Saying no to ageism and embracing experience
FULL-TIME CREATIVE AND FULL-TIME DAD SIMON PARROT TALKS AGE DISCRIMINATION IN DESIGN AND HOW HE’S FOUND A NEW LEASE OF (WORKING) LIFE AT HOXBY.
July 6, 2020
Ageism – discrimination based on age – is a challenge in many workplaces and industries. And it cuts both ways – it’s not something that applies only to ‘older’ workers, although many people often think of it in that context.
While age discrimination at work is, in fact, illegal, it can be incredibly hard to prove you’ve been passed over for promotion or you didn’t secure a freelance gig, purely because of your age.
Unfortunately, in the design industry (the industry I’m a proud part of), being ‘older’ is not usually seen as a good thing. The phrase ‘over the hill’ hovers just out of sight. People assume you don’t understand this whole newfangled digital malarkey. And I’m only in my fifties – an age I don’t perceive as ‘old’ at all.
According to a survey carried out by Aviva last year, some 73 per cent of people aged 45+ feel there is age discrimination in their workplace. And stories about ageism in the design industry are becoming increasingly commonplace. So I wanted to talk a little about my own experience and how Hoxby is different.
Facing ageism at 50
Hitting 50 in 2017 made that year the most challenging of my career so far. The reaction to my age and experience had me asking myself, “Am I valid? Is there a place for a 50-year-old guy in this new digital age?”
When you’re in a situation where you feel you’re being judged on your age, you start second guessing yourself – even though you know your portfolio is stronger than anything produced by the company you’re pitching to.
And one of the questions I would consistently get was, “Oh, do you do digital?” I wanted to turn around and say, “Hang on, I was using Macs before you were born!”
The overwhelming impression was that people viewed reaching a ‘certain age’ in your working life as code for ‘you’re ready for the grave’. But I believe my experience is something to be relished and not something that should hold me back.
And I’m not alone in thinking this. Almost 75 per cent of workers aged in their 50s and 60s feel they can share invaluable skills, experience and knowledge with colleagues, but 16 per cent say this is not valued by their employer.
It was during this tough year, when I was really questioning whether my 25-year-strong freelancing career was coming to a close, that I came across Hoxby. And it felt incredibly refreshing to read their ambition to create a world of work without bias. It seemed like a no-brainer to apply.
When I started the application process, I realised you have to be pretty dedicated to commit to it. But I found it therapeutic too, because it really helped me clarify what it is that I want from life and work now. I didn’t just want a gig, to charge my day rate and be done with it, Hoxby stands for more than that.
So alongside the challenges of turning 50, I was also able to celebrate the big Five-Oh by becoming a Hoxby. And it’s a choice I most definitely don’t regret.
Outputs are what matter – no age discrimination, no 9-5, no presenteeism
The great thing about Hoxby is that we’re judged on the outputs of our work. We work when we want, where we want. No one cares about how old you are, how trendy you are, they just care about your talent.
I’ve loved meeting people who have shared similar industry – and life – experiences. There’s so much you don’t learn from marketing school, you learn it in the real world, from travel, from having kids. I think as you get older you shed some of the ego that can hold you back from admitting the gaps in your knowledge, from listening and taking on board the ideas of others.
I’ve also appreciated the flexibility Hoxby offers me. I’ve always been a workaholic. And I like to work at odd hours to fit around my family and when I’m at my best. People are always surprised to get emails from me at 4am. But working at night suits me.
Being part of Hoxby let’s me work on some great projects at times that suit me. When it’s all quiet and the kids have gone to bed. When the phone’s not ringing and there’s nothing to distract me. They preach ‘workstyle’ and they mean it. You really can work when and where you want. No questions asked.
And I know in Hoxby my experience is valued. People don’t make assumptions about what I can and can’t work on, based on my age. I’m able to let my work speak for itself. And I believe that’s the way it should be for everyone.