Strategic CIO // Team Building & Staffing
Commentary
7/7/2014
09:06 AM
Susan Nunziata
Susan Nunziata
Commentary
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Too Old To Earn Big In IT?

If you're feeling like your IT career has passed its 'sell by' date, you're not alone, according to the results of our latest flash poll.

The conventional wisdom is that the best way to increase your salary is to switch companies. In our survey, 4,946 (42%) of the 11,662 respondents say they're looking for a new job this year. Of those, 72% of staffers and 70% of managers cited a pay raise as their No. 1 reason.

Of course, that's not the only way to get a fatter IT paycheck. In the InformationWeek article IT Salary: 10 Ways To Get A Raise, Mark Berger, senior technical recruiter at Steven Douglas Associates, writes that while you may be tempted to jump ship for more pay, you should consider asking for a raise first. Berger says:

Have a conversation with your manager before you make a change. Employees sometimes don't see the value in their own work and think the only way to get an increase in pay is to look elsewhere.

Is Berger onto something here? Are older employees, in particular, not doing enough to show their value to their organizations?

Based on our Salary Survey results, you have a lot to offer. Not only do the respondents to our survey have a wide range of IT experience, more than half also have worked in non-IT related roles. About one fifth of IT staffers (21%) and IT managers (22%) have worked in sales and marketing. Nearly as many IT staffers (19%) and managers (22%) have worked in operations, supply chain, or manufacturing. Another 18% of IT staffers and 14% of IT managers have worked in non-IT support area, while 11% of staffers and 14% of managers have worked in non-IT finance roles.

Salary plateaus notwithstanding, the value of experience could be reflected in unemployment numbers reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. From May 2013 to May 2014, the average US unemployment rate for all adults age 16 and over was 6.93%, compared with 5.33% for those age 45 to 54 and 4.96% for those age 55 and over. If we exclude those who are near college age or younger, those age 25 to 34 experienced the highest average rate of unemployment (7.1%) in that time frame. (Note: These figures don't reflect individuals in any age group who have stopped seeking employment.)

Let's not lose sight of the fact that you're bringing key skills to your organization. Our Salary Survey shows the following as the five most critical skills for IT staffers and managers:

  • Aligning business and technology goals
  • Analyzing data
  • Collaborating with internal stakeholders
  • Interacting with customers
  • Experimenting with cutting-edge technology

Those are high-value skills in any organization. Are they valued in yours? If your career has stalled, perhaps it has to do with how you're conducting yourself within your organization. Are you spending time getting to know your colleagues in other business departments? Our Salary Survey shows that an alarming 43% of IT staffers and 27% of IT managers don't spend time with peers in a business unit outside of IT. And for 20% of IT staffers and 33% of IT managers, spending time with peers in other units applies to less than half of their jobs. Only 30% of IT staffers and 40% of IT managers say 50% or more of their job involves spending time with colleagues in other business units.

Maybe it's time you invited a few non-IT colleagues out to lunch?

If this sounds like I'm blaming the victim, that's not my intention. Ageism is ugly, and it's part of many corporate cultures. If your experiences at your organization fit the EEOC definitions, I encourage you to seek professional advice.

If you're experiencing a career situation that falls into the multitude of shady areas not defined by law, then let's talk about it. What causes you to think you're a victim of ageism? Do you think you've been underpaid, unemployed, or underemployed ever since you reached a particular age range? How proactive are you about displaying your value to your organization? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

Susan Nunziata works closely with the site's content team and contributors to guide topics, direct strategies, and pursue new ideas, all in the interest of sharing practicable insights with our community. Nunziata was most recently Director of Editorial for ... View Full Bio
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Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
7/7/2014 | 10:53:12 PM
Re: Tw o Comments

@Number 6     I agree with second point.  Age discrimination is rampant and certainly not exclusive to IT, but the point you make about H.R. is one of my pet peeves - H.R. is always spouting about the rights of employees, particularly in terms of perceived harassment - but age discrimination, oh well that is the elephant in the room that they quietly condone.

Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/7/2014 | 8:00:41 PM
Re: There's always
@rich: I'm flattered that you see us as youthful. I won't reveal my colleagues ages, they're welcome to do that on their own if they want. I assure you that I am well within the age range allegedly protected under ADEA. 
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/7/2014 | 7:55:38 PM
Know the Law
If you're interested in hearing more from an attorney on this topic, please check out our archived radio show "Age Discrimination in IT: Know the Law," featuring employment attorney Monrae L. English. 

Extremely useful information during the audio session and the text chat. She says:

The cases that make it to court have to do with the firing process...
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/7/2014 | 7:44:33 PM
Re: There's always
@Rich, no need to rag on my colleagues here. let's keep the discussion focused on useful info, ok? 
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/7/2014 | 7:28:40 PM
Re: There's always
@Rich: We'd love to add a few more, except it's illegal to employ 12-year-olds in the U.S. right now.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/7/2014 | 6:00:58 PM
Re: The IDEA field of dreams
@DDURBIN!: NP, thanks for clarifying. We could get another heated discussion going about IDEA-which also falls short according to parents i know. But that's a topic for another day. Thanks for all the info you're sharing, it's really an important topic and good to know the many extenuating factors we're facing.

I have to say since the 2000s, my own career has been less than linear, more like a series of peaks and valleys. Having also spent time working in the entertainment and marketing media I knew people who were getting botox on or before their 30th birthdays. One young woman I worked with then said "It's never too early to start!"

I wonder if these issues are uniquely American--is it because our culture is youth-obsessed in general? Do other cultures have more repsect for their elder employees?
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
7/7/2014 | 5:56:53 PM
Re: The ADEA field of dreams
Yep ADEA not IDEA of 1967 sorry about that typo.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/7/2014 | 5:54:04 PM
Re: The IDEA field of dreams
@DDURBIN1: Thanks for the additional information. Just to clarify: You are referring to ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act)? My understanding is that IDEA is the acronym for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Please let me know if I'm missing another law that I should be paying attention to!

To add to your point, here's an interesting article from Bloomberg last month about a change in IBM's policies regarding employees over age 45 who are :

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-12/old-fired-at-ibm-trendsetter-offers-workers-arbitration.html

While the article focuses on IBM, it also includes some interesting stats overall (again, these are not specific to the tech sector but give us additional insight into the scope of age discrimination in the U.S):

Age-discrimination claims filed with the EEOC rose 29 percent to 21,396 in 2013 from 16,548 in 2006. The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against an employee or a job applicant for a variety of reasons, including race, religion, and age if the person is over 40. The organization investigates discrimination claims, works to settle charges and has the authority to file a lawsuit.

And..

Workers in employment discrimination cases win against their employers about 21 percent of the time in arbitration cases, less than the 36 percent win rate in federal court, according to a Cornell University study that analyzed 1,213 arbitration cases from 2003 to 2007. These statistics didn't include cases that were settled, which is about 59 percent of arbitration cases and 70 percent for litigation.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/7/2014 | 5:38:29 PM
Re: There's always
@Rich: Yeah, but it's freakin cold in Russia!

:)
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/7/2014 | 5:37:12 PM
Re: Let them Know
@sferguson1001: I'm not a lawyer, so I can only answer your questions anecdotally. Based on some of the other comments here and conversations I've had off hte record with people, age discrimination is extremely difficult to prove in court and even more difficult to win such cases. if harassment is added to the mix, it does become a bit easier as harassment laws are somewhat tougher. Even then, though, it can be expensive and painful for the claimant. The most egregious cases are often settled out of court because a company will want to avoid the bad PR of a lawsuit.

The more cut-and-dry one's situation is, the easier it is to handle. For example, let's say you are an IT employee aged 50something, and you have a 30something colleague who is constantly harassing you and making disparaging age-related comments, creating a hostile work environment. In that case, if you have an enlightened manager and HR dept, you can file a complaint and be protected by anti-harassment laws.

However, what I'm seeing and hearing about is more of a systemic ageism that pervades the entire tech culture, and that is something that is extremely difficult to prove in court.

 

 
<<   <   Page 5 / 7   >   >>
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
InformationWeek surveyed 11,662 IT pros across 30 industries about their pay, benefits, job satisfaction, outsourcing, and more. Some of the results will surprise you.
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