A technology recruiter once said he wouldn’t dare proposing anyone over 40 to clients.

The recruiter was well past this age and shamefaced. He said clients don’t want to see older faces waiting outside the interview room.

Information technology companies and users are among the worst offenders for age discrimination, closely followed by public relations, media and telecom companies.

In some ways these industries are more honest and upfront about their prejudices. Age discrimination is not restricted to these industries, you’ll find it everywhere. I know of one person applying to work in a department store being turned down for being too old. She was in her 40s.

I passed the 50 barrier a few months ago. I’m not complaining about my circumstances, as far as I know, most editors don’t care about the age of a freelance journalist – in my business other things matter.

I am concerned about the feedback I get from people of a similar age who read my writing on the subject.

Let’s put this age barrier into context. People my age are not old.

While those of us who have just passed 50 might have been alive in the 1960s and probably can hum more than a dozen Beatles tunes, I didn’t come of age until after the Sex Pistols and the Clash appeared. One of my first printed stories was an interview with The Stranglers.

Admittedly my early years in journalism were spent hammering on a manual typewriter, but my first paying job was on an already established personal computer magazine. And yes, it is true that the last time I looked at a line of programming code, it was written in Pascal.

On the other hand, I’m four years younger than Bill Gates – does anyone regard him as over the hill?

Maybe they do. After all, he has retired. And the people recruiting staff for Microsoft probably would almost certainly regard Mr Gates as too old for employment.

2 thoughts on “Knowledge workers past it at 40, toast at 50?

  1. […] Some years ago I interviewed Trevor Moir for the Sydney Morning Herald. Moir, an accountant by profession, runs the Executives’ Co-ordination Group, a Sydney-based organisation for older, unemployed executives. He says employers turn down or don’t even consider many of his members because they are past an unwritten sell-by date. […]

  2. It’s ironic how our society tells us that we cannot retire until we are 70. Our life expectancy is increasing, yet we have to battle age discrimination over the last three decades of our career. What message are we sending to younger generations when companies summarily decide that anyone over 40 can no longer contribute?

    Another irony: The ones doing the discriminating today face the same fate in a few years!

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