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Ageism is infuriating, and bad business

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As a writer, I frequently peruse job boards and listings for contract or freelance opportunities. Sometimes I’ll contract with a company for a certain number of hours per week or for a specified purpose, such as setting up a website or blog. Most often, I work on a project-by-project basis, sometimes more than one for different clients.

Most of my work comes from referrals, but, to keep my business pipeline healthy, I check for potential opportunities on the job boards. Recently, I saw a posting for the type of work of I do. It was a full-time permanent position, so I was about to skip on to the next posting when something in the job description caught my eye.

Postings typically include the types of skills they seek in candidates and, usually, the numbers of years of experience with these skills, often stated as a range such as five to seven years of experience with social media, for example. This job description did that.

What followed next, though, stopped me cold. The job description did ask for five to seven years of experience, with this qualifier: “Preferably, no more than seven.”

Hmmm …

At first, I didn’t know what to make of this, and I skimmed through the rest of the posting for a clue. But, ultimately, I came to the conclusion that this company wanted employees of a certain age … a certain younger age. In the absence of other qualifiers (which I did not find), not only is this type of bias distressing, it’s also pretty blatantly illegal.

For baby boomers such as I am, this story is all too common. Among the many “-isms” that affect society, ageism is one that hits home for many people of my generation. There are, of course, concerns that we “older workers” (and it pains me to use that term) are outdated and more expensive. However, the opposite is also true, along with some clearly definable benefits of hiring these older workers.

For example, according to U.S. News & World Report, such employees bring both deep experience and confidence to their jobs. Mature workers are also loyal and dependable. Entrepreneur says that hiring older workers can help businesses maintain a reliable, dedicated workforce and provide a significant cost savings for both the short and long term. The magazine lists efficiency, organization, and communication skills among the valuable experience such employees bring immediately to the job.

Just last month, Inc. magazine offered these reasons why mature workers are good hires: 1) older professionals can save hundreds of thousands of dollars through their foresight alone; 2) more experienced employees tend not to be yes men and women; 3) older employees tend to be less dependent on supervision and able to get the job done correctly without asking as many questions; and, 4) older workers can save money in the long run by simply helping to avoid costly or time-consuming mistakes.

I like to think that I fall into the reliable, dedicated, experienced employee category, and, so far, my status as an “older professional” has only been an issue on a couple of occasions. But I don’t think I’ll be offering up my 20+ years of leadership, communication, and wisdom to any organization fixated on, preferably, no more than seven years of experience.

Andrea Doray is a writer who has heard similar stories from many of her baby boomer contemporaries. Contact her at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

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