Ageism: The Pause that Perplexes

December 1, 2020
By PRSA-SV - Executive Board Advisor Gerard “Gerry” Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA
Ageism: The Pause that Perplexes

Ageism is getting old. “Long on experience” used to be a badge of honor. Oh, how times have changed! While ageism has been with us in the workplace for many years, today it’s routine in technology and many other industries. For many of us, it is the pause that perplexes.

During our Friday Forum, Patty Temple Rocks, author of I’m Not Done: It’s Time to Talk About Ageism in the Workplace, and Scott Monty, an executive advisor, speaker and Neoclassical strategist, discussed strategies we can use to rise above ageism in the workplace.

Are You a Victim of Ageism?

The speakers said if you suspect ageism may be present in your workplace and affecting your career, look for these signs:

  • No promotions
  • Infrequent or no performance reviews
  • No opportunities for career development and training
  • Declining salary increases
  • Plum assignments go to younger people
  • Supervisors whisper in your presence
  • Being passed over for new challenges
  • Not being invited to client meetings

Five Tips to Combat Ageism:

The speakers emphasized that we are all a collection of skills and experiences. Everyone brings value to the table in different ways. The trick is knowing how to identify what we’ve done that makes us stand out. Then craft our resumes accordingly. They offered five tips to help combat ageism:  

  • Craft a Resume That Makes People Feel Something

Move away from chronological-list resume. As Patti and Scott both emphasized, we are all storytellers. Customize your resume in a way that will make people feel something. Then take action. Write a narrative that positions you for a specific opportunity and differentiates you from everyone else. Don’t be afraid to be distinctive; it demonstrates initiative, creativity and uniqueness.

  • Treat Your Resume Like a Media Pitch

As storytellers, we often find ourselves creating a unique pitch to grab the attention of a journalist or reporter. Think of your job search the same way. Scott cited two examples of this. One job seeker created a targeted Google ad directed at a specific hiring manager. When the hiring manager went to search for a particular term, a link to the job seeker’s portfolio appeared and included a narrative by the job seeker on the rationale for their interest in the company. Another individual created a podcast, posted it on iTunes, then sent the link to the hiring executive. These unconventional techniques are sure to get a hiring manager’s attention.

  • Use Five Magic Words

Scott emphasized that one of the biggest problems with ageism is that people make assumptions on what an older professional is looking for. Just because someone is older doesn’t mean they expect a higher salary and seniority. Hiring managers and candidates alike need to communicate and manage expectations. Scott recommends using these five magic words during your interview: “Tell me more about that.”  We must seek to understand in order to be understood. Doing so will help us communicate openly and effectively with the person on the other side of the interview table.  

  • Work Your Network

Let’s face it – job boards are more like “Job Bored.” The chance of landing a new gig from a job posting is slim because often, by the time a job is posted, it’s already been unofficially filled. Your network is your way in. Work your network hard to find the actual hiring manager. Then look at your connections to see who can open the door to the appropriate person. Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and seek out everyone who can make short work of a hard reach.

  • Be Unique and Flexible

Think of something unique you can do and how to convince a potential employer you are the best person to do it. For example, it could be something you can do faster and more economically as a part-time professional than as a full-time employee. Patti cited a case where the pharmacy firm CVS created parttime positions for people looking for work in the South where population shifts had increased demand. Flexible opportunities can be a win-win for everyone. That said, she reminded us never to sell ourselves short or work for less than we are worth.  

Ageism Facts:

  • 10% of today’s workforce is between 65-69 years old and 20% are older than 55
  • 50% of people 55 and older are employed
  • 58% of workers notice age bias firsthand when they enter their 50s
  • 33% of people believe their age is putting their job at risk
  • 12% of people lose out on promotion due to age bias
  • 7% of people report losing a job due to age discrimination
  • 72% of women and 57% of men between the ages of 45 and 74 believe people experience workplace age discrimination
  • 77% of black workers, 61% of Hispanic or Latino workers and 59% of white workers experience age discrimination
  • Of companies that have D&I strategies, only 8% include age

About the Speakers:

In her almost four decades in communications, Patti Temple Rocks has held senior leadership positions in PR and advertising with companies of all sizes. She’s a Forbes contributor and frequent public speaker. Patti’s known as an inspirational leader, innovative thinker, problem solver, growth driver and a passionate brand steward. She’s both an agent for change and a counselor during that change. Patti’s book, I’m Not Done: It’s Time to Talk About Ageism in the Workplace, is an Amazon bestseller and last year ranked as one of INC Magazine’s nine books every professional should read.

Scott Monty uses examples from history, literature, philosophy and poetry to advise corporate executives and boards on modernizing their culture to meet customers’ changing needs. Along with his ability to spot trends, Scott shows teams and audiences that the key to our future is in understanding timeless wisdom about human nature, with a focus on integrity. From 2008-2014, Scott was the first global head of social media and digital communications at Ford Motor Company, where he helped turn the company around. He served as a strategic advisor across a variety of business functions, leading the company’s global social media strategy. Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally called him “a visionary.” The Economist ranked him #1 on its list of 25 Social Business Leaders. With another decade of experience in communications and marketing agencies, Scott advised clients including Walmart, McDonalds, IBM, Coca-Cola, and Google, and others.

Click here to replay the AGEISM IS GETTING OLD #FridayForum Ageism from November 20, 2020

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