February 9

The Dangers of “Ageism”


The Dangers of “Ageism”

On a frequent basis, I have thoughtful conversations with coaching clients and people in networking and social situations about the perceptions of “generational ageism” in the workplace. These conversations have been with older professionals, people at mid-career and with younger workers who are early on their career journey.

Ageism is a naturally “hot” topic and many people believe they are affected by this phenomenon regardless of their present chronological age or generational self identity. This belief is often reinforced by the various forms of media. Most of these conclusions regarding generations are nothing more than “pop culture psychobabble.”

Generational Age Bias

In other words, people often feel “stereotyped” by their age and generational label identification as there are certain fixed assumptions involuntarily assigned to them about their personality, traits, characteristics, skills, habits, preferences and work values.

The ages of my current career coaching clients range from 23 to 58 years of age. Regardless of their age, most of these clients have mentioned these labels, perceptions and generalizations attached to their age as a possible “barrier” they believe to have faced in their career path, in their search for new employment opportunities or for promotion with their present employer.

Without question, quid pro quo age discrimination in the workplace and employment market does exist, regardless of chronological age. However, regardless of perception, age discrimination as legally defined by statute is actually not as common as believed.

However, the attachment of certain generational qualities and traits to specific age groups is quite common and unfortunately, even “socially trendy” in order to rationalize certain points of view about chronological age, often for an intentional purpose. This practice is counterproductive in the workplace, the employment market and in your life.

Do Not “Buy In” to Ageism

The perception problem with the assignment of generational characteristics based on our age and what we accept and believe to be true starts with “us.” If we buy into these label assignment assumptions, we perpetuate the problem and ultimately, hold ourselves back in the pursuit of our career goals and aspirations. Do not blindly follow any “narrative.”

We can rationalize the fact we were not selected or promoted for a career opportunity and then “blame” this outcome on our present age. This rationalization is misguided, unproductive and a clear formula for failure and disappointment.

I have coached over 980 people during my journey as a career coach and strategist and it is my observation the perceptions and labels attached to people by age group are frequently inaccurate, certainly over simplified, clearly overstated, definitely misguided and obviously judgmental.

Unfortunately, there are people who choose to believe the perceptions and generational label assignments about their own age to be valid and then, behave accordingly in reinforcement of these beliefs.

Instead, any time we are not hired or promoted for a career opportunity, we should “look in the mirror” and evaluate the quality of our own performance during the selection process and employment interviews.

It is human nature to seek the answer for not being selected based for career opportunities on external factors beyond our control. This is a “losing” habit. Please stop this practice in your career and in your life. You are solely responsible for your career and life outcomes based on your performance and the choices you make on your journey.

“Ageless” Successful Career Management Strategies

Regardless of your chronological age, you will increase the probability of job search and long term career success when you deploy the following “ageless” career management strategies:

  • Display Self-Confidence: A healthy and genuine display of self confidence is infectious, inspirational and attractive. If you are confident in your career accomplishments, professional skills and abilities, you are more likely to be hired or promoted. It is important for you to be well prepared for any meeting regarding your career and be ready to share your “accomplishment stories” based on the topics being discussed. People love to hear real life accounts of achievement and especially those stories with a win-win outcome. Your ability to tell these stories with confidence will determine if you are hired in competition with other candidates or you are promoted to higher level positions with your present employer.
  • Exhibit Positive Attitude: This is a universal characteristic of people who realize and enjoy career and life success. This does not mean we have to be positive about every aspect of our lives during every moment of our lives. Rather, a positive attitude must be pervasive in our lives and in how we treat the people we encounter, the challenges we face and in the obstacles we overcome in order to achieve desirable business and personal results. A positive attitude is an expectation we should embrace and choose to live throughout our lifetime. The results are immeasurable.
  • Communicate Your Value: It is imperative for you to be well versed in the communication of your “value messages” during a job search and on your career journey. People will not naturally understand your value unless you tell them. Those who do so are far more likely to be seen as a solution to a business problem, be hired, be seen as highly desirable during a job search or career and earn more income. Prospective employers expect you to offer a tangible “return on investment” for your services. The burden of proof is on you to share exactly how you will do so.

Please practice these habits at work, during a job search, during your career and in your life in an undaunted, driven and consistent basis. Your ability to do so will serve to mitigate perceptions of age group assignment regardless of your chronological age.

Do not succumb to any beliefs and stereotypes related to your age. Rather, please take “command” of your life and career outcomes on your journey and leave ageism to the “pop culture sociologists” who seek to personally profit from promotion of these inaccurate ascertains.

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About the Author

As a former corporate executive and officer, a master certified career and executive coach and Chief Career Strategist, Bob understands that great leadership begins on the inside. He enjoys helping people discover and cultivate their potential through advice that is both practical and profound.

Bob Lovely

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