Finding a new job can be really hard. If you're a software engineer in a startup world, it can be twice as hard if you're really old--like in your 30s or (why are you not dead yet?) 40s. I mean, who wants to hire old fogeys like that? Certainly not the young and hip companies.
(Side note: I once got a press release from a company boasting that they "only hire people under 25!" and didn't I want to write an article about how fabulous that was? I emailed them back and said, "Do you know that's a violation of federal law? Would you like me to write about that?" They didn't respond.)
Enter Old Geek Jobs. Founder, John Wheeler started this job board after being told he wasn't a good "cultural fit" for a job. He knew that, in part, his age (37) played a role in that cultural fit.
Silicon Valley is famous for its age discrimination--which, is, in fact, illegal for people over 40. Wheeler won't be protected by this law for three more years, which doesn't make it any easier to find a job. His job board isn't, technically, for only the older programmers, but is for companies who are happy to interview people of all ages. As they all should be.
Why discriminate against people with actual experience? Well, Mark Zuckerberg once said that "I want to stress the importance of being young and technical...Young people are just smarter." Zuckerberg doesn't give any facts for that, other than citing chess champions, but the sentiment remains throughout the tech world.
So, how can you get a job when the people who do the interviewing think you're over the hill? Here are some tips:
Don't try to act younger than you are.
This may seem counter-intuitive. The hiring manager wants a 20 something. You're a 40 something, so dye your hair and talk about whatever the youngsters talk about. If you're a great actor you can pull that off, but most of us actually look and sound like our correct age, regardless of what our hair color is. Trying to do otherwise makes us look foolish.
Rely on your actual skills.
Companies may think they want young people who are creative and smart, but you need to remind them that neither creativity nor intelligence goes away when you hit 45 or 50, but your knowledge of how things work and how to accomplish goals has grown exponentially since your 20s. Creativity is all fine and good, but implementation is absolutely necessary. Don't market yourself as something you're not. Market yourself as something you are.
When you're in a comfortable job, you may forget to work on maintaining your network. When you need a new one, you may scramble to put something together, and that's hard to do. Remember, your network is a huge advantage over your younger counterparts. Sure, they may know people from college, but you've got college and 30 years of work experience. Hit up your network for ideas and leads and makes sure you help your network out when you're in the place to do so. Drop a line to a couple of people today, just to say hi. Won't hurt and might help in the future.
When all else fails, sue.
Now, I'm not advocating litigation as an actual job hunting strategy, but I'd like to see some of these arrogant companies that think they can freely discriminate against older workers brought to their knees. They don't even pretend they aren't discriminating. (Likewise, some companies seem proud that they hire only women. This, also, is illegal.) If you want to hire only young people, petition the government to change the law. Until then, please follow it.
If you're the hiring manager.
Remember that cultural fit shouldn't be about putting together a group of friends who like to camp together. It's about making a company that works. Work culture doesn't have to have anything to do without outside the office culture. For a business to be successful, you don't have to have the same hobbies or outside interests. You just need to have the same goals for the company.