Are companies obsessed with youth?
Helen Harkness, author, Don't Stop the Career Clock: It's not about age; it's about culture. No employer wants to admit that age makes a big difference, but they will say they need energy, vitality, speed, etc. Fighting change is a more common problem. A lot of people want to blame age discrimination when really they're just not keeping up with what's going on in the world.
According to court documents, Marny Midkiff's boss at the Weather Channel made derogatory comments about her looks and age. How would you handle that?
HH: You'd like to think that you can turn to HR, but that's not going to work. Find a professional you trust. If she were my client, I would have watched her, looked at the criticisms, and helped her change her style, if she chose to do that. Some people say, "To hell with them, I don't want to change my style." Then it's time to go.
How do you show that you're still willing to change?
HH: You have to realize that change is inevitable and keep your skills up. A lot of companies don't offer training to older workers. They just assume they don't want it. Pursue it. Ask for it.
A version of this article appeared in the April 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.