Finding the right opportunity for you can feel like a battlefield. You have to find the position, apply, hope to interview, do so, and then cross your fingers that you showed off your skills in the best way possible. Sometimes, you do not get the position because someone else was a better fit. Other times, discriminating variables might be playing against you, such as ageism.
Ageism is the discrimination of a person due to their age. It presents differently when targeting older or younger generations, in job postings, and even in interviews, so it is important to be aware of it and know how to combat it in the moment. Take a look at our guide for detecting and combatting ageism as you look for a new job opportunity.
Keeping in mind that targeting or discriminating based on age during the hiring process is entirely illegal, you may be curious as to how it has become a rising problem. The truth is that companies use common-place terms that we have become used to seeing to skirt around saying what they want out loud. Some of these sayings have become so regular in our lives that we rarely recognize them as marks of ageism, so it is important to be aware as you job hunt.
Older populations, such as elder baby boomers and older, face more overt discrimination than the younger generations. These are usually the types of sentences that look harmless, but are clearly targeting a younger population when examined more closely. Some examples of this are:
- “Recent college graduates“: While it is perfectly acceptable for people of any age to attend and complete college, the fact is that the majority of the college population is in their early to mid 20s. Sentences like this target those groups, looking to not only draw them in with promises of acceptance, but also to limit the amount of people from the older generations who do not consider themselves to be of this category.
- “Digital native”: Terms like this are used to call on people who grew up during the rise of modern technology, namely Millennials and younger generations. As these groups grew up with fast-moving technology as an everyday aspect of their lives, they are called natives, while older generations that had to adjust to incoming changes such as these are called “digital immigrants”.
- “Ambitious, fast-paced, easily adaptable“: While it is not odd for people in older generations to fit this model completely, these are the opposite terms of stereotypes used against them. Often, these are positive terms that are attributed to younger employees, so having one of these in a job post is not a guarantee of ageism, but having multiple would be a red flag.
Younger generations face less obvious attempts at ageism, but it is only because we often excuse ageism against young professionals as a lack of experience. Take a look at some of these examples and see which ones you are familiar with:
- “5-7 years of experience” on an entry level opportunity: Not only is this an example of a company being ageist, but it is also an example of a company over-asking. This company is looking for older professionals with more experience who they will ultimately underpay by labelling the role as an entry-level opportunity. Jobs with these restrictions outright deny that new graduates or young professionals should apply, even if the work described is a clear fit.
- “Pen and paper workplace”: As pen and paper workplaces are on the decline with the ease of access technology brings, sentences like this begin to stand out more and more. As a direct contradiction to the idea of using “digital native” in a description, using descriptors such as this show that you are distinctly not looking for those who are focused on technology, but instead those who are interested in the ‘old way’.
- “Serious, professional, leadership-types“: As described before, these terms can easily be describing people of any age, but often they are the opposite terms of negative stereotypes used for younger professionals. Multiple descriptors such as this showing up in a single job posting or an interview should be a red flag for ageism.
Thankfully, those who are actively on the battlefield of ageism are not just the ones who are victims of it. There are a great many of groups that have come out in support of people of all ages fighting against discrimination. Because of this, there are a multitude of resources for combatting ageist efforts during the job-hunting process.
- Report to the company: This should always be the first move, no matter what the size of the company is. Proof of discrimination should be recorded in some way, either screenshot in a job post or recorded in a meeting. Then, that should be sent to the appropriate contacts within the company at least twice, should the company not reply to your first attempt to contact. The report should include not only proof, but details as to where and how it was obtained, when, and why it is causing an issue. Companies who are unaware of how they might be perceived will likely take action where necessary while other companies will likely push back.
- Work with anti-discrimination groups: When you feel as though a company is pushing back or gaslighting you, it is time to find allies. There are multiple major companies all over the world who focus on exposing and combating discrimination of all kind. Workplace Harassment Ends Here, also known as WHEN, is a great example of a group with open resources that can help you in a time of need.
- Combat Discrimination on Social Media: Realistically, this should be your last go-to. Efforts on social media, when done even with the best of intentions, can go badly. This should only be approached as an option if you have tried to contact the company, representatives, and if others who are involved cannot help and are okay with the situation being broadcast. There is no promise that every situation gets handled at all, let alone with a positive outcome for those discriminated against, but it might be a way to get a conversation rolling with the powers in charge.
Being aware of any form of discrimination is incredibly important, either to protect yourself, your company, or even friends and family. If you are a healthcare worker who is interested in finding a new opportunity and is worried about combatting issues like this on your own, then send us an updated resume here. Our recruiters are well-versed in navigating the world of job hunting and will always be there to help you secure the best opportunities possible. If you want to get moving on a new job right now, apply to one of our open and active job offers here and we’ll connect with you soon!