HR sent us Herschel.
He was a very smart man in his mid sixties who was doing temp work while he looked for another job. Herschel had a strong resume along with a B.A. in math and an M.A. in statistics. (Did I mention that he was smart?) Despite his credentials and experience, he could not find a job. He relied mostly on phone calls and the U.S. mail to conduct his search. With all the dubious wisdom of a thirty-something, I recommended that he aim to schedule an interview so he could sell himself face to face.
Herschel gave me a sad smile and told me that he couldn’t afford to let people know how old he was right at the beginning or he would never get the job. This was before the Internet, before online job applications, LinkedIn, The Ladders, Facebook and other social media. It was possible then to be somewhat circumspect—one might even say reticent–about one’s age just by removing older jobs from your resume and not including graduation dates. Today it takes more work with a far smaller chance of success. There are just too many ways for hiring managers, HR departments, and recruiters to Google your name and find those dates—among other information that will reveal your age.
The Silver Ceiling
That conversation with Herschel was my first education on the #silverceiling, a problem that is growing rapidly and will become epidemic in the next five years.
Herschel was very professional, did a good job for us, and was a pleasure to work with. He would have been a great addition to any company savvy enough to hire him. Eventually he moved on to another temp position but I kept in touch with him for many years, visiting his house in Acton (with a barn full of books!) and exchanging Christmas cards. He never got another full-time job.
A hiring manager might argue that Herschel, because of his age, would not have been able to hold down a job for more than a few years. The reality, though, is that our young Millenial employees probably won’t even log that much time in one position. They look for speedy advancement and will move on quickly if they don’t get promoted where they work. You might get a year or two from them and then have to train a new replacement.
Most companies will look at this demographic trend as a liability the country. A smart company will see an opportunity for themselves.