When I originally started in IT in the olden days, at the ripe old age of 19, everyone wanted older and more seasoned workers, which made it hard to get a foot in the door. As I aged and got experience across many industries and disciplines, the trend went downward in terms of what was desired for experience. Now it seems everyone wants a 20-year-old with the equivalent of 30 years of experience but isn’t interested in the 40–60-year-olds that have that experience. Companies aren’t supposed to ask you how old you are, but they get around it by asking for graduation dates, and of course your work history.
Psych News Daily recently ran an article “Older job seekers on LinkedIn get fewer job offers, but a younger profile photo helps“, so the discrimination creeps in at every opportunity. Everyone I know who is in my age range looking for work usually has to trim 15 to 20 years of experience off their resumes just to get in a range to not be automatically overlooked, this is from Sales to Tech to HR even.
Years of experience across markets and technology provide an insight that degrees and certifications just don’t provide. Inherently understanding how systems work and how to problem solve effectively are not things you typically learn in the pursuit of accreditations. Some of the negative stereotypes include being seen as less competent and less adaptable, particularly when it comes to using new technologies, but this is often in contrast with reality. The older workers tend to understand HOW things work at a much lower level because it used to be harder to do those things. Younger generations can probably TikTok better, but there is usually a distinct lack of understanding about how it all works.
In my line of work, I run into many self-avowed Luddites that are 30ish and at the same time, the ‘middle-aged’ folks have embraced technology and know-how things work. The younger set develops an over-reliance on technology and doesn’t develop good instincts either, I see this a lot in the sales and HR sectors, where they just want to trust matching algorithms and don’t learn about human behavior, or again, “how things work”. This is not to say that there aren’t quality people at the younger end of the spectrum, there are exceptions to every rule.
A little anecdotal aside for the tech sector, especially the Open Source movement. I love the open-source movement and there is crazy good tech that comes from it, but a large percentage clearly shows that it was built by people who haven’t worked in the “real world” much, if at all. This is where experience comes in, understanding how humans normally interact with systems, and not how you interact with something that you built and know intimately.
The assumption seems to be that older workers want more money than younger workers, and this can certainly be the case, but depending on your financial circumstances, that can be reversed. The younger worker probably has to pay off school debts, wants to save for a home, go on exotic vacations, etc. The older worker has likely paid off their school debts, possibly paid off their home, has already traveled, and doesn’t want to have to keep changing jobs. The younger worker is likely to job-hop frequently, following the highest salary and latest trends. Hire someone in their mid-50’s and they will likely stay with you till they retire. And if you have to pay a bit more? Well, that cost is likely small compared to the cost of trying to replace that person and their knowledge and experience.