Since when did “old” become a dirty word? Come to think of it, since when did 50+ become old?
I am more than a little ticked off with what is going on in today’s workplace.
I have 5 very dear friends, all over 55, who have been looking for work for over a year and can’t find it. These people are the real deal, the big guns, and the ones that carried the heavy load. I’m talking about the CEO’s, V.P.’s, Regional Marketing Director’s, and COO’s of major companies.
These people have spent a better part of a lifetime working over 70 hours a week for years, spending more time in hotel rooms than they did their own beds. They’ve missed recitals, birthdays, little league games and a lot of back-to-school nights, all for the good of the company. A loyalty that was left unrewarded.
Each and every one of these people has never been unemployed. Ever. Until now.
They are wicked smart, have energizer bunny stamina, Pollyanna attitudes, amazing foresight, buckets of hard to come by experience, and the ability to manage the corporate rough spots with precision, and clear attention to the bottom line. Yet, their companies laid them off. Going in a “different direction”, they were told. A year later, those companies are following the same direction, but with a younger man at the helm.
If it looks like a rat, walks like a rat, smells like a rat … it’s probably a rat. A corporate rat.
The number of people 55 and older who are being relieved of their jobs is escalating at an alarming rate. About 55 percent of jobless seniors, or 1.1 million, have been unemployed for more than six months, up from 23 percent, or less than 200,000 four years earlier, according to a copy of the Government Accountability Office report obtained by Reuters.
In what should be their prime earning years, these older workers are relying on their savings, missing out on potential wages and are having to prematurely tap into Social Security – all at a time when Americans are living longer and their health care, and other living expenses, are rising.
The number of long-term unemployed workers aged 55 and older has more than doubled since the recession began in late 2007, and getting back to work is increasingly difficult, according to a recent government report.
I am sick to death watching these fabulous business minds struggle upstream for months as they apply for positions with organizations that should be thrilled to have them knocking on their door. Instead they are often greeted with disrespect, disregard and an inconceivable superior attitude from the twenty-something year old HR rep that they are forced to filter through.
Job hunting isn’t what it used to be. Neither are manners, appropriate business conduct, and kind consideration. All have been replaced by voice mail, computer log-ins, phone interviews, and inexperienced HR reps who are far more concerned with their lunch hour than they are filling an important position with a candidate best suited for the job.
Unfortunately, HR people are the gate keepers of the job availabilities in any given corporation. We would all be better off if they had more common sense than a radish and possessed a vague idea of business decorum. Alas, many do not. And yet, it is these people who hold the golden key. Many of them barely out of college themselves, have pity little knowledge (or interest) in what it takes to determine a good fit for their company.
If you happen to be an HR representative, let’s have a chat, shall we? First off, I would highly recommend that you have the courtesy to call back the people who have responded to your employment posting and who have left numerous voice mails for you. It is, after all, YOUR job. I also would recommend that you be respectful, speak kindly, and practice honesty. Your applicants most likely could buy and sell you in their former occupation. It would also be immensely valuable for you to learn how to construct an email with the proper English, spelling and punctuation. And lastly, as in life, be thoughtfully aware that rudeness is not an attribute. Neither is incompetence.
Don’t send me hate mail. I am well aware that there are excellent HR people out there. They are, however, few and far between, hugely outnumbered by the inexperienced, inattentive, and ineffective stand-ins whose recent out-of-college wage requirement conveniently placed them at the head of the line for a job that should be occupied by a seasoned professional who understands the industry standard and needed qualifications.
And to those top companies that employ these people of record level low acumen; do you really want someone so incompetent, so uncaring, representing your company needs, and your future? It would say a lot about you.
Corporate America needs to wake up. Those of us who have been in the workforce for many years, often work harder, willingly give more hours, and are frequently more committed than many half our age. And let’s not forget the tremendous wealth they bring to the table with their vast years of experience. All this should count for a lot. But more often than not, it doesn’t even move the needle on the Richter scale.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of corporate America, progressive thinking and out of the box ingenuity. There is nothing in the logic that says out with the old, and in with the young.
Aging wine is a delicacy, antiques are uniquely valuable, and classic cars go for thousands more than their youthful value. But people, well, clearly people lose value in the business world once they pass that invisible marked age of 55. I call bullshit.
These talented people are just the tip of the iceberg. There are millions of us out there that will suffer the same judgment. Seniors are living longer, healthier lives and wish to maintain an active business participation, earn income and support their families. With the recent economy woes, working past our retirement years is not so much an option as it is a necessity.
Prejudice is an ugly word. But when businesses throw away such a lucrative resource as our senior population, it’s beyond prejudicial, it’s downright stupid.
Seeing this happen day in and day out reminds me why I am self-employed. Why I take a chance on myself rather than lean on anyone else.
It’s not always an easy road, but at least I’m doing the driving.