Is the Startup World a Refuge From Age Discrimination?

Is the startup world a great refuge from age discrimination?As I network heavily, a common topic of conversation that comes up is how “older” workers feel that they are being discriminated against in this market due to their age. I will not argue this point, but there are three points I would like to bring light to:

  • It is not your age that turns off companies – it is the staleness of your skills. If you are a marketing/PR person and have not mastered social media, a business analyst stuck in Waterfall, a developer stuck in Perl and COBOL, etc., than your age has nothing to do with it. No one is entitled to a job anymore. Bring value to the table! Gray hair and general experience is only 50% of the equation. You actually have an advantage – your experience allows you to pick up skills faster, because you already know many common elements. Do it!
  • Startups LOVE experienced people. Stop wasting your time in big corporations. All the youth in startups need a healthy dose of “gray hairs” for balance. If you have up-to-date skills and a positive attitude – you are darn irresistible.
  • Entitlement days are over, stop talking about the past. What keeps some people from talking to you is negativity. Times are hard for everyone. Pensions, guaranteed lifetime employment, and overly-generous benefits are gone due to evolution of the business. Such is life, move on, adapt, and thrive!

Here is a great example from my experience. I worked in a software development company where we had a couple 50+ year young developers who handled projects and code like masters. In a way, their maturity gave them the superior ability to handle the inherent stress of the industry and VIP clients. They were fun too, because the stories from their days at IBM, Digital, Arthur Andersen, etc. were great lunch conversations. They became the highest valued employees in the company, and if there was a hot new technology coming up somewhere, they were the first ones to know about it.

Photo credit: Stephen Hackett

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