In my profession, we talk a lot about the ugly truths of trying to get hired. Hiring is discrimination. A recruiter or hiring manager must choose one candidate over another. Often, there are dozens of equally qualified candidates, which makes narrowing down the options all that much harder. The result is lots of job seekers getting rejected, and then looking for answers to justify why they weren't picked. Age discrimination is a common reason people come up with.
Thus, when Todd Palmer shared with me recently how he overcame his fear of age bias via skydiving, I asked to share it with the world. I could try to write a motivational article and fill it with stats and facts. But, nothing compares to hearing the story in his own words...
"On a brisk fall day, I was hooked up to an instructor and thrust out a plane at 15,000 feet in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. It was amazing to see the mountains in the distance, to hover around clouds, and have that rollercoaster 'pit in the stomach' feel as you dropped. I was 47 and hooked.
Fast forward 8 months. Having completed all the training for an A license which would allow me to free-fall on my own I now found myself surrounded by ton's of 20-somethings that were doing amazing freefly tricks in the air. Around these folks I was more nervous than the entire time I was in training. I had to now prove, without any pretense of age equaling experience, that I could keep up, be unique, contribute to the fun and hold my own.
Like in any community though, you need to be visible and active. I hung out at the drop zone (the airfield we jump at) working to prove I was safe and knew my crap. I was present, active and engaged. It took about 3 weeks but people started to 'see' my enthusiasm and began including me in their jumps. From the newest to the most experienced jumpers, they were happy to teach the 'old guy' how to fly. They also understood and were ok when I wasn't able to quite nail stuff (I just don't have the reflexes of a 20yo) because everyone knew I'd not give up and maybe even find an easier way. With each jump, mutual trust was built and I found my new friends were also coming to me (sometimes in confidence) when they were struggling.
Having turned 50, I am keenly aware of actual/perceived age-ism in recruiting. It is a concern older adults are discussing as they feel their talents and experience have been sidelined for newer technology (i.e. youth) and lower pay (i.e. youth). However, I'm telling myself a different story. One that came from my experiences in skydiving.
If I am jazzed about the opportunity, my youth will shine through and I'll be respected for it. The right opportunity will come along and those that see me enthusiastically working 'at it' and creating value will bring me on board! Those that don't? Well do I really want to jump (work) with them anyway?"
What career-limiting stories are controlling your thoughts?
It's human nature to rationalize. In order to feel a sense of control, we tell ourselves stories to justify how we've interpreted life events. Unfortunately, many of us limit our potential with stories that make us believe we can't overcome things like age discrimination. Neuro-linguistic programming, a/k/a negative self-talk (NST) loves to sabotage career goals. If you're struggling to make changes or advancements in your career, be honest and ask yourself, "Are there any negative talk-tracks in my head holding me back?" I guarantee there are at least a few.
P.S. - Find like-minded people to help you keep NST in check.
The secret to crushing our negative talk-tracks is to surround ourselves with people who don't buy into the negativity. Seeking out peers who will offer insights and perspectives to counteract these limiting thoughts gives us the opportunity retrain our brain to think more positively and creatively. It's hard to go negative when you are surrounded by people who won't let you!