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Older IT pros feeling the squeeze from younger workers

Is the IT industry ageist? An article in Computerworld suggests just that, saying age bias has been the IT industry’s dirty little secret — or even the big, open secret. Many IT workers over age 50 say they have experienced some sort of ageism, be it stagnating salaries or fewer opportunities for advancement. Other signs: Older workers feel less likely to be included in training programs. They're also often the first ones to get laid off but the last ones to get hired.

There are plenty of misconceptions and stereotypes about older IT workers: Their skills are not as current as those of younger employees; they expect higher salaries than younger people; they become set in their ways and narrow-minded with age; or they’re less energetic than younger workers.

“While none of these generalizations is necessarily true for any particular candidate, each is a stereotypical assumption about older workers,” Computerworld’s Tam Harbert writes. “What's more, they are all logical and legal reasons for an employer to fire, or not hire, someone.”

Recent data indicates that unemployment rates for older IT workers spiked faster than they did for younger tech employees since the start of the recession three years ago. It’s an industry that doesn’t favor older workers, Jing Quan, an associate professor at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Md., told Computerworld.

But IT is not the only industry where older employees will be vulnerable if they’re not at the top of their game. As examples, Computerworld cites administrative assistants who don’t know the latest office software and journalists who lack multimedia skills as facing the same conundrum as IT workers.

So what can older IT workers do to stay relevant? To age gracefully in IT, Computerworld has a few suggestions.

  • Keep your skills up-to-date.
  • Consider moving into IT management, where your experience won’t be perceived as a strike against you.
  • Network and build relationships so you have contacts to reach out to in case you get laid off.
  • Learn to use social media to promote yourself and connect with potential new employers.
  • Dress like your colleagues to fit in.

Do you agree with the article? Is the IT world ageist? Is there more bias there than in other professions? Have you experienced such bias? If you’re over the age of 50, how do you stay relevant in the workforce?

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Sep 06, 2011 at 9:03 AM


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