Older Workers in Tech Can Fight Against Ageism’s Impact

Older workers complain that ageism is rampant in tech, and survey data suggests they’re onto something: A recent study by ProPublica and the Urban Institute (a Washington-based think tank) suggested that Americans over the age of 50 face longer layoffs, as well as trouble hitting their previous salary highs when they’re rehired.

Meanwhile, Dice’s own Diversity and Inclusion Survey found that age-based discrimination (or at least the perception of ageism) is far and away the most recognized type of discrimination amongst tech pros, with some 29 percent of respondents saying they’ve experienced or witnesses ageism in the workplace.

Fortunately, there are some ways that older tech workers can mitigate its ageism’s impact on their careers and job hunt.

Keep Skills Up-to-Date

If you’ve worked at the same company for years (or decades), it’s natural to de-prioritize the learning of new skills that don’t factor into your job. However, those older workers who put in the effort to learn up-and-coming technologies can make themselves more valuable on the open marketplace. Carve out the time this year to learn something new, especially if it has growing relevance to your industry.

A few years ago, developer Don Denocourt wrote a still-relevant blog posting about evaluating which skills to keep up-to-date. “Treat this year as if it were your first year as a developer and assimilate everything you can. Reclaim the energy you had in your first year of coding,” he wrote. “Regain the drive you had to prove to yourself and to your employers that you were ‘all that’ for this IT field.” More to the point, think about which skills might prove most useful a few years from now.

Emphasize Your Management Skills

Older workers have one thing that all younger workers lack: real-world experience. This is especially true when it comes to management, where an employee with twenty years under their belt has domain skill and expertise that their younger colleagues can’t hope to match.

If you’re applying for new jobs in 2019, make sure to emphasize your management skills on your résumé, as well as in job interviews. Experience in managing people is something that every company desperately needs, no matter what its size (or the average age of its current employees).

Build a Network

Building relationships with colleagues, business partners, and especially customers is an excellent way to strengthen your position within the company. Through these relationships, you can also build up your institutional knowledge, making you more valuable to the company’s operations.

Strong relationships can help insulate you during rounds of layoffs and cost-cutting: Your boss, and your boss’s boss, are more likely to go to bat for you during a rough period. In addition, keeping your external network (i.e., former colleagues and bosses, casual industry connections, and so on) updated is valuable, especially if you find yourself looking for a new job.

Polish Your Résumé

Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, and you’re happy in your current position, it never hurts to kick off a new year by polishing your résumé (and your online profiles) to a high shine. Eliminate older jobs and irrelevant skills; make your verbs punchier; and update your current position. A big change might come sooner than you think.

16 Responses to “Older Workers in Tech Can Fight Against Ageism’s Impact”

  1. Unless you have actually been in that situation, you really have no business writing this article. Every point mentioned above can and probably has been performed and that could mean literally nothing. Today’s business sector is geared toward younger applicants and that is a fact. You can still get hired in the workforce but because of the increase in M&As and startups there is much less opportunity for Sr. Tech Management and the preference to hire individuals with 25+ years experience does not mean very much anymore to the C-Level individuals of these companies, many of whom are millennials themselves.

    In summary, please don’t give advice on things you know nothing about or take from polling results. That is truly insulting.

    • John Doe

      I agree…

      This article is trash. I’ll tear it apart and maybe the uhem author will be looking for work:

      Keep Skills Up-to-Date:
      — Which of the endless tools, frameworks, languages, deployment-paradigms, databases, 3rd party products etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., do you suggest? Whatever article the stupid author cited is immaterial. In believing this is feasible (let alone possible) in an era where things are being disrupted at lightning speed, said stupid author puts the onus on the older worker, rather than where it belongs: Companies who don’t train; H1B visas which should be abolished immediately, etc.

      Emphasize Your Management Skills:
      Pfffff … Management Skills?! Job reqs, if they list management requirements at all, they come AFTER the 2-dozen technology items that you must first know. Stupid author again is out of his league. Companies want widget workers, slaves to technology, not managers.

      Build a Network:
      Generalities, old news that everyone has already known for years.

      Polish Your Résumé
      $50 gets me $100 that everyone in this category has already done that,… twice!

      Hey stupid author, if you want to make a difference, start with where the problems reside instead of piling on the jobless, older worker.

      What an idiotic article. No wonder commenter -CC was incensed. I’ll reiterate what he said:
      >> In summary, please don’t give advice on things you know nothing about or take from polling results.

  2. I’m sure I’ve been discriminated against due to my age it’s hard to actually prove but I’ve also been discriminated against because of my ethnicity again hard to prove.
    I just enjoy programming. At this stage of my career it’s not so much the money or the length of the project as it is the challenge of the work. That is the part I miss the most. If these company could look past there age bias they may get a good worker who can do the job well and quickly.

  3. John Doe

    This article is trash. I’ll tear it apart and maybe the uhem author will be looking for work:

    Keep Skills Up-to-Date:
    — Which of the endless tools, frameworks, languages, deployment-paradigms, databases, 3rd party products etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., do you suggest? Whatever article the stupid author cited is immaterial. In believing this is feasible (let alone possible) in an era where things are being disrupted at lightning speed, said stupid author puts the onus on the older worker, rather than where it belongs: Companies who don’t train; H1B visas which should be abolished immediately, etc.

    Emphasize Your Management Skills:
    Pfffff … Management Skills?! Job reqs, if they list management requirements at all, they come AFTER the 2-dozen technology items that you must first know. Stupid author again is out of his league. Companies want widget workers, slaves to technology, not managers.

    Build a Network:
    Generalities, old news that everyone has already known for years.

    Polish Your Résumé
    $50 gets me $100 that everyone in this category has already done that,… twice!

    Hey stupid author, if you want to make a difference, start with where the problems reside instead of piling on the jobless, older worker.

    What an idiotic article. No wonder commenter -CC was incensed. I’ll reiterate what he said:
    >> In summary, please don’t give advice on things you know nothing about or take from polling results.

  4. It’s very difficult to prove age discrimination. I’m over 40, Female and Hispanic. I have kept my skills up to date, continuously build my network, and I still find it difficult to land a job.

    • It has been my experience that Indian hiring managers will hire only Indians, and Chinese hiring managers will hire only Chinese. In my area these 2 groups together make more than 80% of the hiring managers. In my experience even if the hiring manager is American, if there is even one Indian or Chinese employee on the team, he will veto the hiring of any non-Indian/non-Chinese. There goes another 15% of the job market. Add ageism, and we, the non-Indians and the non-Chinese are toast.

      • female over 50 in tech

        Yes I live in silicon valley area, over 50, trying to find a job and if the hiring manager isn’t white (i am white female, then forget it.) I know i can’t get the job. Finally, agree with the problem about keeping exactly WHAT d-base and skills up to date. There are hundreds.

  5. I agree with the other posters. This article gives no new info re finding a job, and unless the author has experienced this, shut up. This is insidious behavior. I am in my early 60s. My brain is intact, my skills up to date, I am a connector/networker par excellence, and am considered an expert in my area of expertise – all in tech. Yet over the last several years, I have been treated very poorly. The most recent career move was a disaster in several ways. Hired as the program manager and architect, I was continually shut down by those who have no experience in my area who controlled the purse strings, with management buying into what consultants said versus their own SMEs. Why hire an expert to ignore them?

    • I agree with all of the above. This article is total non-sense and blames older workers for being discriminated against. Brush up on new technologies? Why do you assume that we haven’t actively been doing so throughout our careers? Because you have no first hand knowledge of what you are writing about.

      I interviewed with a hiring manager a few months ago who said straight to my face he doesn’t care if I can do the work. What he was looking for was “passion”. I pressed him to define what he meant by “passion”. He defined it as “not just showing up for work, but constantly learning and seeking out related activities outside of work”. I am a 50 year old technologist with elderly parents and a young family. I also constantly go through cycles of training and learning new things on my own, outside of work. But, as an older worker, I have severe demands on my time, I need to focus on what gets me the best return on my time and effort. I pointed out some training programs I’d just finished and were listed there on my resume that he could see. He stood up and said he needed to get to his next appointment, and awkwardly added added that he really meant something like a Kaggle competition then walked away. Of course, what he really really meant was that “passion” is a code word for youth.

      I work with many “passionate” people who can’t put together basic SQL statements (core part of what they were hired to do), think it’s perfectly fine to regularly show up 15 minutes late to meetings, don’t have any understanding of the data/domain they are working with, come in to work an hour or two late obviously hungover, don’t even seem to understand how computers work, etc. etc. But they are so passionate.

  6. This is one of the things I like about my current employer. I don’t think age is much of a factor and if I ever feel it is, I can complain and probably get some satisfaction.

    However, I also feel that my salary has not kept up with the market and I’m feeling the squeeze as prices go up so I’m asking myself if I want to have security at a lower salary or seek a higher salary and likely face age discrimination.

    As for the advice in the article, I’ve done everything except the management thing because I don’t want to be in management. I like writing code. It’s the only thing I’m really good at.

  7. John DOrian

    List management skills is one reason some companies wont hire older people. In my opinion some older people are set in their ways. And to try to brag about how big of an expert you are is going to hurt you when you’re trying to get a position where you will not be in charge. It will from experience lead to butting of heads.

    The biggest advice should be not to expect the same salary. If you work somewhere for 10 years your salary is where it’s at because of your experience with that company. It means nothing to another company youre back to square 1.

    Be willing to take a pay cut of 25% or more.

  8. John Garison

    As someone much closer to 70 than 65, and who got a new full-time 100% remote job with a software development company when I was over 60, I’d like to add my 2¢. Other than being good at what you do, I think the most important thing you can have is a positive outgoing attitude. Be upbeat. Be positive. Be outgoing. Join your much younger teammates for a beer after work on Friday. Be affable. Tell jokes. Tell war stories. Don’t be afraid to make light of yourself and even your experience. Don’t be a prima donna or a know it all. Respect your co-workers. Be a good teammate. Volunteer. Teach. Mentor. Coach.

    All I can say is that it’s worked – and continues to work – for me.