Oh Hey, HR… Your Ageism is Showing

Kelly Dingee Diversity, HR, Kelly Dingee, Recruiting

So a funny thing happened in my job search…a reality check about my age.  I’m a decade baby, so every time we hit a “0” year, it’s a big year. And I’ve done it, hit the 5-0.

When I was getting some career counseling during my job search, I did get the “you’re good enough, smart enough, now get yourself out there and don’t settle” spiel but also, I got a warning. A warning of, make a good choice this time, because this choice can, and should see you through the next decade. You don’t want to be job searching in your mid-50s as a woman. The odds are not in your favor.

Ouch.  Mid 50’s is not good in a job search, particularly for a woman, eh?  That statement stuck with me. First, I don’t feel old. And second, the “woman” part is no surprise to me. And third, when I love a job I’ll hang around for 6, 7, 10 years.  When it’s all kind of meh, I’m normally out between the 2-4 year mark. 

Ageism is rampant, the sheer volume of articles in 2019 regarding the topic is legion. I particularly enjoy anything focusing on the “code words”…you know them….”digital native”….”cultural fit” …”over qualified”….and my personal favorite, as it was said a lot in my former job, “energy”.  Just for fun and to see what I mean about the systemic use of this language, try this search on Google:

site:linkedin.com/in/ “team of digital natives”

Yep, those results are telling.  We know who you’re talking about when you say you’re leading a team of digital natives. You’re talking about all those people born after 1995. (i.e. my kids…) I mean you didn’t include the #okboomer, but we get where you are going.

Ageist language can actually be disengaging….instead of having the hip, edgy, coolness factor that the writer thinks it’s implying, it’s actually ostracizing multiple generations, still active and contributing to the workforce. And this language disengages because of it’s lack of inclusivity. I mean obviously if you’re leading a team of digital natives, you’ve only got people of a certain age on your team. And as we all know, the best teams represent everyone, not just one age demographic.  

Katie Couric recently did a podcast (find it here) focused on Ageism. I recommend that everyone, HR pro or not, have a listen, especially if charged with diversity and inclusion, and ensuring that all ages are engaged within your Company. Language today is so subtle, and things said as a compliment, like “I can’t believe you have a daughter that’s 24” or “You look good for your age”….are not age friendly or appropriate.

The reality? I’m really, really good with the 5-0. I did take stock at 49 and decided I did need to make changes, and went for it. There was no big dread on this b-day, just a happy peace. Life is good. All my people are happy and healthy.  Are there challenges? Sure. Failures? Yes. Are there wins? Most definitely. And if age has lent anything, it’s the ability to see that all of those challenges, failures and wins are moments we face, and make the most of, as we continue on with our careers.