How Joe Biden, aged 77, could be the poster boy for older workers
The irony and injustice of age discrimination at work, as the best candidate is not always ‘young’ and experience does matter, has been highlighted by the US elections.
After an exhaustive selection process two men in their seventies were chosen to complete for a plum role, and after a robust battle, the older man won.
The President of the United States is not your average job yet the age-related competence of Joe Biden, who will be 78 at the Inauguration in January, was weaponised by a 74-year-old President Trump.
We shouldn’t be distracted by arguments about the popular vote to acknowledge the capacity of both men, both well over the conventional age of retirement, to slug it out for the top job.
Trump was undoubtedly the most energetic, but Biden didn’t resemble the demented drugged-up Democrat his Republican rival claimed him to be.
Biden has also said if he won the presidency he would stand for a second term in 2024 when he’d be 82, and all signs seem to be that Trump, surely older and perhaps even wiser, will be on the hustings too.
The commentators seem to be saying it’s not because of Biden’s age but because of his long experience the Democrats chose him as their best candidate to deliver the key states.
Interestingly in the US and many other countries, there are minimum age qualifications to be able to take political office but thankfully no maximums.
You must be aged 35 to stand for the presidency in the US and 30 to be a senator although Biden became a senator for Delaware in 1972 aged 29. In Australia, it’s of course 18, and in 2010 Wyatt Roy at 20 became our youngest ever federal MP.
But for those of us with no political ambitions what can we take from the Biden win and will it make any difference?
The first thing to acknowledge is that employers are far more age discriminating than electors, even if in their case it is illegal.
A recent Australian Human Rights Commission report said one-third of employers specified age limits for jobs despite it being against the law. A similar number said they wouldn’t employ anyone over 50 even though most admitted this meant they lost out on valuable business skills and intellectual property.
This year in the US, the National Bureau of Economic Research found if bosses know applicants are aged over 40 they’ll be half as likely to get a job offer than a younger candidate.
Here are some tips around actions to take to help ditch the fear of age discrimination which can be as damaging to you as the real thing.
They might come from America but so does the older worker’s new poster boy Joe Biden. If he can be planning to work until 86 in the most powerful job in the world surely those who want can push the envelope too?
Update your skills: Get up to date with the software and technology the business may be using. It may not be as hard as you think.
Optimise your resume: Don’t give your age. It’s not needed nor relevant. Ditch the old school CV list of every job you’ve ever had and use keywords and modern design and best practice. A machine may read your pitch before any human claps eyes on it. Update old email addresses such as a Hotmail account as it can show your age.
Find the Right environment: Colleges may be more open to older workers than start-ups. Check out the employee’s policy and track record on diversity in general and age in particular.
Leverage your experience: In an interview, highlight the depth of your experience and how you can help mentor younger workers.
For the full list and more detail, go to The Muse. There’s much useful advice on this topic online, and your rights and remedies should you encounter it. Age in Australia is what’s called a ‘protected attribute’, and it’s unlawful to discriminate because of it.
If ageism is more rampant here than the USA is an interesting question. Subjective observations of CEOs, news anchors and even presidents suggest they often seem both older and more secure than our own.
Any information is general advice, it does not take into account your individual circumstances, objectives, financial situation or needs.