Platform: Why it pays to listen to the voice of experience - Employers need to look beyond the superficial criteria of age and recognise the value of experienced PR people, says Clive Burton

Where have all the good jobs gone? Senior PR practitioners know the answer: to younger people. ’Committed’ ’dynamic’, ’entrepreneurial’ younger people. To job seekers of 40 and over such code words in advertisements mean only that they need not apply. If they do, their CVs will be among the first to be relegated to the wastebin - along with any remaining career aspirations they may still nurture.

Where have all the good jobs gone? Senior PR practitioners know the

answer: to younger people. ’Committed’ ’dynamic’, ’entrepreneurial’

younger people. To job seekers of 40 and over such code words in

advertisements mean only that they need not apply. If they do, their CVs

will be among the first to be relegated to the wastebin - along with any

remaining career aspirations they may still nurture.



It is an attitude which even the Government appears to condone: in spite

of an unequivocal assurance to the Association of Retired and Persons

over 50 in 1995 - from the then, Labour Opposition committing them to

early legislation against age discrimination in the workplace - current

New Deal advertisements carry a distinctly contrary message ’... the New

Deal is starting to bring in some very good people ... not clouded by

years of experience’. A letter seeking clarification of this apparent

volte face has now been sent by the Association to Andrew Smith, whose

Education and Employment Department is responsible for the copy.



Rather than denigrate the benefits of experience in this negative way,

surely it is more productive to emphasis the positive aspects that age

can bring to an employer? Yet today’s profession widely regards an

arbitrary two to five years’ experience as sufficient to attract a

senior executive or director tag and salary.



Media appointments pages confirm this trend towards ageism with

advertisements for ’dynamic public affairs manager with five years’

experience’ or ’exciting and challenging move to senior account

executive for committed young PR professionals or graduates with two to

three years’ experience’.



But why should such epithets be reserved exclusively for those

experiencing the first exuberant highs of this challenging and

stimulating profession?



There are plenty of older people to whom they could apply equally as

well.



Men and women with decades of relevant skills and expertise: gifted

writers, influential communicators in word and image, eager mentors,

considerate listeners, dynamic leaders, the best of whom retain a

keenly-competitive spirit, a sense of ’now’, a willingness and ability

to learn and an undiminished desire to contribute to their own and

others’ growth.



Whether employed in-house or by a consultancy, their broadly-based

marketing nous, finely-honed creative talents and well-developed

planning, people and motivational skills make them a resource every bit

as valuable as less senior colleagues when it comes to problem solving,

taking a broad view of strategic planning, or simply guiding a team

towards the satisfactory solution of a client brief.



Taking factors such as these into consideration, the argument for

including senior PR practitioners within a broadly-based mixed-age

workforce is persuasive.



Many PR professional in their late 40s or early 50s who accepted

’voluntary’ redundancy are now keen to return to a full time role in an

industry constantly highlighting a lack of skilled practitioners to fill

’growing numbers of vacancies’, so what better time is there to make job

opportunities open to all suitably-qualified applicants?



In such a time-intensive business as ours, the value of experience

should never be under-estimated. Yet the myth that only younger

practitioners can contribute to the successful growth of a company

continues to be perpetuated and accepted by an industry which helped to

eliminate racist and sexist recruitment and employment practices many

years ago.



Clive Burton is public relations manager for ARP/050, the Association of

Retired and Persons Over 50. He is 55.



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