Recently, I have come to the unfortunate realization that my age has hindered my ability to be taken seriously in the realm of career counseling. Things generally are going well; I’m networking, sharing my career concerns, receiving feedback- but then, the tables turn. I casually mention my age and suddenly all prior credibility and comradery fly out the window.
“You’re sooo young, don’t even worry about it now”, they say, “You have so much time to figure it out.” “Twenty-two? Girl, relax you have your whole life ahead of you.” Clad with an eye-roll or a dismissive hand-wave. Essentially translated as, “NEXT, your concerns are not legitimate.”
But that’s the thing. I do not want to wander aimlessly for next fifteen years; hoping things will just magically work out in a fashion that lands me in my dream career. I do not want to “relax” and let time go by as I’m stuck in a position I don’t feel fulfilled in. Not that I’m denying the concept of “living in the moment”, but being proactive now sets one up for a better baseline in the future. And if I don’t feel satisfied in my role now, after eight months of testing the waters, why shouldn’t I put forth the effort to try and get myself in a better place twelve months from now? Furthermore, I should be able to be taken seriously in a collegiate environment, where I am able to express my desire to land myself in a better career, without being shrugged off due to an age difference.
So what is the deal with this sort of attitude towards people in their early 20s? Is it just a lack of understanding between generations? Steady increases in societal pressure? A generational divide due to changes in the way we approach careers? Either way, I think it is something to start talking about and something to start reforming.
What is essentially being exhibited here is ageism, just not in the way that ageism is normally perceived as. According to American gerontologist, Erdman B. Palmore, ageism can be defined as any discrimination or prejudice towards any group based upon age. Nowadays, one would never discredit a person’s concerns about a current career should they happen to mention that they are, say, 46 years old. They would not be brushed off with a “Don’t even worry about it.” So why do it with the younger crowd? It opens up a curious concept regarding double standards in the world of job seeking.
It is time to start normalizing proactive life planning. Earlier generations cannot seem to grasp that times have changed, in all senses of the phrase; politically, environmentally, and with relevance to this topic, in employment and career seeking. According to a CNN Business article, millennials are on average expected to change careers about four times within their lifetime. This is a significantly different standard than the career lifelines of the Boomers, where one would attain a job in their mid to late twenties, settle down with a family, and then slowly work their way up to a senior position within the same company over the course of thirty years.
Not only has the job market changed in this sense, but also the emphasis on employee satisfaction and personal curiosity has increased. Now more than ever, employees are seeking companies and employment opportunities that not only allow for a healthy work-life balance, but an ability to create, to continue learning on-the-job, and for professional development and networking opportunities. When the time has come where one feels the need to explore other avenues, it has become custom to say goo