You are stuck.
You’re on the wrong side of 40, struggling to find a job.
Circumstances had forced you to quit your previous job. And now every employer you’ve sent your resume to doesn’t want to touch you with a barge pole.
If you find yourself in this position, you are not alone.
More and more companies are adopting this unwritten policy that hesitates hiring individuals (except in exceptional cases) above a certain age. Especially in media companies.
The argument behind this theory is:
- the content landscape is changing and innovation is the need of the hour.
- people above a certain age get used to working in a particular way and are disinclined to change or adapt to new ways of working.
- the middle-aged are not prone to think out of the box or have fresh ideas.
Proponents of this theory believe the young mind is more tuned to innovate, seek new ideas, and create disruption. And the way forward is to hire young people. When someone senior or a mid-level employee departs, replace her with a young hire.
Is this a fair assumption to make?
Yes. And No. Here’s why:
As a recruiter who has worked alongside members of all age groups, I can tell you that every manager needs a mix of youth and experience to have a balanced team. In the most critical situations that require quick decision-making, experience is likely to bail you out. Someone who has been there and done that. Or has similar experiences to draw and learn from.
It is good to have young people. The youthful energy they bring in can rub off on other colleagues.
But the young are also more restless. They tend to lose interest quicker. Keeping them enthused at all times is easier said than done. No place is an ideal workplace. Shit happens. There are ups and downs. And you’ve got to deal with it.
Managers tend to look for more stable individuals when they’re hiring. It takes time and effort to train a recruit. And to learn to adapt to the new workplace. By the time that happens, if the recruit loses interest and decides to quit, you are back to square one. The process of finding a replacement is repeated all over again. Both time and effort are lost in the process.
Managers running operations understand how important it is to find those who know the job and are not looking to jump ship at the next available opportunity.
Why look at the young/experienced in generic terms?
You may find an experienced team member who matches up to or exceeds the energy of the young. You can come across a young colleague who invariably makes the right judgment calls due to his sharp intellect or insight.
Both the young and the experienced can and do bring value to the table. When you’ve them together in one team, they learn from each other.
As a long-time manager, I have benefitted from both. Every time an opportunity to hire presents itself, I take a call depending on the job and team requirement.
My advice for hiring managers is to:
- keep an open mind and fill the position depending on what the team or the job needs at that moment. If you’ve enough experience in the team, you could look for freshers or young recruits. And if you’ve a largely young team, you could look to hire a few experienced candidates.
- evaluate the candidate on merit, and not on any preconceived notion. Don’t be surprised if you find someone who goes against the grain.
- refrain from generalising an entire class of individuals due to your experience with a few.
The best teams reflect a fine balance of youth and experience. Respect and value both.
5 Ways to Secure Your Position if you’re 40+
If you’re 40+, an employee, or an aspiring job seeker, should you be worried? How can you insure yourself against possible job loss?
While job security cannot be guaranteed anywhere, what you can do to strengthen your position is to:
- constantly upgrade your current skills
- pick up new skills
- learn to multitask
- strive to be the best or in the top 3 in your line of work
- become the go-to person in your team for innovation/fire-fighting/generating solutions
If you’re super-skilled or a specialist, you can choose to be self-employed. Do your own thing. Become a consultant. Offer your service as a freelancer. Set your terms of engagement. If you are highly talented, you are in a good position to do so.
If you are average or below-average, you will always be at risk. Do not quit your job if you don’t have another under your belt or some other plan to ensure regular cash flow.
Brace up to update, upgrade, and upskill. Before your time is up.