Ageism: Is Yours Hurting You?

Jul 22, 2010 by

If you’re in your 50’s, out of work but going about your jobhunt with a sense of vigor, optimism and networking – and got lots of leads lined up because of it – then this post isn’t for you.

This is for people who don’t think like Lance Armstrong.

Lance’s profession is cycling.

He’s a legend. Switch on your telly this weekend and you’ll probably see him competing in this year’s Tour de France.

The Tour is one of the world’s toughest sporting events: a cycle race of 3642 kilometers around the flats and some pretty huge mountains in France, with bums on seats 6 days a week for 3 weeks.

The average age of the racers last year was 28. It’s a young man’s race, incredibly competitive, and one that many don’t even attempt without pumping themselves full of performance-enhancing drugs. 

Look closely at Lance…

Lance is nudging 40. He’s positively decrepit in cycling terms. He overcame testicular cancer a few years ago – even after it had spread to his brain and other parts of his body. He recovered and won the Tour after that.

In fact, Lance has won it a record 7 times. He came third in last year’s Tour, and is competing this year. He has never tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Logic says he’s too old to ride. He shouldn’t, in theory, be riding in the Tour at all… let alone riding competitively.

Somebody once asked Lance what he was on. His reply went something like:

“What am I on? What am I on? I’m on my bike! 10 hours a day! That’s what I’m on!”

This guy is full of energy. He got where he is by focusing on his ambitions and goals. Nothing stops him. The guy’s got guts. He’s ageing with attitude.

I very much doubt he’s ever thought about not entering the race because of his age alone. I doubt he’s ever said to himself:

“We’ll, I’m nudging 40 now and not going to have hope of winning this thing again, especially with so many youngsters to compete against. I’ll just give it a miss.”

Many jobhunters give up before they start.

LinkedIn job groups are still full of stories from people who have made a gazillion job applications and had a gazillion rejections, are bitter about their age, and blame their lack of success on that fact alone.

Worse still, many people are failing to make the applications in the first place because they presume jobs will get handed out to the young pups first.

Ironically, many of the young pups also hold back from applying for jobs because they believe that the jobs will get given to the old hands instead.

The problem isn’t age. It’s attitude.

Look at your methods, not your age.

Yes, yes I know, Lance has bombed out of this year’s Tour. But I doubt very much he’ll be thinking about his age. He’ll be thinking about his training regime, race preparation and equipment to identify the reason why. I doubt he’ll call it quits and tear up his entry for next year’s race either. He’ll adjust his methods accordingly and be back to fight another day.

Follow Bob’s example.

If you suspect your age is holding you back from success, follow Bob’s lead and see where it takes you. His name isn’t actually Bob, but I’ll call him that for convenience.

Bob is in his 50’s, soon to be out of work and was having trouble getting leads. I spoke to him some time ago and had a chat about networking.

Bob hadn’t done any networking. He’d just relied on internet agencies and job boards. This isn’t great for anyone of any age.

We spoke again last week. And, hey presto! Bob was speaking to people, had lots of leads and a few interviews in the pipeline.

His secret was not a facelift and false ID with a new date of birth.

Bob had worked out that job boards and internet applications were getting him nowhere. He couldn’t join them, so he beat them – by changing his strategy. He started doing what we tell people they ought to be doing all the time – networking using all kinds of methods.

Bob never laments his age. The people he is talking to obviously aren’t bothered about his age either. They can’t be, or they wouldn’t be engaging with him.

Bob got focused on his skills, where they would be welcome, and how he could market them effectively.

Stop using your age as scapegoat.

You might not need to if you have the following: 

  • Strategy – you need a plan
  • Accountability – the nouse to follow-through on your plan
  • Clarity & Confidence –  observe what’s going right or wrong, be humble, and be objective about the cause
  • Motivation – the attitude of strength to make changes, and overcome snags, when all seems doom and gloom

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” - Douglas MacArthur.

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