Certainly age discrimination exists out there in the cold cruel work world and, as a result, 50-something executives and managers might not want to throw out their Grecian Formula just yet. But might there be a, excuse the expression, “silver lining” to slowing economic times when it comes to all those middle-agers suddenly cast out there onto the tightening job market? According to a survey from Challenger, Gray and Christmas, the Chicago-based outplacement firm, there may very well be.
In a comparative look at jobless professionals possessing 10 years or more experience in managing, the firm learned that such job-hunters required only 2.5 months to find a new job in the fourth quarter of last year vs. 3.7 months in the final quarter of 1999, just one year earlier. Since the typical jobless candidate Challenger studied was 46 years old, with 8 years at his or her last position, earning $78,000/year on average, the implications for reverse-ageism are significant.
“Perhaps what we are seeing is that companies, anticipating an ongoing slowdown, are stocking up on the individuals they feel will best lead them through the downturn, ” surmised John Challenger, the company’s chief executive. “Employers may be recognizing that this person, with 20-plus years work experience, has been through bad times before and that prior experience will be extremely valuable in navigating the current slump. ”
So hard experience, suddenly, “comes of age. ” The heck with all those too-hip, geek-faced dot-commers who just a few short months ago appeared to be assuming the mantel of all things bright and business-like. Whiz Kid is now getting passed over in favor of Grayheads and paunched-out “Old Reliables. ” Life certainly has its way of concocting intriguing ironies.
If we peer a mite closer however, irony, apparently, it’s not. Common sense, as in “a return to…” seems more like it. As we let our business selves run amok the last few years, partying our brains out amid the most explosive, exciting, outrageous and expansive boom time in the history of any civilization, we installed blinding stars in our eyes aimed toward every front. Whether it was high employment, low-low interest rates, skyrocketing stock yields, or little or no inflation, we ate it up, chewed it up, gulped it down and cried out for more. Never, never-ever, we believed, would this feast ever stop.
Now suddenly out of nowhere, our reality check— the banquet has ended, the feeding frenzy has run out of gas. It’s a slowing economy, falling stock market, even corporate layoffs rearing their ugly old heads again. The “gid” times (as in “giddiness”) are over.
It stands thus to reason that even the most marginally intelligent management teams would recognize that the high times didn’t, in the end, bring us all that far, and that means maturity and coolness become high values as a follow-up, not brash energy and cautions-to-the-winds. Now the old family doctor prescribes maturity, reasoned thinking, decision-making experience and a sprinkling of deep-career seasoning. For those knowledgeable, wise management practitioners who have hung in there with their employers over the years in high times and bad, happy days are here again.
Ken Lizotte CMC is Chief Imaginative Officer (CIO) of emerson consulting group inc. (Concord, MA), which transforms consultants, law firms, executives and companies into “thoughtleaders. ” This article is an excerpt from his newest book “Beyond Reason: Questioning Assumptions of Everyday Life".
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