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.