Monday, April 24, 2006

Selling Experience

Last Tuesday's Journal had a piece entitled: Getting a Foot in the Door at 50-Plus. This article is only one of scores that I am sure we all have seen and continue to see, especially with all the hype around the boomers and their refusal to surrender in the War for Talent.

Given that the average age of ExecuNet's membership is 49, it is not at all surprising that we get lots and lots of questions and comments on the subject of age, age discrimination, age advantages, and lots in between. Since we have been around a while (18+ years) we also have been engaged in the dialogue on this subject for a fair amount of time as well. We also ask about it in our surveys, and in fact just recently did a "flash survey" which confirmed there was still some good news and bad news on the age front.

The good news was that while 63% of the respondents said that age discrimination is a serious problem in today's executive employment market, the percentage was down from the 77% in 2004 and the 82% that was the number in September of '03.

The fact that the percentage is down a fair amount I suspect is tied to both the economic cycle (the economy is lots better now than in '03) and the War for Talent demographics that may be starting to kick in.

I would also like to think that there is also a piece of this that speaks to the "education" of organizations who are discovering that if they don't take advantage of the experience offered by the over 50 cohort, they are shooting themselves in the foot on any number of levels.

Even if we can't ascribe some of this change to an epiphany on the part of employers, maybe it is just pragmatism coming from such factual realities that have been shared by such luminaries as Tom Peters who back in a presentation made at Radio City in September of '05 quoted some stats from David Wolfe and Robert Snyder's book Ageless Marketing which told us that the new customer majority was the age group of 44-65, and that this group was 45% bigger than the 18-43 segment and would be 60% bigger than that group by 2010.

Whatever the case, the facts seem to support two things:

1. Sad to say, age discrimination is alive and well, and

2. The revenge of the grey panthers, at least for the foreseeable future, may be taking shape.


Anonymous said...

Ahh Dave, a topic near and dear, but as a big turkey, I think one has to "get over it". I've shared the story in which the HR head of a Financial Institution, who I knew well, had the clarity to tell me that I was "too old" for them. :-) I am happy to report that they are no longer in business. Getting tagged with a felony is not good for business. Unfortunately it was NOT for age descrimination! So, when I hear a fellow turkey complain about "age descrimination", I ask them if they gripe about the Law of Gravity, the third law of entropy, and the law of supply and demand. When they look at me as if I have three heads, I continue to point out the innumerable constraints of life. If pushed, I probably can sign a few versus of the song from "The Facts Of Life". (Frau Reinke liked that show.) Bottom line: Grow up, shut up, pull up your big boy pants, and go compete. Demonstrate that old doesn't mean senile. That grey hair is NOT synonymous with old ideas. And that having experience means you don't have to make every single mistake that everyone else has made in doing something. I try to stress that us old folks tend to work smarter rather than harder because we made those mistakes on someone else's payroll. Needless to say, I'm employed and plan to stay that way until old and senile. Not needing their job is one of the best ways I know to ensure that you have a job. That convinces them that you actually know more than they do. Zero debt, secure retirement when you choose, and a few bucks in the bank can impress any recruiter. It levels the playing field. Especially when you can say, I think I can help you if you let me. And if you don't, no big deal. Like the Sally Rand fan dance, you have keep them guessing. And when they can't have you, then they want you. ;-)

Dave Opton said...

John, you could be the role model for those things I used to see in the Reader's Digest called "toward more picturesque speech!"

I certainly agree with the point you make. Life is too short, and one has to determine which battles to fight and when. Also, the good news is that while certainly bias is everywhere that doesn't necessarily mean that all those who have them are all bigots whose minds cannot changed. Most people while they have a bias are also subject to being influenced if sold well. Our jobs as "senior sales reps" is to recognize the potential objections and give them cause to not be worried about them.

Annerose said...

These comments have been invaluable to me as is this whole site. I thank you for your comment.