Re: Ageism discussion

Subject: Re: Ageism discussion
From: Janet Valade <jvalade -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 20 Oct 1996 09:49:46 -0700

>to take pains to appear younger than I actually am. Has anyone encountered
>age-related bias as a technical communicator? Is there a tendency to prefer
>youth because younger people are thought to be better learners, more open
>to new ideas, more creative, harder working, etc?

There's no way to tell if you are encountering ageism. I sometimes wonder
when I don't get a call from a place where I sent a resume because their job
seemed a totally perfect match for my experience. It is a waste of time to
call because you will only receive the cliche about how your resume doesn't
match their job requirements. What are you going to do? Argue with them?
"But you asked for UNIX, I've been a systems administrator; you asked for
RDBMS, I've been a DBA; you asked for Word, I have a decade of experience
with it; you asked for financial experience, I have 20 years in the financial
world. Gee, too bad my resume doesn't fit."

There is nothing I can do about it. And, actually, ageism may not be a
problem. My resume has another problem. It shows 13 years in academia,
making me a person to be avoided by some employers in the private sector. I
know this is true. I don't understand it, but I know it's true. So perhaps
agism is not a factor at all. Perhaps it is academia-ism.

My resume actually shows me as younger than I am, because I didn't start
college until late in life. My date of graduation is more recent than it
could be. So, I am reluctant to take the dates out of it. Everyone knows
why you have no dates in your resume. The only question they have is "how
old?" I suspect you get the same calls you would have gotten from a resume
with dates--calls from employers who value experience highly. Of course, the
older you get, the more of a problem there might be. You may not want to put
dates in your resume when you are in your 90s.

It's really too bad that people as a whole are prone to stereotypes of any
sort. People have certain expectations of age-related behavior which may be
somewhat based in fact but cannot really be applied to individuals. My
mother started river rafting at 70. She is 80 and still working and
improving her computer skills. She really worries that at some point the
adventure will go out of life, that there will be nothing new to look forward
to. She sees life as over at that point.

The age stereotype includes slowing down, reluctance to try something new,
risk avoidance, set in their ways, etc. However, in reality, age often
brings people the self-confidence to take risks. Age also can bring the
overview needed to evaluate whether something new is useful or not and a
feeling that time is finite and not to be wasted on things that are not
useful. I think sometimes that when a younger person argues against a change
or a new technology, his arguments are evaluated at face value, but when an
older person makes the same arguments, his opponents can discount his
arguments as reluctance to change.

Anyway, there may be, probably is, some ageism out there. There is no way to
tell if you encounter it. So my choice is to ignore things that I cannot
identify or control and to continue to believe that my life is in my own
hands and that I can do whatever I want.

Janet Valade
jvalade -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com

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