A friend of mine was excluded in a selection process because he’s too “old”. Actually, he’s only 42 years old, which, to be honest, is by far not an age considered “old” nowadays. I’m 41 for example, and I definitely don’t consider myself “old”. Being only 42 years old, the company excluded him for the application process saying that they would be looking for someone younger and he should apply again in 2018. In other words, my friend was considered “too old” with his experience and qualifications.
The unbelievable part of this story is that the description of the position published by the company - on management level - explicitly asked for a lot of experience and qualifications, something a junior professional obviously lacks. What can we learn from the behavior of this company? Did they lack good budget planning as they forgot to foresee that an experienced professional is more expensive? Did they not know the real market salaries? Were they prejudiced against people over 40 years since they supposedly “can’t keep up” with the fast changes on the market nowadays?
Whatever happened at this company, I prefer to make suggestions rather than complain and criticize. If you, dear reader, are a company’s owner, CEO, director, or head of human resources, please read my suggestion: look at professionals over 40 differently.
“The world today is definitely different than 15 or 20 years ago. I guarantee you that our professionals over 40 today have nothing in common with the ones 20 years ago”.
Therefore, if you are about to start an application process in your company - mainly on management level - consider some good reasons for employing a professional over 40.
Professionals over 40 are part of the so called generation X, meaning people born between the end of 1960 and the beginning of 1980. We’re the last generation that grew up without the advantages of information, communication and entertainment that have arisen from the internet and social networks - and this is exactly why we have a differentiated view of the world. We don’t need to ask Google what “the penny has dropped” means. We have used public telephones that worked with coins. Since we know how the world worked before the digitization, we are better in dealing with situations of the “real world”, especially those situations involving face-to-face relations, which is an essential ability for example professionals who occupy leading positions, are in customer service, deal with complicated negotiations or situations that need immediate decision making and rulings, without hiding behind a computer or smartphone.
We know the economic crises and high inflation from the 1980s, it’s no news for us. We know how to deal with difficulties “since childhood”. This is why we have a thicker “shell”, and why we are quite resilient. It goes without saying that experience helps to prevent hostile morales caused by economic difficulties, and this is a valuable skill for a leading position, especially in the areas of finance, sales and purchase. Wouldn’t you want someone working for you who knows how to “get blood out of a stone” with only a tight budget? Think about it.
If you have lived on this planet the last 10 years, you know that the people being 20 or 30 years old now - the generation Z and Y - are highly qualified. The world has changed, the youth is leaving their parental home later, marry later and have children later. This new lifestyle permits that those professionals achieve their qualifications early, they often receive their bachelor’s or master’s degree, or even their PhD before they turn 30. What is the effect of all this for the professionals over 40? Obviously, they don’t want to be left behind!
Today there are much more professionals over 40 who invest in their continuous qualification than 10 years before, for sure. It’s the fear to “be left behind” that are motivating the “forties” to get back to school. I’m giving courses in marketing all over Brazil and that’s is what I hear from my participants. You doubt it? Make the test and look through the profiles of professionals over 40 on LinkedIn and check their qualifications. I should emphasize that regardless of their age being over 40, most of those professionals are working on their second or third MBA, or put another way, they have more knowledge than their younger colleagues due to obvious reasons.
It’s elemental: more market experience and higher qualification means that you obviously need to pay a professional over 40 more.
“Your company wants an experienced and qualified professional, but you don’t have the resources to pay? Well, my friend, then rethink the profile of this position or pay the price in the future for employing a junior for a senior position.”
Evidently, this rarely works out (with a few exceptions). Remember that more expensive means receiving more value. You want to employ someone with more value? Rethink your budget and economize somewhere else. Don’t forget that most of the time you’ll end up paying more if you recruit cheaply.
“Ah, but if I employ someone who is more expensive now, than it will also be more expensive to fire him”, someone in your company certainly already said that. But wait, your company does employ someone they want to kick out again, does it? Well then you’re probably not employing very well. And this has nothing to do with age, but with the competence of finding the right professional for a position.
In the end I believe that age is merely a number, something that has more to do with behavior than physical appearance. I know young people with an “old mind”, just like I know “old” people with an incredible young attitude. However, I also know people in between 20 or 30 who have a better attitude and a better mind than some people over 50. Every person is different. What do I want to say with all this? Don’t take the factor age literally to make your decision on employing someone. Understand that there are positions that need someone with market experience - and also life experience- and that you need to employ a senior professional. Otherwise, you’ll have to deal with the consequences.
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Stefan Ligocki is marketing strategist. He works as consultant, speaker and professor for courses in the area of digital marketing, content marketing, marketing strategies and personal branding. He’s director at KEEP CALM -marketing strategist and post-graduate for strategical marketing at ESPM and company management at FGV.
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