Thursday, September 30, 2010

8013: Same Old Story.

From The Digerati Life…

Age Discrimination In The Workplace

Just like with anything else, unemployment seems to be particularly cruel to certain demographic groups — in particular, to those who find themselves at the extreme ends of the age spectrum. That is, the younger and older folks get the short end of the stick when our economy goes through the wringer as it just did. The recovery will be slowest for job seekers on the fringes. So when “they” say that the recession is over, it’s hard to buy.

When you’re over 50 and unemployed, you could be facing an uphill battle to get back into the workforce until we start seeing more vigorous growth in the economy. And who knows when that will finally happen? Like many people in my generation, I share their feelings.

On the other hand, if you look at the plight of the younger generation in this current economy, you’ll see that they’ve got quite a disadvantage with having to face present day college education costs as well as paltry job prospects. It may not be so easy if you’re just starting out today.

Age Discrimination In The Tech Workplace
Which leads me to the job situation here in my neck of the woods. The truth is that things are pretty good over here if you’ve got specialized skills. I know of many places that are hiring, especially if you have a technical background. But there’s a caveat here, which I found well covered in this expose and discussion over at TechCrunch. The author calls it a dark secret, but it doesn’t strike me as such when they say that “age discrimination” is alive and well in Silicon Valley. Not necessarily because I’ve known this all along, but because I’m of the mindset that age discrimination is indeed alive and well anywhere! What that really means is that the longer you stew in a rank and file job, the harder will it be for you to make any progress with your career. And worse, you become much more expendable as you age. Again, not a surprise if you’re not seeing any career growth, but certain professions are more notorious for this than others.

For instance, what about modeling? Or those “dangerous jobs” where you need to be extremely physically fit to be effective? What about athletes? I guess we all face the same truth: that we should stay proactive about our work and think ahead if we’re to keep our place in the company. And it’s really our responsibility to avoid feeling too complacent about what we’re doing. As the tired old cliches go, the only constant is change. Expect the unexpected. This reality will never be forever.

That said, I picked up some great tips from that TechCrunch post. Before you decide to sit back and think you’ve escaped the brunt of the past financial crisis or recession, read on. I think these pointers ring true no matter what white collar job you hold.

Whether we like it or not, it’s a tough industry. I know that some techies will take offense at what I have to say, but here is my advice to those whose hair is beginning to grey:

1. Move up the ladder into management, architecture, or design; switch to sales or product management; or jump ship and become an entrepreneur (old guys have a huge advantage in the startup world). Build skills that are more valuable to your company, and take positions that can’t be filled by entry-level workers.

2. If you’re going to stay in programming, realize that the deck is stacked against you. Even though you may be highly experienced and wise, employers aren’t willing or able to pay an experienced worker twice or thrice what an entry-level worker earns. Save as much as you can when you’re in your 30s and 40s and be prepared to earn less as you gain experience.

3. Keep your skills current. This means keeping up-to-date with the latest trends in computing, programming techniques, and languages, and adapting to change. To be writing code for a living when you’re 50, you will need to be a rock-star developer and be able to out-code the new kids on the block.

That last point resonates. Heh, now you know why I’ve decided to take a shot at entrepreneurship. It’s all about the hair color!

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