You Might Be Shocked
You might be shocked if you were on a job interview and the interviewer casually pointed out that the majority of the staff was white. You might be speechless if the interviewer noted that the staff was mostly men. Or non-Jewish. Or even had all their arms and legs.
And you would particularly amazed if you were a person of color, a woman, a Jew, or in a wheelchair.
But it's perfectly fine for an interviewer to sit with a person with close to thirty years of experience in the workforce, and note that the staff is mostly in its twenties. Gee, as if I hadn't noticed.
I got an email yesterday that the company where I interviewed for a job was going to continue its search, and best of luck to me. I knew I was going to receive that email, and for a split second I even considered being "professional" (just in case; don't burn any bridges) and sending an email back, saying thank you for your time, keep me in mind for future positions, etc,
But then I thought, to hell with it. They're not going to hire me; I don't fit into their "corporate culture." I knew it when I rode the elevator up to their offices and everyone was in their twenties. I knew it the minute two more interviewers were ushered into the conference room and they couldn't contain the look on their face (what was that?--surprise? horror?) I knew it when I was asked what I would do if they asked me to use certain words in the copy, and I said, You mean keywords for SEO?--search engine optimization?--and again, there was that look--surprise? astonishment? How could someone over thirty know this?
And I knew it when I was asked how I got inside a woman's head considering I wasn't a woman. And I know by then I was a bit gun-shy by the whole process, and realize that while it might be a valid question under other circumstances, by that point it seemed to come from a place that questioned a middle-aged man's ability to "relate" to women, even though I have two daughters, one about the same age as the interviewer, and over the course of my career, which spanned more than both the two interviewers' lifetimes, I've written for female audiences.
And while I most certainly will admit that maybe I wasn't best-suited for the position, I certainly don't feel it was my skills I was defending. Or if it was my skills I was defending, I'm pretty sure I was defending them for the wrong reasons.
This all is so astonishingly hard to write about, because again, I'm not certain I was the right person for that position. I'm fully aware of my deficiencies, and really don't want to get into the discussion about what older, more mature workers can bring to the workplace, their skills and knowledge that can only be attained by putting in the years.
But the one undeniable moment I'm not going to relinquish is the look on the faces of those interviewers when they walked into the room and took their first look of me. There is no hiding it; there was no hiding it. And after you've seen it more than once, you identify it quickly.
And I know the three people I came in contact that day would deny all this in the most emphatic way. And I'm not saying they are mean, horrible people. The only thing I can fall back on are Anita Hill's words, You just don't get it, which I am fully aware is lame, but our prejudices (yours, mine, ours) are so ingrained into our ways that we just don't see them.
Lawyers will tell you that age discrimination is the hardest thing to prove. (Although when a company's hiring does not reflect the diversity of society, you may have something.) Really the only thing I or anyone who experiences the prejudices that are inherent in our society can do is move on. I'm not going to fight this. I don't have that much to gain. So this company, which is very successful, I might add, will continue with its questionable hiring tactics. As a headhunter told me yesterday, I have the proven skills, I'm likable, and I have the experience. I just have to find that place where I'll be valued. And I will be. I've made lots of money for businesses over my lifetime. And I'll tell you this: Something that would give me supreme pleasure is to be valued by the competitor of the company where I interviewed.