Episode #196 – Fighting Ageism in Your Animal Health or Veterinary Career, Part 1

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #196 - Fighting Ageism in Your Animal Health or Veterinary Career, Part 1
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Julea: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health Executive Recruiter and Veterinary Recruiter, Stacy Pursell, founder, and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers working in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. In addition to being a leading Animal Health Recruiter, Stacy is an Animal Health and Veterinary Key Opinion Leader and a Workplace Workforce Expert. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary Employers identify and hire top talent, while helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast episode, we’ll be talking about ageism. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Julea. As always, I am glad to be here with you.

Julea: Stacy, what prompted you to choose this topic of Ageism for today’s podcast?

Stacy: We have been talking recently about the challenges that exist in the marketplace, and this is one that exists for older professionals, specifically those 40 years of age and above. So I thought this would be a good time to discuss this topic.

Julea: That makes sense. Where would you like to start today Stacy?

Stacy: I’d like to start with a study conducted by Tulane University just a few years ago.

Julea: Okay. That sounds good. Tell us about that study Stacy.

Stacy: In that study, researchers at Tulane University sent more than 40,000 resumes to apply for 13,000 job openings posted online in 12 U.S. cities. They responded to each posting with three different resumes representing a different age group. These included younger, middle-aged, and senior applicants. Even though all had nearly identical skills, the study found older candidates received far fewer callbacks—anywhere from 20 percent to almost 50 percent fewer—than younger ones.

Julea: Wow, that’s very telling! So how did we get here, Stacy?

Stacy: Well, ageism has always existed in one form or another, but it received a boost during the Great Recession. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the recession was the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Second, not only was it severe, but it was also long and grueling.

Basically, attitudes about older workers changed during the Great Recession. Let’s start with the fact that millions of people lost their jobs because of the recession. These people included older workers. Then, when employers were finally ready to hire again during the recovery, these employers began to show preference for younger workers.

Julea: They did? Why is that Stacy?

Stacy: There were a couple of reasons. First, employers shied away from hiring older workers with more experience because they believed they had to pay those workers higher wages. Second, many employers were under the assumption that hiring older workers was more risky than hiring younger ones.

Julea: Risky how?

Stacy: Some employers and company officials were operating under a number of mistaken assumptions. For example, they believed that:

  • Older workers aren’t as strong or vibrant.
  • They aren’t as productive.
  • They are not as technologically savvy.
  • They will take more sick days.
  • They’re more of a drag on an employer’s health insurance.

 

Julea: These sound more like biases than assumptions.

Stacy: You’re right, they do.

Julea: And if the Great Recession contributed to more ageism in the workplace, are current economic conditions doing the same thing?

Stacy: To a certain degree, they are. Unfortunately, there are some employers who still hold these assumptions and have these biases.

Julea: What can people do about it?

Stacy: Unfortunately, proving ageism in the workplace has been extraordinarily difficult in recent years.

Julea: Why is that Stacy?

Stacy: One of the main reasons for this was a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that has made proving age discrimination more difficult to do from a legal standpoint. In that court case, a dozen employees working in the insurance industry were demoted, and the Supreme Court overturned an initial ruling that was favorable to the group.

In its place, the Court made it tougher to prove an age discrimination claim. The Court said that plaintiffs have to prove that age discrimination was the prime reason for the demotion. As you can imagine, it is NOT easy to prove such a thing. You need the legal equivalent of a “smoking gun” to make it happen, and even if company officials are discriminating on the basis of age, they’ll go out of their way to make sure they don’t say or do anything they shouldn’t.

Julea: That doesn’t seem fair at all. And isn’t it expensive to go to court in a situation like that?

Stacy: It is! So not only are cases of age discrimination difficult to prove, they are also complicated and expensive. That’s why only a few cases are tried in court and even fewer are won by plaintiffs.

Julea: Stacy, diversity and inclusion have become buzzwords in the employment marketplace and workplace during the last several years. But it sounds as though older people aren’t really part of that movement. Would you say that’s the case?

Stacy: I will say that it seems as though people in general are not as as enthusiastic about stopping ageism in the workplace as they are about stopping, say, racism or sexism. That’s how those of age have almost become the “forgotten protected class.”

Julea: Why do you think that’s happened?

Stacy: The sad fact of the matter is that older people are not held in high esteem in American culture. In other cultures of the past, this was the case. Take, for instance, Native American culture. These days, youth is worshipped in this country, and phenomena such as advancing technology and social media have only reinforced this trend.

Julea: So what else can people do?

Stacy: Well, the first thing that people should do is not focus on their age!

The best way to make sure your age is not an issue is to make sure that YOU do not make it an issue. The proper approach and frame of mind is critical. I know that it might be difficult for some people, but the best approach is to forget all about your age. If you act as though it’s a non-factor, then it’s more likely that other people will act as though it’s a non-factor.

Julea: So what should people focus on instead?

Stacy: The answer is that you should be focused on the same thing a potential employer should be focusing on, and that thing is VALUE. I cannot emphasize this enough and let me tell you why.

We’ve mentioned this many times before on the podcast, but everything in the employment marketplace comes down to value. It’s why companies and organizations hire new employees in the first place. They’re looking for value and they want professionals who are going to bring value to their organization, because that value makes them more productive, and ultimately, more profitable. So in other words, more value equals more money.

Once again, a person’s value to an employer is broken down into two main categories: their skills and their experience. The more skills and experience you have, the more value you possess and the more value you can offer to a potential new employer.

Julea: Stacy, you said earlier that employers did not want to hire older workers after the Great Recession because they didn’t want to pay for the higher salaries that their experience brought with them. So how does that fit in here?

Stacy: We’re talking about two different things, value and money. Employers want value, and they want to pay the least amount of money for that value. That way, they receive the largest return on their investment. That goes for every candidate. So just because an employer may not want to pay a lot for your experience and value does not mean it doesn’t want your experience and value. Employers always want value. Your job is to emphasize your value, and as we discussed earlier, to NOT focus on your age.

Julea: What about a person’s resume? Would that be a place to start?

Stacy: Yes, that is definitely the place to start! And I have some tips for constructing a resume the right way.

First, don’t provide a complete work history. You don’t need to put every single job you’ve ever had on a resume. Employers are only interested in your most recent two or three positions. If you put on your resume that your first job was in 1987, then the hiring manager will be able to figure out how old you are.

Second, don’t put the dates of your education on your resume. Just put the college or university instead. And if the college or university has changed its name since you graduated, make sure you use the updated name.

Third, be intentional with your wording and language. For example, don’t quantify how many years of experience you have. Once again, if you say that you have 30 years of experience, the hiring manager can do the math.

Fourth, show that you’re up-to-date with technology and with the top trends within your industry. If you use terms that are outdated, that’s a dead giveaway.

Julea: I was going to say, that’s probably a pretty big one.

Stacy: Yes, you MUST stay current with technology. This includes computers, smartphones, social media, you name it. This is one of the top biases against older workers. People are strongly biased against older workers when it comes to technology. If you even give a hint that you’re not technologically savvy, you run the risk of that hurting you.

My advice is to do everything you can to learn everything you can. Start with everything relevant to your field of work and expand from there. Remember: the more knowledge you have, the more valuable you are. And that especially applies to technology.

I’d now like to discuss the one quality that makes you valuable at ANY age.

Julea: Which quality is that?

Stacy: I have a case study that illustrates what I’m talking about.

One of my firm’s clients was in the process of setting up video interviews with candidates as the next step in the interview process. This meant, of course, that these video interviews were quite important. If a candidate wanted to proceed to the next stage of the process, they had to perform well.

Unfortunately, the hiring manager emailed me shortly after the process began to let me know that one of the candidates was having trouble accessing a webcam for the interview. As a result, they weren’t able to participate in the video interview. As you can imagine, that was a problem.

Accessing a webcam is not extraordinarily difficult. Many laptops are sold with webcams already installed as part of the hardware. You can also purchase webcams separately at an electronics store such as Best Buy. I’d be willing to bet that Amazon sells them, as well.

The bottom line is that the candidate encountered what might be considered a problem. The candidate experienced difficulty solving that problem, and then they communicated to the hiring manager that they were having difficulty.

As a result, the hiring manager did not have a good impression of the candidate, which led them to the conclusion that they did not want to hire this candidate. After all, this candidate did not know how to solve problems. This is important because employers want to hire problem solvers! The ability to solve problems is the one quality that makes you more valuable at ANY age.

Julea: Stacy, thank you so much for all of this great information. For those in our listening audience today who are interested in making a job change, be sure to check out the Hot Animal Health Jobs and Veterinary Jobs posted on The VET Recruiter website.

Stacy: Yes, if you are a hiring manager in the Animal Health Industry or Veterinary profession and have a critical hiring need you can contact me on The Recruiter website through the contact us button. If you are a professional working in the Animal Health Industry or Veterinary Profession and are interested in being considered for other job opportunities, you can send me your resume to be kept in mind for opportunities that The VET Recruiter is hired to fill. We have a team of Animal Health Recruiters and Veterinary Recruiters and have worked in the industry for more than twenty years.

Julea: Once again, the website address for The VET Recruiter is www.thevetrecruiter.com. Stacy, as always, thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: It has been my pleasure Julea, and I look forward to our next episode of The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider!