Tips to Bucking the Tide of Ageism in IT
If you're looking for work and you haven't considered the IT realm, then you're overlooking a reliable wellspring of employment opportunity. The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud computing, Big Data and mobile devices continue to make the computer and tech arena a target-rich environment for job seekers.
What's more, the onslaught of opportunity in IT isn't likely to die down anytime soon. The occupational handbook of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that employment in the field will grow another 12 percent by 2024 — faster than the average for all occupations.
The number of positions needing to be filled also exceeds the number of qualified IT professionals. To better grasp the magnitude of the need, one need only execute a quick search of online employment listings, particularly those maintained by technology-specific sites like CrunchBoard.com and Dice.com. You will see literally thousands of positons advertised.
Unfortunately, while the field is sizzling hot, there seems to be a "best by" provision when it comes to the age of employable workers, particularly for those over the age of 50. These experienced ("older") professionals are generally viewed as having out-of-date skills and less ability to adapt to new technologies than younger workers.
The entire industry seems standoffish when it comes to grey-haired professionals. The unwritten rule among tech venture capitalists, who make a living following the money, is, "Don't fund anyone over 30." Add in the ill-advised 2007 statement by Mark Zuckerberg that "Young people are just smarter," and the bias becomes more evident.
Here is a chart to help you see how this bias against older workers is playing out:
Source: BI Graphics/Mike Nudelman via PayScale
In spite of what the numbers may say, the truth is that many older workers aren't ready to be put out to pasture yet. We've got decades of experience under our belts, experience that can be helpful to employers. For one, we're more loyal and less likely to job-hop than younger employees. We've learned that there are always aspects of a job or boss that aren't fun or enjoyable and, as a result, we know how to take the bad with the good.
The formula for wisdom is "pain, time and sorrow" — all things with which older workers are well-acquainted. We've been through uncertainty, corporate belt-tightening and even layoffs. Our hard-earned wisdom helps us keep a level head when misfortune comes to call. We also have decades of professional connections to draw on to help solve problems.
Still the perception of being too old for IT persists. Fortunately, all is not lost. Whether you're a seasoned IT professional who wants to maintain your position in the workforce, or just a mid-life individual looking to transition into IT, here are a few tips to help you out:
A chronological r�sum� is one that lists each of your past jobs, and their duties, in order. Listing jobs in chronological order doesn't do much to tout your skills. Oftentimes, such a resume does little more than cause recruiters and hiring managers to start adding up years in their heads — the last thing an older job seeker wants to have happen.
Instead, take a problem-solution-results (PSR) approach to selling your skills. The easiest way to showcase your skills and abilities to potential employers is to describe problems you've encountered at previous jobs, the solutions you implemented, and the positive outcomes that resulted. A PSR resume helps employers see the benefits to having your skill-set on the team.
Social media is everywhere these days. Too many older workers, myself included, aren't knowledgeable or comfortable using social media. For job seekers, this has to change and it's really not that difficult. It's easy to become an active participant in online groups or professional associations. These groups are the online equivalent of a local bar. As you participate, you build a network of like-minded people who share similar professional interests.
Because a great many IT positions aren't posted, building your professional network can be a huge advantage. You never know when another participant may be a good lead to a new and better positon.
Doing projects through temp agencies can give you exposure to a variety of employers. These sorts of jobs may be temporary, but they can open doors by exposing you and your skills to potential employers. Do a good job and it might not be too long before you are invited to apply for a full-time positon with one of the agency's clients. When it comes to recruitment, some companies go so far as to treat temp workers as inside applicants and allow them to apply for jobs before they are even posted outside the organization.
One rare source of temp work for older professionals is an angel investor group involved in IT. These people are often looking for individuals to help direct start-ups. Working with these groups will give you exposure to start-up companies and their backers.
The bottom line: New skills! New skills! New skills! The IT industry moves fast and you have to keep up. It's your responsibility to obtain and maintain the skills that are in demand. The easiest way to obtain these valuable skills is via certification.
There are three advantages to earning a certification: Certs require less time than a degree, certs require less money than a degree, and certs show a potential employer that your IT skills are up-to-date and have been validated by a respected vendor-neutral third-party.
Ageism does exist in the IT industry, but it doesn't have to be fatal. Maintain and develop new skills, use social media, and keep an eye out for non-traditional positions that give you exposure to employers and above all, look to certification as an essential key to your success.
Besides, Mark Zuckerberg doesn't know everything. A Google search of his name and "arrogant" returns more than 210,000 results.