My own history is an infinitessimal portion of that timeline, but the business world seems to think that I am just as old as any of the Leakeys’ fossils.
According to my physician, the tests from my annual physical this year suggest that I’m about 23… and an elite athlete. Those tests aren’t wrong. They’re just not right. Not in absolute, calendar terms.
The gap years
Yet, as far as hiring managers are concerned, I’m C.U. — Chronologically Undesirable. Of course, before they see me, they adore me. In written correspondence, proposals sent online, and phone conversations, I’m exactly what they’re looking for. I understand their business inside out, some have claimed, and they need to take advantage of my insights right away.
As soon as I walk in the office, however, or they look me up online and see a photograph, they’ve suddenly “decided to go in another direction” (I’ve heard southwest is nice) or “put the position on hold” (until they find somebody younger) or “feel that the chemistry wouldn’t be right” (which might make sense if the business made drugs). No one dares to say what they mean: “You’re old.”
That fact can’t be denied. But that doesn’t mean I’m dead or out of touch with current trends or technologies. As J. M. Barrie wrote, “I’m not young enough to know everything,” but my younger peers (or non-peers, in their estimation) feel that they do. But they don’t.
The knowledge gap
For instance…. In advertising, the lust for youth seems never ending. Older creatives either open their own shops or get forced out. They’re seen as incapable of appealing to families, kids, and making products that they use appear essential. However, those same young writers and designers and account execs are given assignments for Depends and geriatric pharmaceuticals and retirement plans and other products used by people over 50.
Those accounts involve products and services that younger people haven’t ever used and probably won’t for decades. The over-50 folk, though, have raised families, put kids through college, paid for weddings, taken everybody on vacations in the same kinds of cars, eaten in the same types of restaurants, bought the same food, and now may have grandchildren who keep them in touch with the latest in fashion, fears, jargon, sports, and what they like and hate the most in school.
A gaping discrepancy
So who really has the background and resources to handle current businessplace needs? Who’s really in favor diversity when different genders and races are acceptable but people in different age groups are not? Who’s got problems managing people when those people are older? Who’s afraid of hiring people who might (just perhaps) be smarter than they are when the whole skill of management is finding people who do what they do better than you do what they do… and then letting them do it?
Yeah, there’s a chasm. An older guy gorge. And when today’s young people, in a world of robotics and AI, find they’re in it, I’ll be glad that I won’t be around to hear them complain.