Every winter my wife flirts with the idea of returning to a corporate job and making more money. Winter is a slow time for horse training, and she gets bored and antsy. Horse training is physically hard, and as we talked about it last year, I said she should continue with horses for a few more years and then go back to a career later if she wanted.
Her response was that it would be much harder at 60 than 50. Perhaps, but I think her success in the business world and a strong set of skills wouldn’t much matter, but I did get her point. I’ve had a few other people express similar concerns.
I had a good friend that spent most of his career in IT. He left the military and found a job with a large telecommunications company in Denver. He worked there for decades, raising three kids similar in age to my own. We chatted often at Scouts about life, technology, and kids. He was laid off a few years back, and as someone trying to find a new job in technology over the age of 50, he struggled to even get interviews. He spent a couple years looking and then mostly gave up, moving to other types of work at a much lower pay.
I wonder how many of you worry about employment as you get older. I know early in my career, it was the graybeards that were the most respected in the mainframe world. At some point, we started to look to the young hot shots working on PCs as the most respected technologists. I think we often look for younger, but not necessary young people when we hire. In fact, I spoke with someone recently that struggled to not discriminate against older people when they learned about ailments that a person might have.
I read some great thoughts from Dr. Greg Low that got me thinking about this. After all, I’m getting older, and much closer to the end of my career than the beginning. I think that I’m more willing to learn than most. I preach this to many of you, the idea that we need to keep learning. I’m very lucky that I have a job that encourages and allows me to learn on a regular basis.
I do think there is some ageism in the technology field. I also think there is a lot of pressure to reduce costs, so if you’re not providing a a lot of value as a worker, why not replace you with a cheaper individual that can do the same job? At least, plenty of management thinks that way. I also think lots of hiring people that are younger think that health and stamina are lower and older people (or women) and feel they can’t keep up.
The cloud and automation are changing the way more and more us approach our jobs. We need to have strong soft skills, in addition to technological ones, and we need to prove we can solve problems, not perform tasks by rote. Those simple things are getting automated in more and more places. While I don’t think we’ll get to the point that we dramatically automate away most jobs, DBA or developer, but the bar for skill and talent is being raised, especially when you look for a new job, so ensure you’re regularly raising your bar.