Too Old To Earn Big In IT? - InformationWeek
IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing
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Susan Nunziata
Susan Nunziata
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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 leads 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, a UBM ... View Full Bio
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User Rank: Ninja
7/7/2014 | 11:43:17 AM
The ADEA field of dreams
Here's a test. Go back to 1999 and take a look at the number of IT professionals 45 years old or older.   Now go to 2010 and tell me how many of those same individuals where still in the IT field.   I'm betting the majority where not and those that still were had career slumps.  This at a time when the labor department predicted high demand and still does.  Beginning in the mid-1990s IBM started firing employees age 50 and up.  These employees (about 50,000) filed a class action lawsuit against IBM.  The case went to the US Supreme Court where they found in favor of IBM.  The judges ruled that as long as all employees 50 and up were being treated the same there was no violation of ADEA.  In 2001 IBM again fired older workers but this time used the age of 40  and up (about 20,000) and again a class action suit was filed and again the Supreme Court found in IBM's favor.  The 1967 ADEA law isn't worth the paper it's printed on according to the Supreme Court.
Number 6
Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
7/7/2014 | 11:14:36 AM
Tw o Comments
1- The BLS statistics on unemployment are for the general population, not IT. I'd bet the IT rates would be higher at older ages.

2- Age discrimination is rampant but difficult to prove in court short of a smoking gun memo. H.R. departments are always careful to say it's a skills issue, not your age, even if it isn't.
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