Ageism: Before pointing fingers, examine your own heart
Days before I stumbled across the obscure job listing for what morphed into my current position at the University of North Carolina, I had deleted from my resume the year I graduated from college and the first eight years of my work experience.
I hadn’t been job hunting in North Carolina all that long after moving from California and taking a self-funded sabbatical, but I wasn’t getting any nibbles from the jobs for which I was applying. Upon advice from those in the know, I begrudgingly eliminated from my resume my four years at a daily newspaper as well as my four years at a zoned edition of The Sacramento Bee, where I started my journalism career.
Subtracting from my resume went against every instinct ingrained in my professional being. For so many early years as a reporter, I had extracted every bit of my ingenuity to strengthen my resume, and here I was in mid-career slashing away at the document that would decide my future professional life in North Carolina.
But I feel younger than my years
Ageism! I detested the thought of it. (I also can’t fathom that I’m somehow the age that my driver’s license proclaims, which only intensifies my outrage.)
Fast-forward three months after I had been hired as a contractor at the university. A new communications manager position had been created, and someone had been hired to fill that slot. She would become my new boss. She hadn’t started yet and I hadn’t met her, but based on my Google search, I calculated her age to be about 30.
I immediately freaked. That would mean I went off to college about the time she was born. What about all those years of 12 to 14 hour days of paying my dues, fine-tuning my craft and building strong professional relationships? What about all the leadership I had shown early on for strategic use of social media for business and how about my Kiplinger social media fellowship at Ohio State University?
Judge by performance, not age
How could someone so young be capable, I asked myself. Oh, my, gosh. I was guilty of ageism myself. I was judging someone based on her lack of years while I had denounced those people who might have rejected me as an applicant simply based on my abundance of years.
Happily, upon meeting my boss, I quickly overcame that absurd youth prejudice and proved myself utterly wrong. My new boss was—and is—one of the most capable, intelligent and caring souls I have ever met. Her own middle-aged boss even commented to me that it is “scary” how adept this thirtysomething is.
Friends at any age
A short time later, I like to think I redeemed myself—at least in terms of not prejudging someone based on age. I was still new to my neighborhood when one day my neighbor pulled her car up alongside where I was working in the yard. She kindly introduced herself and complimented me on the landscaping progress. I promised to pay her a visit soon, which I did. Many visits and shared secrets and worries later, I am proud to call this incredibly bright, quick-witted and compassionate woman my best friend in my new town. What some would consider remarkable about this friendship is she turns 91 on Thanksgiving. Never did I assume that she would be out-of-touch, dull or anything but sharp.
Appreciating people of all ages
Regardless of my fortysomething years, I find I still have much to learn about and from other people young and old. I’m happy that I am still opening my mind and heart to appreciate people of all ages.