Tackling Ageism in PR as a Job Seeker

June 2024
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Ageism is a widespread issue in the PR profession that does not typically get too much attention in DEI talks. Age discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of age. A 2022 index survey by Global Women in PR of over 400 women in 35 countries revealed that discrimination on the grounds of ageism is almost as widespread as gender discrimination. 

So, while there has been an industrywide effort to prioritize inclusion and diversity in recruitment, hiring and talent initiatives over the past few years in particular, is ageism still being overlooked? In short, yes. 

In addition to having to justify a higher salary margin, the older jobseeker may face other complications and biases, unconscious and otherwise, from potential employers. At times, instead of simply valuing your many years of experience, questions are raised as to your ability to do the job, how up to date you are with technology, and even how long you plan to work before retirement. 

There are laws in place to protect you. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people age 40 or older. Data on layoffs by age group is harder to come by, but statistics suggest workers targeted most frequently are at the youngest and oldest ends of the spectrum.

Ageism in the workplace can be subtle, but prevalent. In your PR job search, how can you avoid being the victim of ageism? 

  • Proactively add new things to your résumé and professional portfolio by taking courses on innovative technologies, platforms and tools available to PR practitioners. Read books, attend workshops and join relevant professional organizations. Talk about your learnings on LinkedIn with your peers. In interviews, be prepared to answer questions about how you remain current about rising trends in the industry. 
  • Target companies that are clear about how they value their diverse staffers, specifically their maturing workforce. It is important to pinpoint their work toward championing high-performing workers of all ages, providing opportunities to them, reskilling them and respecting their contributions. Pay attention if you notice that the focus appears exclusive to emerging talent. 
  • As you move onward and upward in your career, continue to build and maintain your relationships with the press, in addition to evolving into more strategic roles. Think of it as diversifying and enhancing your skills instead of growing out of them. This showcases your agility as a professional, and also, this sort of continuous networking will keep you informed, inspired and well-connected within the media landscape. 
  • Position yourself as a mentor to the upcoming generation of talent, while still being receptive to their differing experiences, values and interests. As an industry veteran, you can find creative ways to showcase your knowledge as a thought leader. Speak on panels, join a podcast or write articles that will go out to the PR community. Sharing your expertise in complex communications issues and media strategies can both shape the next generation and boost the trust of your peers. 

There is incredible value to be gleaned from the seasoned players of the PR industry: their professional experiences, leadership skills, media relations prowess, commitment to the organization and the sheer wealth of knowledge they possess. This segment of the workforce plays a critical role in shaping the reputation (and success) of their clients and organization. 

I hope that — amid retention challenges, labor shortages and economic upheaval — employers and organizations begin to think more strategically about their aging workforce. 

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