Companies are not permitted to discriminate in hiring based on a candidate’s age, because such discrimination is illegal. And yet they do it every day. Why? Why are younger people considered more desirable in the workplace? The simple answers are that they require less compensation; they’re hungry because they need to accumulate wealth for future years; sometimes they’re more educated and have advanced degrees; and they can stick around longer before retiring. There are other reasons too, such as getting sick less often and having more stamina. But there’s one crucial thing that people don’t often talk about: that younger generations can adapt more easily to change and therefore can—and are willing to—learn new things. Invariably, when more-mature people joke about the fact that if they need to do just about anything technology related, they phone their children or even their grandchildren. Younger generations’ brains are wired to deal more readily with modern technology. And they don’t have to unlearn old technology.
Today’s work environment requires the ability to adapt quickly to market demands. New technology is ubiquitous and evolving fast. Learning new things and immediately becoming able to use them are modern-age requirements. Younger people more easily learn. Older people often resist and can’t.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” as the adage says, is true for people more advanced in age. Many don’t know how to use a smartphone or how to e-mail or how to navigate the Internet or how to shop online. And they’ve come to believe they’re too old to learn; they’ve given up on learning new things. Employers are fully aware of that phenomenon and consider the age of an applicant before making an offer.
Beginning with our birth and for many years after, learning new things is a necessity to survive and be part of modern society. As we get older, though, we reach a point when learning becomes optional. We no longer need to learn new things to survive. Some use the excuse that they can’t learn anymore because they’re old. It’s not true, of course, but it still gets used as an excuse. And some simply lack the motivation to expend the energy required to learn new things.
Older people should stress in job interviews that they have the desire to keep learning new things, and in fact they should give examples of new things they’ve learned recently and adopted as parts of their daily lives.
by Alex Freund