weekly blog--one for the ages
This week I had an opportunity to read “Disrupted,” a new book by Dan Lyons. Dan was the tech writer at Newsweek for a quarter of a century before getting laid off at age 52. He eventually landed a job in the marketing department at Hubspot, a Boston start-up that sells email marketing software, mostly to small businesses. His transition from journalist to marketeer did not go well and he eventually left in disgust--alienated by a company culture and management team that focused on luring a certain kind of worker: “young and easily influenced white middle-class, suburban, recent college graduate.”
Dan also left with stock options that he was able to parlay into a $60,000 windfall after the company went public, and found himself in the middle of a “spy” scandal when some of Hubspot’s executives got wind of his new book, and tried to obtain the manuscript before it was published to determine how badly it might damage the company’s image now that it was valued at more than two billion dollars.
Spygate and stock options aside, age discrimination in companies is all too real. I didn’t experience the full brunt of it until the travel association I co-managed was purchased by an Internet company. I hung around one year, found that I didn’t fit, and left thinking that I was still a marketable commodity at age 54. I was wrong. I managed to land quite a few interviews, often making it to the final round, but the anticipated job offer never came.
Looking from the other side of the desk, I could see why. Maybe he’s overqualified and will leave as soon as he finds something better? Maybe he’s not experienced using social media to hype an organization and its products? Maybe he knows more than the hiring manager, and an adversarial relationship will develop and erode company moral?
The lesson learned. As much as it hurts, age discrimination is not worth spilling lots of tears over. It’s simply the job market sayings it’s time to reinvent yourself. And given the volatile nature of the work world these days, modifying one’s identity as we grow older seems the logical course of action to take if you want to age successfully or positively per an earlier blog.
Adding some fire to this lesson--a recent study published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College concluded that 47 percent of workers retire by the age of 63; the ones that do cite stress as a major factor. High on that list: nurses and doctors. Surprisingly, only about 1/3 of workers manage to continue working for pay past the age of 65, and many are in jobs that are considered less stressful such as professor and writer. But something tells me that the survey authors never tried to write a novel or teach a class.