Ageism is alive and well in Silicon Valley. SFGate.com last month collected first-hand descriptions from readers of what it’s like out there in the area’s employment realm when you are (gasp) over 40. Or maybe it’s over 30.
Readers told SFGate.com that though they are well aware that their employed days are numbered, or just plain over, in the tech industry, they are not sure how they can prepare to be shoved into another line of work, since ageism is in play elsewhere, as well.
One reader tried to find the bright side to being a 58-year-old, experienced tech professional with skill sets reaching back a few years, saying, “… I could probably still get a job in Sacramento for the state government or IBM."
If you can’t find employment with a governmental office or company operating on antiquated technology, taking steps to address the perceived weaknesses of older workers is the preferred advice. Probably the most important of these types of strategies is finding a way to demonstrate that you are flexible and able to handle change gracefully. As Rebecca McCarthy writes in a piece on overcoming ageism on Patch.com:
“A stereotype about older workers is that they are more likely to want to do things how they've always done them in the past and may not be open to change. One way to overcome this stereotype is to incorporate and highlight problem solving, creativity and ability to learn new skills in your application materials.”
If you are unsure of whether you have found an effective way to demonstrate your youthful flexibility, consider asking a younger person for feedback on your approach. If you can get that feedback from a younger person working in IT, that may be even more valuable information on how you are perceived as an older IT worker.
And while proving age discrimination during a hiring process can be extremely difficult, for employees, finding a way to demonstrate that it is happening may be slightly more feasible, as more opportunities to observe patterns of behavior will likely be available. As with any other discrimination claim, documentation is vital. Age-based comments, changes in discipline, exclusion from events or training, and other behaviors specific to your company culture may demonstrate ageism, but you will need to consult with legal counsel to find out how best to document and proceed.