GUEST COLUMN: Too young to retire, too old to hire

Dec 29, 2011

I’ve owned a successful marketing business since 1985, but technology and changing times have made my particular specialty almost obsolete. The printed page is being replaced with the Internet, websites, FaceBook, Twitter, e-Books and more.

The frustrating thing is that I want to work, and I have a lot of talents and experience, but there is a large glass wall between me and my next opportunity. If you want to apply for a job today, you almost always have to do it on the Internet.

One particular billion-dollar company based in Michigan recently had four job openings for which I was qualified. The job descriptions fit me to a “T.” I applied for all four, online. I sent my resume in and never heard back. No reply. No “thanks for sending your resume.” No nothing.

For all I know, it never went through. There is no way to tell.

So, I got in my car and drove to their headquarters. I told the young lady at the desk that I would like to submit four resumes for the four jobs. I was told that it was not possible: “You must apply online like everyone else, sir,” she said.

Then, recently, I was told by a human resources professional that the reason large companies want you to do that is so a software program can screen you before a human being looks at your resume. They’re too busy to take the time.

So, what could possibly kick me out of their automated system? Could it be that I’m a Vietnam veteran? They ask you that, but what it tells them is that you are old!

I was young when I went over there and I was in Vietnam when they signed the cease fire in 1973. That makes me one of the youngest Vietnam vets alive, but they automatically know how old you are.

They asked about my education — where and when did I graduate? Well, I worked my way through night school at Grand Valley State University on the GI bill and graduated in 1977. Wow, he’s really old, again.

The thing is, there are thousands of senior citizens like myself that are being ignored and facing age discrimination, even though we may still have a good five years or so of butt-kicking left in us. I’ll bet a lot of the kids straight out of college don’t last that long in most cases.

For over a year now, I have been trying to pay my bills by selling my possessions on eBay and doing odd jobs. I renovated a rental house for a friend, fixed a lot of broken things, painted and landscaped it, photographed it and rented it in one week. I think that’s impressive, yet I only used a few of my many talents in the process.

I’ve applied for more than 40 jobs online and have only been called for two interviews — one because I happen to know someone involved in the business and the other because it was a 100-percent commission job that I found by making cold calls.

I don’t mean to go off on a Dennis Miller- or Andy Rooney-type rant here, but I’ve still got things I want to do. I’ve always had a reputation in my marketing business for getting the job done. When other companies said they couldn’t do the job within the budget or time frame, I pulled it off.

I’m just asking those companies in Michigan to be a little more considerate of the huge, talented work pool out there in we baby boomers.

I realize there aren’t a lot of jobs out there right now, but at least give us a chance to talk to you in person. You’re missing out on some great talent.

— By Doug Peerbolt, a Grand Haven resident and a former contributing columnist for the Grand Haven Tribune.

Comments

Duneskier

Amen Brother,

I'm a Viet Nam Combat Veteran (17Dec67-19Feb69, both Tets) and now a Realtor. For the past 2-years I have been trying to find a job because real estate sales ain't getting the job done.

I repeatedly applied for jobs and did not get any responses. What happened to common courtesy, a 30-second e-mail saying, Thanks, but No-Thanks would be nice, just to know my application was recieved.

I'm a mulit-talented, multi-skilled person that also learned my work ethic picking blueberrys and delivering newspaper for 4-years. In my opinion anybody I would go to work for would be a lucky employer. I show up every day and do quality work.

I did manage to land a job working 3-shift at a plastic mold-injection company about a month ago and I'm always 10-15 minutes early for my shift and every machine and job I have run I've produced the highest number of parts and the parts I produce that get used internally the other operators love because they are excellent quality.

The Moral of the Story is: Employers would benefit greatly by hiring experienced, proven workers.

ghxpat

Boy, Doug, do I ever empathize with you and your story. It seems to be the same, everywhere you look. The age discrimination that companies are not allowed to practice, because it's illegal? It's everywhere you look, these days, and the worst kept secret in America. I've wondered, too, why the automatic rejections come so easily from companies who are allegedly looking to hire, and allegedly wanting the best candidates to fill those spots, but when the best candidates try, there are always obstacles placed in their way. Many times, there are no practical ways around those obstacles, either - and the companies know that. While they can't legally ask your age, you're right - there are ways around that, and they use them. Doesn't it almost seem like your experience, knowledge base and expertise aren't worth the potential health insurance risk they automatically assign to you, because of your age (assuming, of course, that it's part of what they do, but I'm not sayin' - I'm just sayin'). And your experience doesn't matter one bit, if you omitted putting one of those precious "buzz words" their screening software looks for, on your resume. And of course, don't forget that they automatically assign a dollar value to you, as well, figuring they know better than you do, what you'll require, to take the job. Those arbitrary little decisions the HR people make about things like that, when they don't have a clue, and you'd take less because you'd love to have the job and perform well, PERIOD. Courtesy? Barely exists in HR, anymore, so don't even bother looking for it, in 99 percent of the places you go to. You might like confirmation that someone received the resume you spent three hours revising last night, for that particular position, alone, wouldn't you? And is that too much to ask? Apparently, it is. And why is that? Because as older, experienced workers, we've become sides of meat to prospective employers. They can treat you that way, because there are too many people chasing too few jobs, and they think that gives them the right. And please, you HR people out there, don't tell me how overworked you are as a result of having to go through all the resumes you get for every job you post. You're not too busy to at least call or e-mail someone to tell them they're not being considered. Has it been so long, since you were on this side of the fence, as Doug is? Have you forgotten what it's like to need? To want to be honest and pay your bills? To put food on the table for your family? And that's nothing, compared to the desire to work and want to do well, but living in a society where you seem to be the only person who cares about things like that. No, Doug, and I'm really sorry about this, but it isn't the same as when you and I were growing up, in Grand Haven. People don't treat one another very well any more, in most cases, and we don't look after and take care of one another, like we used to. Things that meant something, then, don't mean a whole lot, now. And the crop of new workers out in the market? To them, life is an entitlement program, and they haven't learned what it means to work hard, yet. The way things are going, maybe they never will. But you and I, and a lot of other people out there, we know, don't we? The newbies are more concerned with what color the carpet's going to be, in that corner office they just know they're going to get, than they are with learning the job, doing it well long enough to earn that space, maybe, someday, and understand what they have to contribute to earn it. That's what colleges are turning out, by and large, and it only represent a fraction of what we've lost, as a society. You have something a lot of people don't, Doug - you're proud because you've accomplished things, and you're motivated because you want to accomplish more. I wish I had a place for you in my company - because I know you, and I'd hire you, in a minute. Keep your resume in your pocket - I already know all I need to about you. Good luck in your search, too. I know it doesn't make you feel any better because you look and there's somebody sitting in the chair next to you, on that Titanic that's been our job market for a while, now, but better days are ahead. We're coming out of this, and things are going to get better. Tough times don't last, Doug, but tough people do - and I know you're one of those. I remember you.

AtomicRooster

Got that right about the younger workforce it is like to them an entitlement program. Self-serving, self-important and are notorious for calling in sick on Mondays and Fridays. I view them mostly as worthless and don't know the true meaning of hard work. Oh they got their hand out when its payday. Yes Age Discrimination is alive and well but try and prove it. And the longer you've been out of work the harder it is to land a job. So that is another strike against you. Employers really look down on you if you've been out of work for long time. They won't stand back to cut you some slack to knowing the economy is really bad out there trying to find something. It's not from lack of trying. I wish I had $5.00 for every rejection letter I have gotten from every employer I have applied to or gotten an interview with. Even the temp agencies are worthless to deal with because they know right away how old you are so you go to the bottom of the pile and they show a lot of favortism too. I am registered with just about every temp agency known to mankind but it's a joke. I have been to every job fair too. It just becomes a big waste of time. I have literally given up. I am thinking maybe its just time to leave Michigan because the longer I stay here the longer I will be unemployed. And really it don't matter who is in the White House. Hell, Merle Haggard could be sitting in the White House and we'd still be out looking for work. I salute your post here because everything you have said here is the honest to God's truth. HR Managers especially are very discourteous and cannot even give you some kind of acknowledgement one way or the other if you are being considered. I think they are just plain RUDE and feel they are above us who are struggling to pay the rent/mortgage and keep food on the table. They've forgotten what it's like to be on this side of the fence. I have no respect for any of them. Times have changed most definitely and I can remember in the 70's most times you didn't even interview for a job. You applied and if they liked your application they would call you and ask you when could you start. How I miss those days. It was such a much more easier time to live and be appreciated for your hard work and efforts. Now when you go to an interview you have to ask yourself while you're there; is this an interview or an indictment? Do I need my attorney present? I'm almost expecting them to ask me for my first male child.

ghxpat

Oh, and one more thing - am I painting with a broad brush, here? You bet I am. But aren't older workers being painted with a broad brush, too? Aren't a lot of assumptions and judgments being made about one thing or another by potential employers, when they see older workers applying? There's a lot of talent, ability, experience and expertise going to waste on the streets, because of the attitudes being displayed by companies, toward hiring what they consider to be older workers. The problem is, the companies have the power - all the power, here - and the people who are looking for work don't seem to have any, at all. How much more sad can things get?

Pipingdude

Hell Sir they don't want you to retire or collect SS but they do want you to burn up any savings that you have for your retirement. Bunch of jerks the new crop of business mangers. Ha-Ha to them. The sorry part is that if you are 50 now and get laid off or downsized you will face the same crap. Move out of state. Michigan is a dead state, population is declining along with the intelligance level of most of the residents. There is work elsewhere no matter your age. Hey, has your wife divorced you yet, mine did b/c I couldn't find a job for 2 years, screw the twit. Never thought I'd say this but I am loving life here in New Jersey. Oh BTW I am 61 also and a nam vet.

davewali

I agree with you 100%.
They want experience,then they hire somebody with the bare minimum.
A lot of the ads I see, apparently they demand perfect attendance. The work ethic of the older workers IS perfect attendance.
MY experience, as an older worker is that the YOUNGER employees miss more time, for whatever reason. Mostly BS reasons, ie; hangover?
Older workers only miss time for doctors appts, maybe that is the reason we are ignored?
Companies figure the increase in productivity will be offset by our health care costs?
I was laid off from a job...they said it was because business was slow. But I was just coming back from my third, legitimate disability in four years. Cannot help but think health care costs factored into that, even though I was much more productive than other employees.

Older people like us face a continuing discrimination when finding a job. We know it, the employers know and deny it. It just cannot be proven.

galaxy

I wish to thankyou Doug for writing the article. I can relate, I have been a dependable & loyal employee all my working years. The work ethics we were brought up with no longer seem to exist. I am nurse by profession, love helping others. My first priority & my duty as nurse is to be a patient advocate. The facility I worked for fifteen years hired a new administrator & director of nursing last year. I have seen many DON's & administrators come & go over the years. I had an excellent work record & evaluations for every year I worked there. I passed all my cometency tests yearly. The new management made many changes for the worse, the employees & most importantly the patients suffered. I could not continue with a clear conscious to go home after my shift knowing these frail, helpless & demented human beings were being subjected to substandard & inappropriate care. Their rights were continually violated. the quality of care was the worst I had seen in my fifteen years due to poor management & their incompetence. I expressed my concerns & was ignored, I put my concerns in writing, sent HR a copy as well. I was soon being pressured to resign, when I refused I was terminated, I want to THANKYOU for your bravery & sacrifices made in Vietnam. As a baby boomer myself I know it was a horrific war & all our generation was touched by it somehow. I can't imagine what it would be like to actually live it. I admire & respect all vets. I wish you the best in your job search & for what life has to offer. Again Thankyou.

Sincerely,
Betty Anguiano

Koop

Reading ghxpat you know that there is obviously age discrimination on both sides of this coin. You may not find someone who dislikes younger folk more than ghxpat. He truly believes that the young people nowadays think that life is an entitlement program. He watches too much Fox news. But the real issue behind your story is more the talent pool and technology than it is age discrimination. You know there are obviously way more workers than jobs right now. But what is surprising is the talent is so high for each of the jobs out there that many positions are getting overqualified workers for each spot. Former VP's and Directors are taking middle management positions etc. After reading your article you are well versed in print marketing but acknowledged that the digital marketing age is taking over. It is not enough these days to simply rely on the past experience to get you by. Marketing these days without a social media background and knowledge in how to leverage it is not marketing. The job market these days values innovation, creative thinking, and wide ranging skill sets. Not the attitude that older workers are more "experienced" and therefore more valuable. It is simply not true. Gone are the days of learning one skill and executing that skill for 30 years. My advice, don't get outmoded. Continue to learn and achieve. Being able to reinvent yourself is also a skill set. Don't get mad, get new skills. The folks looking to fill jobs these days aren't looking for a worker they are looking for TALENT.


All that being said I have to mention the younger workforce that is out there. These young people are graduating college and competing for jobs. Heck some of them are creating jobs and new business' as we speak. They are being labeled the millennial generation but labels don't mean much to them. They are truly the most innovative and entrepreneurial generation ever. They have grown up steeped in technology, they value sharing knowledge over keeping it to themselves, they create new things by simple nature. These are your kids, and grand kids, nieces and nephews. They are the true future of our nation. They will teach you without asking and they will challenge the way you think and work. They adapt by nature as well. If you change a business process, a way of working, or update your software. They don't complain or rebuff. Change is in their nature. Learn form them, encourage and embrace them. Be more like them and you will soon succeed in whatever your endeavor.

HuffmanFamilyof4

there is always a way around those things that automatically weed out the age thing.. all you have to do is lie on the application, that will surely tell you if it's age discrimination for sure. then report it.

stepheinc

This is something that’s going to benefit so many people and children for years to come. -FXDD

AtomicRooster

I have 2 strikes against me. A lousy economy and being 60 years old. No one hires the older workers anymore. And I will argue anyone under the table that Age Discrimination is alive and well in our Nation. But the sad thing is try and prove it. And any lawyer will tell you that. It's too hard to prove. These employers know all the loopholes to get around it. The older workers are the more reliable and harder workers and we do not call in sick every Monday and Friday. We know the definition all too well what it means to hold accountability and responsibility.

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