Today is my birthday! (Not soliciting well wishes, but if you must I will accept them, however, gifts and money would be preferred.) I am 59 today, an age that for a long time I would have considered old. But I don’t feel old, at least not as old as I once thought 59 would feel. Granted physically I am not as fast as I used to be, though I was never really fast, just quick. I am not as strong as I used to be, though I think you might still think twice before picking a fight with me. I can ride a bicycle 50 miles in a sitting and will be returning to triathlons next year to celebrate my 60th birthday.
I am smarter than I used to be, primarily because I have learned I don’t know it all. I have learned to listen better and ask better questions. I have a lot of knowledge but also realize being smart is not just about “knowing” things. I respect traditions but embrace “new”. I am computer savvy, social media savvy, and device savvy (My daughter was blown away the first “text” she got from me).
I make these points because I am pretty certain that, if I were to leave my consulting position, I would be unable to find a position in HR. Even HR professionals, who should know better, look down on age. (See my series on AGEISM) I have several friends, excellent professionals all, who have similar capabilities who are having very difficult times finding HR positions. If gray hair is seen, or no hair is seen, or you have some wrinkles, or a decade is mentioned you get tagged as “old.” Sure you hear “Well you look great for your age” (which not quite the compliment it is meant to be), but that statement is loaded with implications. Companies are making mistakes by not hiring those people. Some company would make a mistake by not making me a CHRO if I sought such a position. And as a result they miss out on tons of experience backed by great ideas, high work ethic, creativity and enough backbone to stand up to the most difficult of employees.
Now take a look around at candidates you are considering, for whatever position you have open. Do you have the same biases when you see a bald head, a gray pate, a wrinkled brow or crows feet around the eyes? Is this coloring your perception of their abilities? Are you really making a decision without consideration and hiding behind “overqualification’? For if you are then you may be cheating your company out of one of the best employees you may ever have.
Yes I realize some people who reach 50 or 60 or 70 act old, look old, think old. But I have met many 20 or 30 or 40 something who also think “old” and act “old.” OLD is a state of mind. It is how you approach life. To me if you embrace new ideas, new ways of doing things, are open to possibilities then you are not “old” regardless of physical age. So look at those candidates again and reassess who is really the “old” one.
As a final word on the subject just remember someday you too will be in that position. How would you want someone to decide on you? Abilities or age?