avoid stacking the deck against you in regard to ageism. Leave off college graduation dates unless they are within the last 5 years, even for post graduate degrees. Remember that each word tells, so be concise and direct with your resume, limiting your experience to 2 – 3 pages. Twenty years of experience will speak loudest once you’ve got the job.
With any luck you too will be able to share stories about what a dial-up internet connection “sounded” like while your younger colleagues are being fitted for cerebral stacks and new skins a la Altered Carbon (Netflix). Use these helpful tips to make your later tech years something to be enjoyed and remembered well, because one day you may BE all the institutional knowledge.