One of my fellow producers was recently asked by a guest on a TV show, “Aren’t you too old to be a producer?” I spoke to a few TV professionals, and they all agreed on one thing: ageism is alive and well behind the cameras of the small screens and in green rooms across the nation.
Ageism is hard to prove, and the victims are usually not inclined to litigate because when unemployment hits, their savings have to be used on supporting themselves rather than paying legal bills.
After I was terminated from my position as a producer at CBS News, I experienced ageism while seeking my next opportunity. I chose to focus my efforts on reinventing myself. I gained so much in the years following that day that I am now convinced that the best way not to become a victim of ageism is to prevent it.
Identify the changes in your industry and in the market in general. If every job description you see asks for Twitter-savvy candidates and Hootsuite wizards, then you should take a hint -- and maybe a class or two in social media.
Are bosses talking analytics and second screen? Is Photoshop the new typewriter?
Make sure you stay relevant by learning all the basic skills that will keep you afloat in your industry. If you can turn powerful business connections into mentors, then you are more likely to stay in the loop about what is needed and where the job cuts will hit the hardest.
What will be the next big thing in five years? What do all the new hires in your company have in common? If the intern fresh out of school is bringing more to the company than you, then you know you are becoming obsolete.
Stay on top of new technologies and always ask yourself, how is the market moving forward? Are there brand new management teams in your company and across the board at similar companies? Are big names rebranding?
Be mindful of the first signs that tell you where the winds of change are blowing.
Look at yourself
Take care of your body and soul, and don’t immerse yourself at work to the point of not having anything else to fall back on. Have a healthy financial backup plan, exercise, meditate and moisturize! The most important thing is to maintain enough of a social life to have a group of friends who will be there for you when it’s time to move on.
Finally, always stay grounded in reality. If you belong to a group that is often the first to go, whether it’s because of your age or your color, make sure you are always prepared for the day when you will be unceremoniously propelled into your third act. Start preparing for your 50s like you would for your retirement, so that when the time comes, you will always be exiting gracefully and landing on your feet.