Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday's Thoughts on Age Discrimination in the Workforce

Like most people, I'm not a big fan of Mondays. I learned though, when I was struggling, like I am now, that Monday's are the day that you really learn what you're made of. Put a person under pressure, and you'll see what they are made of. They'll crumble, or bitch and moan, or yell and lose their temper. Or they'll knuckle down and face what it is that's beating them up, and figure out a way to get passed it, move on, defeat it, do whatever it takes to get to Friday.

I'd get up on a Monday morning, and an entire empty week would loom below me like a ski slope. (I'm one of those people who see things like time lines and even the alphabet in 3-D color and shadow.) So the top of the week is really the top of the week. I'd have no work, no obvious means of income, with bills piling up and my stomach just churning, and I'd pick up the phone or email or something and by Wednesday I'd usually have something. Work. A plan. Hell, sometimes it was an entirely new problem, but I had something going.

I always say, homelessness and starvation are really good motivators.

So that's where I stood today. Actually, it was over the weekend when all the craziness of the semester just dissipated and I suddenly realized my I got my last check for teaching and I have no visible means of support. (Or, invisible means, either.)

Nothing yet. And this economy makes it all the harder. I did go on an interview last week for some contract work, but I'm not holding out for much there. Riding up in the elevator, I noticed just like the last place I worked that the people were at least half my age. The VP who I first spoke with me and  was probably just a bit younger than me, even came out and told me that the average age of the your average worker there was in their twenties. (The fact that there wasn't an true representation of all ages in society is always a good indication that while they talk diversity, they really don't practice it. I don't recall seeing any African-Americans either.)

Then came what I always dread. He ushered in two managers who had never met me and only knew me from my resume. And the looks on these twenty-something faces when they turned the corner into the conference room and saw me told me all I needed to know: Age discrimination is alive and well. It's a look I've seen a number of times on younger people's faces when they first lay eyes on me, and the generational gap yawns between us. And I know I barely have a fighting chance, even if I might not be exactly right for the job. (Although this time I think I was.) 

There's not a lot you can do in that situation. I can't prove that I was being discriminated against. But I do know what I saw.

And truth be told, when I was freelancing it was a requirement of the clients I took on that I 1) liked the people I'd be working with because I like to have fun, and I do consider my work fun; and 2) I had to feel that client organization was making the world a better place. I built a pretty good, thriving business by being true to my own beliefs and values. It worked once, and I believe it will work again.

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