In the Silicon Valley, I was extremely fortunate to find a full-time job at age 53. Biomedical industry workers tend to be older than those in high tech. Even though I had been consulting for nearly 25 years, I had a resume that checked all the boxes, and I knew people in the department where I wanted to work. There were some anxious moments when I filled out the application with my entire history and realized that the companies I’d previously worked for no longer existed, and even if they had, all my supervisors there were deceased.
At first I did worry about what to wear (torn, skinny jeans look great on a 30-year-old but on me, not so much), and whether I knew enough about my smart phone.
About nine years later, I found myself questioning trends in the company (see the story “Surviving a Workplace Bully”) and wondering if I should try to find a new job, at age 62. After performing surgery on my resume to successfully hide my long experience but remain literally accurate, I got some interest. For a very promising job, I passed the phone interview and was invited to the company in person. The first two people, senior managers, seemed very encouraging, and I thought everything was going well.
Then I talked to a younger woman who would be a coworker. She kept asking questions about how hard I was able to work, and was I at the top of my game. The next day I heard from one of the senior people that they were rethinking the job and really weren’t sure what they wanted. The job had vanished.
This experience repeated several times. Everything was fine until hiring managers saw me, and the temperature dropped noticeably. Message received, and I rethought my strategy. I toughed it out at the job I had, and when I retired, went back to consulting, with age less of a factor. One client is a newer company that fits most stereotypes of the Silicon Valley: a big warehouse room with open offices and dogs hanging out under desks. Most people are in their early 30s. At first I did worry about what to wear (torn, skinny jeans look great on a 30-year-old but on me, not so much), and whether I knew enough about my smart phone. Also, I looked for the rare person (and there were a few) who had gray hair.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised about how respectfully I’ve been treated, and have come to like my millennial colleagues. One weekend, at a concert in San Francisco, I talked with a bright young woman who had just started a company and mentioned how muchI liked my client. She said, “Oh, you are a modern elder.”
“A modern elder?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied. “That’s someone with a lot of experience who can lend wisdom and perspective. It balances the energy of the younger employees.”
Ageism at work is real and tough to fight, so I feel especially lucky that I could move back into my consulting role and blossom into a modern elder!
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.