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
There are plenty of older people to whom they could apply equally as
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
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
Clive Burton is public relations manager for ARP/050, the Association of
Retired and Persons Over 50. He is 55.