Advancing in one’s profession can be tricky business. The older you get and the longer you have worked for an institution, the more likely you will see people leave due to moving away, changing jobs or leaving the active work force.
I know someone who right now is experiencing a lot of this type of transition with fellow colleagues. My friend has told me that all of his colleagues, his contemporaries, are retiring those who are in his profession and friends from other professions.
It can feel very lonely when you find yourself the last one who is still standing.
What do you do when you are in a work force that is devoted to nurturing younger workers but does not show any investment or utilization in workers who are older?
According to a recent article:
“Nearly two in three older workers believe that age discrimination exists in the workplace and those who believe so say it is common. Some 16 percent perceive that employers treat them worse on the job because of their age, up from 12 percent in 2007,” according to results from a 2014 AARP survey.
Age discrimination concerns are not limited to any particular industry.
Patrick Button, an assistant economics professor at Tulane University, was part of a research project last year that looked at callback rates from resumes in various entry-level jobs. He said women seeking the positions appeared to be most affected.
“Based on over 40,000 job applications, we find robust evidence of age discrimination in hiring against older women, especially those near retirement age, but considerably less evidence of age discrimination against men,” according to an abstract of the study.
Jacquelyn James, co-director of the Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, said age discrimination in employment is a crucial issue in part because of societal changes that are forcing people to delay retirement. Moves away from defined-benefit pension plans to less assured forms of retirement savings are part of the reason.
James pointed to an annual Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies survey, which found that more than half of workers, most citing financial-related reasons, “expect to retire after age 65 or do not plan to retire, and 56 percent plan to continue working at least part-time in retirement.”
James said she believes that the biases that help lead to age discrimination will be difficult if not impossible to fully end, so efforts should be made to keep biases out of hiring in the first place. Experts say hiring processes are often designed to weed out older workers.
Author Brigette Hyacinth wrote recently on the LinkedIn social media site of her frustration over the many emails she receives from older job candidates who are regularly told they are “overqualified” for positions. One woman told Hyacinth she is 55 with a master’s degree and 25 years of experience and cannot get a job in management.”
These aspects make life exceedingly challenging regarding professional development of older workers. People who have been seasoned and well versed in their field of expertise want to ideally feel that they can contribute significantly to organizations.
Also, institutions stand to lose greatly by missing all of the wisdom that these workers have to offer.
Employers need to realize that just because a worker may have some gray hair that they are still valuable in terms of their skill sets and their experience.
Today’s younger work force need to pay attention to what is happening to older workers and realize that they could be looking at the same fate 20–30 years in the future.
Smart institutions need to cherish all of the human resources and capital that they have and utilize all of these resources effectively.
It can be a win-win for all.
May it be so.