A colleague needs to recruit some wise and responsible managers. The right people are not easy to find. The kind of experience that is needed should automatically favour candidates with grey hair, but he has been hearing the same old refrain, ‘preferably not too old. Preferably not past it.’ The client really means; don’t send me someone over 45.
Ageism in recruitment is very real. Clients still worry about age. Is the candidate too young? Too old? Does this woman look like she’s about to start a family? It was like this when I started recruiting and it is still like this, whatever the corporate spin tells you.
We all take in some unpleasant messaging about ageing. Women, particularly, will scan too many advertisements in their lives, for products that promise to be ‘anti-ageing,’ as if ageing is something to oppose and fight, like a disease.
I have been reading about Project Blueprint, where a 45-year-old tech entrepreneur and millionaire, Bryan Johnson, is trying very hard to reverse his age. He has over 30 doctors monitoring his bodily functions in a quest to turn him back into an 18-year-old. Johnson’s daily routines and sacrifices may well extend his life, but his 45-year-old self-absorbed existence sounds utterly miserable. For example, he has taken over 33,000 images of his bowels. He eats pureed vegetable sludge, follows a strict vegan diet, and goes to bed early. He subjects himself to intrusive and painful assessments on a regular basis. I wouldn’t last a day – but that’s me.
Bryan is spending $2 million a year on this experiment. He is free to spend his time and money as he sees fit and the data may prove useful to the wider world of medical research, but I would respectfully suggest that $2 million a year deposited at somewhere like the Gates Foundation might keep quite a few children alive to see the age of 18 first time around. But again – that’s me.
We all have choices and mine are a bit different to Bryan’s. I want to ask him if he has tried snorkeling. It’s wonderful. I want him to ski while his knees are OK and take long walks while his feet are in good shape. He could go to the Serengeti tomorrow and take a safari for weeks. I want to grab him by the shoulders and ask, Bryan, mate, are you sure you want to give up cake, chocolate, ice-cream, and champagne?
Mostly I want to say, don’t be so frightened. He has a fortune to play with and good health for the moment, and he could be embracing these years. Instead, he thinks 45 is the beginning of the end and wants to turn it all round. This will make him a very healthy 45-year-old, but he will never be 18 again. He will die as we all do, no matter how many bowel images he sends to the researchers.
I find Bryan Johnson interesting but not terribly inspiring. However, may I point to Mavis Staples and just say – wow! I saw Mavis perform again recently and she walked, or toddled, out on stage and ordered us all to have a good time. She is 83 years old. I’m not sure Mavis ever frequented the gym. During her one-hour set, she tired a few times, and sat down at the drums to sip some tea. Well, it might have been tea. Who cares what it was? Mavis and her family have performed for the likes of Martin Luther King, and John and Robert Kennedy. She had a fling with Bob Dylan. She toured with Aretha. She marched at Selma. Now, that’s a life.
Back to my colleague and his more everyday challenge; I know he will find recruits to fill the roles required. He just needs a client who doesn’t reject people because they believe that energy and wisdom seize up at 45. He will also find the right people because he is very good at what he does and has an extraordinary network. That is the result of decades of experience.
Goodness, I hope he’s not past it.