Re: Ageism

Subject: Re: Ageism
From: Moshe <alsacien -at- IBM -dot- NET>
Date: Sun, 20 Oct 1996 23:34:46 GMT

>One possible aspect of ageism: it may be harder for someone
>older to break into the field. At least in my area, it
>seems that tech writers under thirty have an easier time
>getting permanent jobs.

>Of course, that's true of any career change--and maybe,
>having arrived in the old age of my thirties, I'm just
>looking for an excuse for not immediately establishing
>myself as well as I'd like to.

Bruce, don't be apologetic, whatever you do!

First of all, let me assure you: I was pushing forty before I
established myself as a technical writer. If there is any
proof that life begins at forty, I've lived it.

As far as establishing yourself, the bottom line is this:
if you have something to offer that people will buy,
you're as established as you can possibly be. Don't
bank on job stability in companies, because that doesn't
exist any more. Once, people worked until pension in a
job. Today that's not working out for a lot of people.
You're in business for yourself, no matter how you've
arranged it with your employer. Just because you can't
show five or more years in a plummy position in a
respected company doesn't mean that you're not
established; it could mean that your talents are enough
in demand to make it on the free market.

Something that I've found paradoxical is that while some
companies look very much at the age factor, some actually
value it; they make the assumption that someone older can
be trusted more. My late mother was an excellent example.
Her younger co-workers missed work every month when
they got their periods; my mother, who had broken into
the work force when she was over fifty, never missed a
day for anything. The younger women were jealous of
her when she could get a vacation whenever she asked, but
it came from her proving her reliability. I'm speaking of a
woman who had never really tried to be a career woman in
her life, but in her later years, she achieved a great deal of
respect in her work. Her story wasn't glamorous enough to
make a mini-series, but it has always stood before me as I
have tried to make it in a world that's getting increasingly
competitive from day to day.

My problem is that I don't look my age. Now what can I
do about that? More than once, I've gotten raised eyebrows
from someone who thought I was a "young upstart". When
they hear that I'm a father of five, with the oldest sixteen,
that shakes them up a bit. The real kill is when I do reserve
duty in the army; I've been stopped by the Military Police
for being out of uniform when reservists aren't bound by
any dress code other than wearing fatigues on the base. I
know how potential employers sometimes react with
shock to see me and to view the birth date (in Israel, age
discrimination is perfectly legal, so an employer can ask
whatever he/she likes). I'm not boasting, believe me; I feel
I've earned the rights that age bestows on a person, and I
intend to collect!

- Moshe

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