Age discrimination has historically been an act associated with our senior workforce. Yet our younger generations of workers are facing roadblocks due to their age too. In a survey conducted by JobsLive, an online recruitment centre, where 1,000 Australian employees across several industry sectors participated, 89 per cent of those surveyed stated that younger workers can be unfairly stereotyped or taken less seriously in the workplace because of their age, regardless of their skill level or even experience. Really? In 2018?
While our future drivers of industry are sensing employers are discriminating against them due to their age, in a time where equality is more prevalent than ever, I have to ask, are employers even consciously aware of their actions to focus on age as a deterrent to advance employees careers? Have we stereotyped Gen Y and X as lazy and over confident and are unwilling to entertain their ‘entitled’ attitude? Or do we think our baby faced employees will not be taken seriously by our clients and therefore withhold investing our time and resources in preparing them for career progression? If employers are not dedicated to their employees, how can they expect loyalty in return? In the same survey conducted by JobsLive, 72 per cent of employees aged 18-24 said reverse age discrimination exists in the Australian workplace. This view was shared by 62 per cent of 25-34 year olds, and 40 per cent of 35-45 year olds. Only 45 per cent of workers over the age of 45 held the same view. It seems a large majority of our youth is feeling undervalued.
When employees find their age is the reason they are being overlooked for promotions and development opportunities they are hungry and qualified for, it can be very disheartening. Ambition is something to be cultivated, nurtured. Stalling one’s career will not improve moral, productivity nor employee retention. What it will see is our future leaders jump ship to a more progressive and rewarding place of business, where their worth is recognised.
Many employees who feel age is a barrier to advancing their career are given the advice to ‘look’ the part. They are directed to dress more professionally, wearing darker colours and exhibiting a more mature hair style. Lower your voice, wear more make-up etc, etc, etc is the message. The reality is, it is not so much one’s appearance that incites confidence, rather it is the application of knowledge and outstanding performance that builds respect and faith in one’s capabilities. Respect is ageless. So without going to the extremes of reinventing appearances, one can overcome the curse of a youthful facade. The secret is to focus on doing a great job, serving clients well and promptly, and transform employers into champions of even the most freshest faced worker.
Delivering results aside, one can facilitate their seriousness to succeed by openly sharing their career aspirations with their employer. Discussing goals and how these are to be achieved will display motivation. Giving the perception one is committed to their job and their future can turn an employer into an advocate who helps drive that aspiration. This can be further enhanced by developing relationships with other more experienced colleagues. Working alongside them, being open, coachable and willing to learn can evoke opportunities to contribute ideas and work together on new projects. A healthy respect for a more senior colleague’s knowledge and experience can lead to the development of a further advocate within senior ranks.
Granted we all tend to equate youth with inexperience. And for the most part this is true. But our youth are learning skills and how to apply new technologies that our more senior personnel have not had the privacy of being exposed to. Does it not therefore make sense for employers to understand and support a fusion of younger generations with seasoned employers? Will this not develop a favourable balance to progressing business? Our youth have valuable knowledge, ideas and energy that can generate and propel new concepts and establish new markets. It has been proven, many times over. Why would we then suppress one’s appetite to succeed? Because they appear too young? Are we threatened? Scared of being shown up? The brave, intuitive and open minded employer will harness opportunities to grow a diverse workforce, for through diversity we thrive.