45 and Too Old to Work?

By Channel Insider Staff  |  Posted 2005-05-16 Email Print this article Print

Opinion: Welcome to the new economy, where middle-aged IT workers are too old for new jobs.

I wasn't always a journalist. I spent years in IT doing everything from help desk (the horror! The horror!) to programming to system administration to network integration. I was, if I say so myself, pretty darn good at all of it. I'm also 48, and from what my friends tell me, I'd have a heck of a time getting a job now. You see, I'm too old.

I still have a lot of friends from my Beltway Bandit (Washington, D.C.-area techies) days, and they tell me that these days if you put your age on a resume and it's greater than 40, you're going to be out of luck trying to find a job.

It's not just the people I know. Over on TechRepublic, Robb, a 55-year old network systems engineer, who also knows security, tells what happened when he tried, as an experiment, to find a job with a truthful resume.

He applied for 100 jobs over a two-month period, and got nothing. Then he changed his resume to indicate that he was in his 30s. He sent his new resume out to 25 companies, including some of the original 100.

Guess what? From that resume, he received 12 interview offers and a direct job offer! Some of those came from the same businesses that had turned a cold shoulder to him earlier.

Is management nuts or what?

Older workers have more real-world experience and savvy than any wet-behind-the-ears, newly minted MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer). They're also a lot more likely, from what I know, to stick with a job rather than go jumping after the next attractive offer that comes around.

Read Baselinemag.com's warning about what will happen to your most experienced techies in just a few years.

In short, all other things being equal, an older worker is likely to be a better worker.

Nowhere, I think, is this truer than in the reseller and integrator business.

Maybe some young hotshot will know the ins and outs of IP over FireWire better than someone whose first network job was pulling thick-net yellow snake (the nickname for the cable used in the first 10M bps Ethernet, 10Base5), but what are your customers running? Do they all have the newest Macintoshes or a mix of older—sometimes much older—and new equipment?

If your customers are anything like the ones I know, they're running everything from a shiny new EM64T processor Dell Precision 380 with 64-bit XP Pro on the boss's desk to a dozen order-takers still using 4MHz Z80-powered KayPro IIs. My point is that having hands-on experience with older technology is a major plus for reseller and integrator employees.

It doesn't have to be such extreme examples. For example, there are still plenty of shops out there running NT-style network domains with either NT or open-source Samba instead of Windows 2000 or Server 2003 Active Directory.

Besides, old dogs can learn new tricks. Heck, I make my living from running on the edge of bleeding technology. The best workers, the proven ones, can do the same.

Now, we all know older workers who have 'retired in place.' They're the ones who learned COBOL and then never bothered to pick up C++ or Java. And we also know the young guys who can get the most out of SunOS running on a SUN4/40 SPARCstation IPC, which had about all the fire power of a 50MHz 486 in its day.

My point is that instead of turning your back on older IT professionals, you should be looking for them. Generally speaking, you'll get more, and better, work from an old pro than from a young pup.


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