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Weddle's Syndicated Content:

What to Do About Ageism & Sexism

In today's inhospitable job market, nothing could be more frustrating and demeaning than ageism and sexism. Finding work is hard enough, but trying to do so in the face of prejudice is the modern day definition of Dante's ninth circle. No one should have to endure it, and yet many of us do.

Incidents of bias against people over the age of fifty and woman are clearly on the rise. These situations are typically viewed as a defect in an organization's hiring process. The assumption seems to be that the recruiter or the hiring manager who does the interviewing is prejudiced, but the employer is held blameless - consciously or unconsciously -by most people in transition.

If you don't believe that, consider the fact that countless job seekers would still go to work for an organization with a biased recruiting process if they could find a way around the offending individual. And, that would be a terrible mistake. Basically, they would be substituting the devil they know for the devil they don't know.

One devil, however, is the same as the other. The way employers treat candidates is exactly the way they treat employees. If the leadership of an organization permits ageism and/or sexism to exist in the recruiting process, you can be sure they will accept or at least condone the same behavior in its day-to-day operations.

So, what should you do when you are confronted with the small mindedness of prejudice? Walk away.

I've long counseled those in transition to test drive an employer when evaluating an offer. I know that's a hard concept to accept if you've lost your income and have bills to pay. Nevertheless, it's critical that you find out what you're getting yourself into before you make a commitment. You need to know what kind of culture and leadership values you would be subjecting yourself to if you went to work for an organization.

Why? Because research shows that the number one reason a new hire doesn't work out isn't that they can't do the work. It's that they don't fit it. Their values and goals are incompatible with those of the organization. So, if you find ageism and sexism deplorable, don't go to work for an organization which permits them.

What's the Alternative?

Prejudiced behavior may be more prevalent, but it's not the norm. Therefore, the key to success in today's job market is not to waste your time either on looking for a way into a biased employer or on bemoaning the existence of bias in general. Certainly, we should voice our disapproval of such behavior, but then we need to move on. We must invest our energy in finding those organizations that operate with the right values.

How can you do that? With employer research. It is accomplished in both direct and indirect ways.

Direct Research

  • Use a browser (e.g., Google, Yahoo!, Bing) to look for published documents that describe the culture and leadership values of various employers in your geographic area, career field and/or industry.
  • Connect with peers and solicit their views of employers in the discussion forums on your professional society's Webs-site or favorite job board and in the professional groups that operate on some social media sites.
  • Read the comments posted on such sites as GlassDoor.com and CareerBliss.com, but do so with a grain of salt. While many of the posts offer candid and useful assessments, others suffer from a bias all their own.

Indirect Research

  • As previously noted, assess the culture and values expressed by an organization's representatives and by the candidate literature provided in its recruiting process.
  • Look for clues in the career area on employers' Web-sites and on their Facebook pages (e.g., beware of any employer that doesn't share employee testimonials or discuss its culture).
  • Examine the leadership structure of the organization as far down as you can to see if all age cohorts and both sexes are well represented.

What's the best way to deal with ageism and sexism in today's job market? Don't share your talent with the organizations that condone it. Eventually, they'll learn or they'll go out of business. In either case, you're better off finding the good employers that will respect your work and not unfairly limit your success.

Thanks for reading,

Visit my blog at Weddles.com/WorkStrong.

July 2012
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