In a comment on my career disasters’ post (on Facebook) it was pointed out that ageism is playing a big part in why so many highly skilled people have difficulty regaining employment. It’s absolutely not fair, but it’s also incredibly short sighted.
In not retaining highly experienced people in our industry – letting them “age out” so to speak – we lose their combined knowledge and insight. Yes, new people coming into the industry might be able to learn the day-to-day tasks they need, but with years of experience comes an insight that is hard to describe.
When you’ve been through multiple changes of technology; hundreds of hours of troubleshooting and bug reporting; and years of experience dealing with all kinds of people you bring an insight that the new employee simply will not have.
You will be quicker at finding – and fixing – problems that arise. You’ll be MUCH BETTER at making sure those problems do not arise, simply because you’ve been there and got the T shirt. You’ve learnt from your own and other people’s mistakes and know how to avoid them.
And obsolete knowledge can still be insightful. For example, very technique I used tweaking animations on my old Amiga so they’d fit in memory, was useless just five years later when memory became abundant. But when it came to making low bandwidth animation for the early Internet, I had a bunch of techniques at hand to work with.
The only reason to “let” (i.e. force) people to “age out” is if they have failed to keep current with technology and technique. I like to think those people are rare.
I have zero idea how to solve the short sightedness of employers who won’t even grant an interview because of birth year. I’ve had exactly one employer that wasn’t a company I controlled, across my entire career. Even that – Head Technician in a touring theater venue – was without direct supervision. I have gone my entire career without adult supervision, so it’s perhaps a wise employer that would shy clear!
That was the first job I applied for against a competitive field. I have not applied for a second job, so I have zero advice to offer.
I am a big believer in the need for failure in innovation. If I’d been more successful at some of my earlier career directions, I certainly wouldn’t have needed to push forward.