Episode #27 – Unconscious bias can work against the older job seeker, especially if they are careless on social media
Mark Anthony Dyson is Marc’s expert guest in this episode. Mark is The Voice of Job Seekers, career consultant, job seeker advocate, career writer, and founder of this award-winning blog. He helps the employed, unemployed, underemployed, and underappreciated find jobs using job search strategies to navigate the new job market. Marc knows Mark from the hosting of his great The Voice of Job Seekers podcast, one of the few career-related podcasts that I listen to.
Marc and Mark discuss the social impact of unconscious bias, and how the older job seeker may be affected. While unconscious bias is a fact, you can prepare to handle it by not accepting the perceptions that as an older worker, you lack energy, are not a good fit, or won’t be able to keep up. Mark discusses trends in legal issues related to ageism, and how building relationships, embracing technology, and networking with professionals can help the older job seeker navigate the unconscious biases of hiring managers.
Listen in for behaviors to avoid, and attitudes to adopt, to stay relevant in the workplace.
[3:21] Mark talks about his family, his grown sons, and moving forward into the second half of marriage to what he and his wife want to do. He is studying unconscious bias as it relates to job seekers. Mark enjoys music, personal training, and family life.
[5:00] Mark discusses unconscious bias, referencing the work of Dr. Derald Sue. In simple terms, it is a non-aware unpremeditated assumption about different ethnicities, age groups, genders, and so on. Mark says the assumptions are usually insulting or degrading. Microaggressions are statements or actions based on the biases.
[6:40] Telling a person older than you that they look good for their age is not a compliment. It is a microaggression. Microaggressions do not make people feel valued. Everyone has unconscious bias, and it comes out in different ways.
[7:53] Marc shares an example of his last boss’s unconscious bias. Mark also gives an example for a client he had coached. The interviewer said they were concerned that the pace of this place was pretty fast, and that the candidate might not keep up (based on their age).
[8:54] Marc considers biases that came from his upbringing in an all-white town. Mark discusses how unconscious age bias affects older job seekers. One bias is that an older person’s skillset may be outdated, or less relevant. Employers talk about “fit,” without being precise about their bias, and laws do not fully protect aged workers.
[10:54] Gut instinct is relied on in hiring decisions. This includes bias. If merit hiring were implemented in many more companies, unconscious bias would be minimized. The Illinois State Attorney sent a notice to major job boards regarding ageism on their online forms. NPR ran a good article about ageism in hiring.
[12:50] Mark discusses how to deal with ageism. Satchel Paige pitched in the major leagues when he was near 60. George Blanda played football near 50. Don’t accept the perceptions of hiring managers.
[14:44] We’re seeing people work a lot longer. Mark wrote on CareerPivot.com about 8 ways older workers invite age bias on social media. On social sites, do not complain about work, or post things that do not show professionalism. Use digital photos, not scanned pictures. Don’t mention aches and pains. Forget making political statements.
[19:33] One of Marc’s readers responded to Mark’s post, worried that bias was going to be used against him no matter what he did, and he had an edgy tone in the remarks. Mark says, if you make curmudgeonly comments, you flag that you may not fit in well.
[22:00] Marc noticed an unconscious bias when he was teaching a class of 90% Hispanic youth high school math. He felt like he did not fit there. Most of them had probation officers, which added to his bias, although they were not bad kids.
[23:17] Older workers also make assumptions about Millennials. Mark was a substitute teacher in his 40s, and he found the older teachers to be wiser, even though he enjoyed the younger teachers. In some cultures, older people are considered wise. In America, younger people take the torch from older people, even before they want to pass it.
[25:10] Older workers need to build relationships, earn respect, learn new technologies, and network in professional organizations.
[26:05] Marc talks about working with younger engineers, and dressing and acting like them, to be peer accepted, even though he was really the peer of their manager. They would confide in him. He purposely worked those relationships.
[28:25] Mark’s closing remarks: some people don’t think unconscious bias exists, or that it matters. Always consider: How can I have a respectful conversation with this person about their bias or about my bias? Be proactive, if you want to build a relationship. Once we are aware of our biases, we’ve taken the first step. Then, see how bias hurts people.
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