That's the first question I asked the IT professional laid off from the tech sector.
That was his answer.
So, my guidance about enhancing his job-search materials went one way. Had he been over 50, it would have gone another.
Age bias is worsening as business has become unhinged by the election and its aftermath - as well as world economic volatility. It has even seeped into old-line supposedly secure professions such as executive communications.
A former ghostwriter/speechwriter for a brandname financial institution is 59. He gets bites. No offers.
A former 63-year-old executive communications pro from a brandname tech company is driving a school bus.
A 53-year-old Fortune 10 speechwriter was laid off, moved from Manhattan to Westport, Connecticut, and has been unable to get a job or contract assignments. He blames the re-location from New York. Under 50 freelance speechwriters in CT are getting lots of assignments.
It is difficult to prove that these displaced professionals even wound up in this pickle because of their age. If they were willing to risk their time and energy in a lawsuit, the odds of winning are not good. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate that age was the primary cause of harm from alleged age bias.
Could this phenomenon be labeled a "witch hunt?"
What went on in medieval times and colonial Salem, Massachusetts, were witch hunts based on perceived violation of community norms. Those, and men were also caught in this hysteria, found to be hazardous to the moral well-being of that social system were executed. A useful read is the 2016 book "The Witches" by Stacy Schiff.
Okay, that's what is.
How do the over-50 find work?
Following are 5 tips which have proved out since the first wave of terminations began in the early 21st century. Here is the iconic Fortune magazine 2005 article on that.
- Embrace the reality. As American Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, hammers in her videos, recognizing what is serves as an efficient and effective tool to managing fear. Here is one video. Railing against age bias won't generate income, that is, unless you get paid to be a lobbyist or activist. That culture of complaint also drives away those who can help your search.
- Explore becoming an on-demand-economy player. There are fewer age concerns in that niche. Since more and more contract opportunities are 100% telecommuting, the game tends to be age-neural. That is, if we keep up with the developments in our field and have down cold the memes and buzzwords. Help-wanted job boards, ranging from Craigslist to ProBlogger, list these.
- Market outside your comfort zone. The speechwriter can pitch to video services which need scripts. But first there has to be training in preparing content for that visual medium. That can be self-taught, using the information on the Internet.
- Change career paths. A 63-year-old forced-out law partner became certified in counseling alcoholics. If the momentum continues she can probably set herself up in private practice. Currently she is employed full time at a rehab center.
- Monitor shifts in marketing, including in the presentation of self. Startup culture and the Trump rhetoric have been among the factors making professional marketing communications more conversational. A stiff cover letter can sink the search for work.
Yes, the aging are being targeted. But there were likely many human beings in medieval and colonial times who picked up on what was happening and did what it took not to become victims.