Age discrimination is simply everywhere.

Me running away from it all by skiing at Stevens Pass.

Me running away from it all by skiing at Stevens Pass.

See this picture of me skiing? That’s what I do when I can’t handle the age discrimination in the job market. After eight months of applying to everything from Amazon to Alaska Airlines’ magazine, I’m amazed when my resume and cover gets no responses. OK, we’ve got two master’s degrees here, a distinguished job record and joy of joys: This weekend the Washington Post is publishing my travel article on the Dalton Highway in Alaska’s far north. You’d think articles like that would at least get me a call back. I’ve won awards for my writing all over the country but the past eight months has been a frustrating desert.
People ask me: Why aren’t you a technical writer? Well…here’s what Google expects of its tech writer applicants for jobs in their spiffy low-slung white-walled office building in Kirkland:

Responsibilities
• Learn complex technical information and write technical documentation for Google engineers, such as architectural overviews, tutorials for software developers, API programming guides, and more.
• Respond to technical questions from Google engineers about the subject matter that you documented.
• Edit documents written by others; coach engineers to improve their writing skills.
• Develop tools and processes to automate document creation and maintenance.
• Read and write code in C++, Java, JavaScript or Python.

Sorry, folks, I don’t do Python. Even non-techie places like the real estate company Zillow has openings with these names: Data scientist, quantitative analyst, graphics engineer, senior IOS engineer. I’d need a third MA for that. Jobs that end with the disclaimer “college degree required” are not aimed at anyone over 25. A lot of companies want advertising or design agency experience, which I don’t have. I loved getting this second MA, but it is not helping me get hired. So I run away and drag Veeka on mountain hikes like Little Si, whose summit is shown below.

At the top of Little Si in North Bend. This charming hike in the Cascades was crowded due to the long-awaited sun. Veeka is in the foreground.

At the top of Little Si in North Bend. This charming hike in the Cascades was crowded due to the long-awaited sun. Veeka is in the foreground.

There was a fascinating Seattle Times article about how local industry is scrambling for talented help. Then I read the comments section where folks over 50 were saying no one’s looking for them. One person wrote:
“On the one hand, a company doesn’t want to spend time/money on giving a older worker any “on the job training.” And on the other hand a company will hire a new graduate with no real world working experience – and spend $$ more on extra perks and creating a youth culture environment. That student usually is ill-prepared to hit-the-ground-running at a new job. They may as well help train the older worker, it’s probably less expensive.”
Then someone with 30 years in Systems Engineering and Systems Management in the IT field said he couldn’t find work because companies are hiring college grads and H-1B visa foreign workers.
Person after person (in this same comments section) talked about the willing and desperate older workers who’d take jobs in a second. For example, one wrote, Microsoft is willing to train young veterans with minimal tech experience by giving them classes in the basics, then putting them to work in entry-level jobs. Why not tap the “older worker” in the same manner? Many already have much tech experience and only need a refresher class to bring them up to date, and a chance to work.
Another said, Yep, I agree with you but don’t expect anything to change. I’m in my 60’s, EE, mgmt experience, web design, C, C++, HTML/CSS/js, sql, php and electronics design experience but nobody will even call or email back if I put my history on the resume. (The reason why, he added, as that older people don’t want to work 100-hour weeks, they want decent pay and they tend to get sick more).
Another said: You would do very well getting high-paying temporary assignments. You can make a living that way if you have skills that are in demand–I do, and I’m not even in tech. If they don’t have to pay you benefits, employers don’t care how old you are.

At least someone in our family is making money. Last day for Girl Scout cookies

At least someone in our family is making money. Last day for Girl Scout cookies

And even if you do get hired, if you’re female, you’ll still get paid less, according to this  New York Times piece.

Surely, folks tell me, you could get hired by Amazon? They’re scooping up as many humans as possible to move to Seattle. Well, here is what they are looking for in a tech writer:
• Degree in English, Technical Writing, Computer Science or related field highly desirable
• Experience with cloud/Web Services, IaaS, PaaS, or related areas is a plus
• Previous experience working with agile project management methodologies is a plus
• Programming skills in at least one programming language, such as Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, PHP, or .NET (C#) is a plus
• Experience with GitHub a plus
• Experience working directly with engineering teams

I don’t even know what PHP is. I do know what Ruby is, though. Should I try somewhere else? How about the travel company Expedia? Well, here’s their ad:

Expedia is seeking an experienced IT professional with a background in Technical Writing, Onboarding & Operational Readiness. The person will have responsibility for the creation/editing of technical content created by the Engineering teams and create onboarding/transition-support documentation, operational processes and procedures for the EDW Platform. This is a key role that will involve you partnering with the Engineering teams and creating the right level of high quality documentation and ensure that all procedural / technical details are gathered completely and accurately. This is a senior role that will require you to be self-disciplined, self-motivated professional. This will be a rich, rewarding opportunity for the right professional, to include exposure to some of the best IT talent and technologies in the world, and an opportunity to be largely self directed and to be afforded creative latitude to develop the processes for this new function.

Veeka and her troop hard at work selling those Thin Mints. Companies are hiring folks closer to her age than mine.

Veeka and her troop hard at work selling those Thin Mints. Companies are hiring folks closer to her age than mine.

One bright spot this month was that Veeka sold 55 boxes of Girl Scout cookies by slogging it out door to door and then she earned about 100 more points  helping sell cookies in front of various Safeways and WalMarts. I taught her how to present the cookie sale sheet; how to explain what each cookie contains and that we don’t collect the $4/box now but later when we deliver and by the time we were doing the last 10, she was getting pretty accomplished at her spiel. I had hoped for 30 sales; she easily surpassed that during our walks around the complex where we live, so I began to hope for more. We had finally reached 50 and were walking home when we dropped by a neighbor I’d met by the condo dumpster, who ordered 4 more. Veeka gets a badge if she reaches 55, so I threw in a box for us and her goal was met. And we got to meet a bunch of people near where we live.

6 thoughts on “Age discrimination is simply everywhere.

  1. Bernie Davies

    Dear Julia, I am 64 ( 65 in July) and I understand your frustration. My response is in the form of a question, what did God call you to? Knowing what I do of your background (which really is not a lot) I do know you have written many excellent works about Christianity which would lead me to believe you believe first of all in a God and secondly in the fullness of Jesus Christ. Normally that comes about when one experiences these things first hand.

    So, what is God’s call on your life? I recently have been going through a deep depression and wondering what I am supposed to be doing with my life at this stage and the root answer came when I went back to my initial call from God. This happened in Houston in 1971 when at the invitation of my best friend I attended a Friday night youth service. During the prayer time the Hand of God reached down into the aisle by me and simply asked me to put my hand in His and walk with Him one day at a time. Well, over 40 years later He is still present in my life. (this is the very short version of the story).

    So, what was His call in your life? I suspect writing and more specifically writing about Him. Let Him handle all of the youth of America and rest in the knowledge He has a place for you. Blessings.

  2. Don Warrington

    One of my Soil Mechanics students was making fun of the “old people.” He was referring to my “non-traditional” students, who are probably in their early thirties! I told him I wouldn’t take this, I am finishing up a PhD at a time when I’ve passed my 40th high school reunion. The “old people” were grateful!

    One hidden assumption is that senior workers won’t be around as long so training them cannot be amortised over a long enough period. Most jobs, however, don’t last long enough for that to be a problem!

    One place you might look is in fields which are not quite as “high tech,” i.e., writing for civil, mechanical or that type of field. Engineers’ writing skills traditionally need a lot of work and there are opportunities for both writing and training (we discussed the latter at our last ASCE officers’ meeting.) I’m not sure how much of that is in the Seattle area; there’s obviously Boeing and I’ve had a few customers in the deep foundations business in the area.

  3. Alan N Hunt

    Isn’t it great being over-qualified??!! Looking for odd work, I applied to Coinstar to speak with their Quebecois customers. An older British supervisor put in a good word for me. It was interesting calling all over the US, Canada, AND UK.
    My double major came in handy…saved the day….It was a culture shock working mostly with 20-somethings who knew iPhones and games inside out. Many wore Bluetooth earphones, and so I had to learn not to assume they were talking to me, even when looking at me….

  4. Mary Ann Kreitzer

    Hi Julia! How about checking with places like the Media Research Center. Or the Heritage Foundation. Seems like the Christian think tanks would need someone like you. Or Chronicles Magazine or working in the alumnae office at a University that publishes a journal. I knew the previous editor at American Life League. With your background in Christian writing some of those places seem like a perfect fit.

  5. Pete Kleckner

    Julia, I have no idea how many times I’ve read your Quitting Church book over the last few months, as I am finally fed up, angry, sick and tired of putting on a plastic face and worn out. I’m just a little younger than you are and just lost my job in Dec. 2014 due to injury on the job — still out and probably going to be out permanently. Shoot, I can’t even find work in my field, which I have a BA in Communication Studies — the field is television news as a reporter.

    But, at least I have one item I’ve always wanted to do and that is to be a published author. I’ve also been a freelance reporter at two newspapers — in California and in Texas. I have two FB accounts with my name, so feel free to check me out or drop me a note.

    Oh, by the way — I LOVE the Quitting Church book! I’m mature in my faith, but the latest ‘last straw’ was a lie that I caught the church board and the pastor in, so I demanded all their resignations. I was kicked out of church and if I ever returned, I’d be arrested.

    If you do a sequel to the book, I’d love to talk to you — it would give me a reason to come to Seattle again. 🙂 Mt. Rainier was my favorite hangout and, to avoid the crowds, I know of logging roads that have out of sight scenery.

  6. Michael Hughes

    This is an American cultural dilemma…newer is always better (even with people)…we have not yet recognized that we desperately need those with gray hair to be mentors…we know people, our wisdom and life experience are needed….but many have not realized this yet. As a teacher, I see the value of experienced mentors on a daily basis…hopefully we will wake up as a culture and see this.

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