35+ and working in Tech?

I have a friend who is 39 years old and codes location based mobile and payment apps for large enterprise. He moved city only a few months ago, but is already on the search for his third job there. He’s a smart, connected, up-to-date guy, who’s good at what he does – so why hasn’t he found the right fit? We sat down for a drink the other day, and he candidly relayed some of his recent experiences. It sounded like a conversation I’ve had with other friends too.

There are four main problems people over 35 were facing:

In short it boils down to perceived value.

1) Fresh slate:

The idea that technologies are changing quicker than people adapt to learn them. So younger employees come ready to learn the latest ways of doing things, whereas older people come laden with ideas of how to do things based on how they’ve done them before. In any other industry that ‘baggage’ is called knowledge, but not in tech software engineering.

2) Perceived value:

If you’re not 20 and just out of Stanford CS, you mustn’t know the newest things. If you’re 35+ you’ll be asking for the same wage as the 20-year-old, but you’re seen to bring less to the table.

3) Expectations:

When you’re young you make friends at the office, eat at the office, live at the office. When you’re older you’re seen to have an outside life, like a family, that will take you away from work at a reasonable hour. Some employers believe company culture will suffer when you don’t live there, and they still pay the same salary for less hours.

4) Overqualified:

The young people in the company expect that when they’re 35+ they’ll have moved into management, or have made your fortune and just be coding because they love it. If you’re over 35 and doing what you’re good at as standard employment, you can been seen as a failure at worst, or overqualified and likely to leave soon at best.

My friend is trying to change how he markets himself, but there’s only so far he can hide his age, and often he still gets boxed up and discounted before he even opens his mouth.

Learnings as a younger person: get very good at telling the story of what you do, why you do it, and how you give yourself value by doing it. Also, networking!

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