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3/12/2013
09:31 AM
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IT Age Discrimination: You're Not The Dinosaur

In our discussion of IT ageism, many IT pros say they feel caught in a hiring trap. Don't wait for some big, slow and stupid organization to snap you up.

Let's say that every time you interview with a big corporation, you think it's a "purple squirrel" interview. Every time you apply, you're sure that your gray hair or years of experience will rule you out because your healthcare and salary requirements will be too costly for the employer. Don't you think it's a bit strange to keep trying and not consider something else?

At the root of many readers' aggravation is a sense of depression or hopelessness. But if you're a talented IT pro, you need to overcome the rocks and glass that life throws in your career path. Contrary to what some readers implied, I've had many of my own to overcome. We all need to pick ourselves up and keep going.

I reached out to Dr. Annemarie Carroll, a licensed clinical psychologist and college professor. She told me about a psychological theory called locus of control, which frames where people believe the control in their lives comes from: internally or externally. For those who believe in an external locus, "they can't even begin to understand the argument that they can do something about their situation," Carroll says. And they tend to surround themselves with people who agree with them, when they need people who will bring their control locus inward, show them that they have some control over their own destiny.

What To Do?

One awesome reader acknowledged that age discrimination is alive and well, but that he's taking action. He has started a company that commercializes technologies with which he's very familiar. And when he's ultimately successful -- and he will be -- that's his old employer's loss.

Whether you've been laid off because you're too experienced/expensive, or you're waiting in fear for that day to come, here are a few things to consider.

Talk with others. Be open to feedback from a friend or counselor. Conversely, be aware that a friend or colleague may need a little kind nudging to get started. This process is grief-like.

Build social resiliency. If you think the only way you'll get fired is because you're too expensive or experienced, guess again. People get fired for plenty of other crazy reasons. That's why I always recommend building social resiliency -- that is, cultivating a life outside of work or job seeking. Volunteer. Pursue a hobby. Join a club. Not only will you have 20 people who'll want to connect you with your next gig should you lose your job, but you'll also have a healthier work-life balance.

Learn the new world of work. I recommend a few books: $100 Startup, Escape From Cubicle Nation, The Startup Of You and Free Agent Nation. They're data-based and include action plans. Get involved with events like Startup Weekend and Founder's Institute, either locally or nationally. You'll learn a lot and meet like-minded folks who will be part of your new world of work.

Write your future, not your past. I've seen far too many resumes that read like a museum brochure. As you move out into this non-dysfunctional world, don't waste valuable resume (or LinkedIn) space listing skills that don't matter anymore. I can list my experience with DCL and the VAX/VMS batch control language, but will anyone want them? No. And it will just make you seem old school and obsolete. Write the resume of your future, not of your past. What you leave out is just as important as what you put in.

So get to it! Don't wait for some big, slow and stupid organization to hire you. The big corporate dinosaurs are the ones that are obsolete, not you.

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Faye Kane, homeless brain
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Faye Kane, homeless brain,
User Rank: Strategist
3/31/2013 | 8:13:47 AM
re: IT Age Discrimination: You're Not The Dinosaur
==--
If people treat you unfairly and illegally at work, start your own company? What kind of bull shee-yit advice is this?

That's like telling a black guy who was wrongly fired by a new racist boss to go back to Africa.

It's like telling someone who was turned down by an employer because he's gay to forget about it and move to Provincetown.

Your advice is basically "Got beat up and robbed on the street? Tough tiddies!"

Yeah, we all know that we're free to start our own company! So WHAT? We're also free to win the lottery or get a job throwing burgers at McDonald's. I could even work as a stripper.

But none of us cares about that because we want to be hired.
As an employee.
In a cubicle.
By an employer.
At a company.


We don't want to start a new company! We want to go to work every day like everyone else does and like we always have until we were treated with shocking disrespect by office politics, wrongly fired, and everyone said how shameful it was and looked the other way.

I was a purple squirrel at an AOL interview. There probably aren't but a dozen people in the country who had the exact obscure skills they needed, and I had truly astounding references. I even said I'd work for less than the going rate if that's what it took to work at my perfect job.

It was *OBVIOUS* that I didn't get hired because I'm 20 years older than the kid interviewing me, as well as everyone I passed in the hall there.

And that wasn't the first time; it was just the last straw. I ultimately gave up, abandoned "humanity", and moved into a cave in the woods where I steal electricity, have wireless net, and lay around naked all day reading math books and watching porn. (Yes really, google me.) But I'd much RATHER do the complex things I love, that I've won awards for doing, and do far better than anyone else.

Your article is useless. If you don't have a solution to this market failureGă÷and there is none save tearing down greed-based capitalism and replacing it with functional, integrated systems managementGă÷then just STFU and write an article about something else.

-- faye kane homeless brain
The sexiest astrophysicist you'll ever see naked
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
3/15/2013 | 5:00:30 PM
re: IT Age Discrimination: You're Not The Dinosaur
Actually, Andrew, we called it a "service bureau" if we didn't own the computer and hired space on someone elses and accessed it remotely; this is exactly analogous to what we call 'cloud computing' today. If we did own the computer, it was the mainframe (or mini in smaller companies).
jfeldman
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jfeldman,
User Rank: Strategist
3/14/2013 | 8:41:13 PM
re: IT Age Discrimination: You're Not The Dinosaur
There's a big myth about "startup failure." The definition of "failure" to a venture capitalist is VERY different than a "failure" to someone who is "just" trying to make a great salary and have a sustainable business. Read $100 Startup -- Chris has some great data in his book.
EVVJSK
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EVVJSK,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/13/2013 | 1:14:47 PM
re: IT Age Discrimination: You're Not The Dinosaur
Sounds like a Private Equity Firm takeover or something similar. Slash and Burn now, rebuild later at lower cost with cheaper staff.
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/13/2013 | 3:31:20 AM
re: IT Age Discrimination: You're Not The Dinosaur
Jonathan - I've seen some wild and crazy stuff in my days, but one that really got to me regarding odd-ball layoffs and an extremely bad case of leadership happened as an organization that I'm familiar with had just completed it's second acquisition in less than 6 months. Things looked to be going very well - and then the wheels came off in VERY short order. Within 10 business days, 40% of the C-suites emptied (CFO and COO). Within the next 10 business days, an entire development team which had built a platform that handled upwards of 750 million web hits a day got laid off - every single person on the team. Within the next 20 business days, internal support started getting cut.

These were people that had been with the company since the day that the doors opened (12 years), all gone... because the second merger was done without management fully understanding the implications of what they were doing.

Leadership capabilities and positions, loyalty to the company... none of that matters in the market anymore, especially when you have top echelon management making very serious mistakes. At that point, all of the credentials and skillset in the world can't save people from being collateral damage.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/13/2013 | 3:21:38 AM
re: IT Age Discrimination: You're Not The Dinosaur
I think part of the problem here, with an older IT person who has kept current and isn't excited about cool new stuff... technology has a cycle of "new ideas" that seem to be recycled from the old ones of yesteryear.

For example, the push to cloud computing - Great, you want to put all of your applications, data and computing power in a single location and access them remotely. Years ago, we called that mainframe computing. When you've been around long enough, you see all of the different trends ebb and flow. It's hard to get excited about something new when you remember seeing it peak, flourish and then die away to be replaced by something else.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
dbell947
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dbell947,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2013 | 10:30:27 PM
re: IT Age Discrimination: You're Not The Dinosaur
Well I am a violator of the Under 40 times 2 Rule. I am I.T., I am over 40, and I make over 40k. If I work for a small start up there is the force of probabilities (80% or more AGAINST a start up succeeding). Maybe I can choose to simply deny the force of probabilities, but then I can deny gravity too. However, if I jump off a bridge, reality WILL hit me no matter how I personally "feel" about it via "positive thinking." So fortunately I had a plan B to I.T. I am also a licensed health professional, and my old job classification pays better than I.T., isn't age-ist, can't be outsourced, and PAYS for my CEUs so I can renew my license. Adios I.T. But consider this: what if medicine, research science, or other professions had the "Under 40 times 2 Rule" that dominates I.T.? What discoveries and information would be sacrificed? Einstein would have been thrown on the junk heap before expanding his theories, R. Oppenheimer would not have developed fission (he was over 40 and goodbye nuclear industry), Salk would have not developed his vaccine (he was over 40 when it was released and then hello polio). I.T., due to age-ism is truly no profession in which to spend much time, nor any profession in which to count on if you want to have a reasonably secure future. And despite the Horatio Alger, John Wayne, "free market" bravado, even big companies hate and fear competition. And they have far more resources and risk tolerance than most I.T. pros.
jfeldman
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jfeldman,
User Rank: Strategist
3/12/2013 | 9:46:28 PM
re: IT Age Discrimination: You're Not The Dinosaur
It's a big long answer, but you'll find it in some of the books I recommend. Hang in there!
John80224
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John80224,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2013 | 9:45:42 PM
re: IT Age Discrimination: You're Not The Dinosaur
OK, I've read the rest. There's some solid advice, but I would suggest that it not just be left to, "Oh well, I got screwed. What's left?"

Absolutely, griping solely because you are mad solves very little beyond some initial cathartic sense. But working toward positive change, even if it does not directly undo the wrongs you perceived against you, does mitigate the chances it will happen again or to someone else.
jfeldman
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jfeldman,
User Rank: Strategist
3/12/2013 | 9:45:03 PM
re: IT Age Discrimination: You're Not The Dinosaur
Thanks "Tree!" Yeah, data is really important to me as well. I have to tell you, people who understand technology who ALSO understand leadership are in such short supply, I think you WILL be distinguished if and when the reorg / layoff happens. Another helpful thing to do is to participate in community forums (with your real name, LOL). I know some folks who DO NOT hire unless there's a significant "google track" for the candidate. I'm not necessarily a fan of that practice, but it's being done and folks need to be aware of it.
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