August 16, 2021

40 is the New 25: Ageism at Work & Why Getting Older Isn't a Bad Thing

An anecdotal piece on ageism by Robb Conlon

I just turned 35.

"Halfway to dead," one of my friends told me.

At 35, I'm more committed to being a success than ever. Whether it's my new position as a producer for 15 other podcasts or doing my own show for you, the job seeker, I'm doubling down. 35, though, is not 40.

The "Over the Hill" benchmark that is so common in birthday cards that mock your age isn't all people say it is. In fact, 40 might actually be the new 25. But there's one place that 40 unfortunately really means something, and that's the job hunt.

Older workers face a unique challenge when they are looking for work; there's likely someone younger who can do the job faster than they can. This isn't a bad thing, in many cases; I don't want the express lane heart surgeon, nor do I want the Sommelier who is fresh out of wine school.

Companies vastly undervalue experience.

Oftentimes, they cite 2-5 years as being sufficient for most roles. That means that an "on track" college kid (not a "Tommy Boy" clone, like myself) can be in a position that has a decent amount of responsibility at age 23-26.

Here's the thing though. Employers don't realise that our brains don't fully form until 26 or so. We're apt to be immature, and because we don't have life experience, we're apt to make mistakes. This is where the older worker excels, and is able to edge out their younger counterparts. Experience is worth hiring, even if it costs a bit more.

But there's a trade off... Experience can bring complacency.

Staying competitive with fresh graduates gets tougher and tougher as we get older. Humans have a tendency to become set in their ways as they age. If you're over 40, you may have some routines that have developed already that, if deviated from, make you something of a pain to be around.

I know that even at 35, I have some habits and things I like that not only drive my wife up a wall, but also make me an absolute pain if I don't do them. We'll all develop these eventually, it's part of the idiosyncrasy of being human, but when we let them run our lives and they become a burden to our growth and forward movement, then it becomes a much bigger issue.

Workers over 40 have to make sure that they haven't slid too far into complacency with their daily routine.

At my recent speech at PONG Milwaukee, this spanned a number of things - from the thought process of "We've always done it this way", to updating your email address that shows on your resume. I hate to break it to you, but doesn't exactly scream "I'm with it" on technology.

I'm not here to critique you on your choice of ISP 20+ years ago, heck, I remember my old, old email ( - no I don't have it anymore).

What I can tell you is that if a recruiter had a prejudice against older workers for whatever reason, that would be a dead giveaway that I shouldn't hire you. You are by no means out of the game to have a great career in the second half of life.

If you're reading this and you're 40, you literally have 3 decades to make a mark on the world. If you're 50, you have the equivalent of a college student's entire lifetime, PLUS 30 years experience to draw on to get things going. At 60, time's not up, you've still got the whole 4th quarter of the game. Oftentimes, that's the best part.

If you're older than that, there is still time and there is still the ability to work, get hired, and hold a position you can enjoy as you head toward hanging things up and finishing the game of life. The key at any age, and even for the young'uns in the crowd is that you must keep learning. We grow or we die.

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