Almost seven years ago, I attended my first health care human resource conference as an exhibitor. I was nervous and had pieced together an outfit as I didn't own a full-fledged suit. What was I thinking? I am NOT a salesman or so I kept telling my boss. The retained search firm I was with had a booth and we were getting ready to "educate" attendees as to why our services were better than any other search firm. The doors to the Exhibitor's Hall opened and in came the throngs of HR Professionals... My boss leaned over and whispered in my ear, pointing up the aisle, "We want to work for her." A woman was making her way toward us, I felt like I was waiting to meet the queen and, indeed, I was.
Nancy Rubin stepped into our booth and shook my hand. I was blown away by her poise and character. Then as she parted, she said, "It was nice to meet you, Rayanne." She remembered my name. And I would never forget hers. Nancy was the Chief Human Resource Officer for the Providence Health System overseeing four states, 45,000 employees (8,000 under her direct purview) and she had been with Providence for eighteen years. She represented the hospital our firm wanted to work for. Another recruiter in our office secured several searches with Providence and I have always considered it a privilege to have this association.
A few years ago, the Hospital Association of Southern California contracted with our firm to bring in a Vice-President of Human Resources. It was considered a huge coup when Ms. Rubin left the Providence organization to take the position with HASC. Seventeen months later, it was mutually agreed upon that Nancy would step down from this position. The reasons: change needed that no one wanted, former VP cast a huge shadow, objectives had not been clear, salary disputes, etc .
And now here we are, over a year later. Nancy, former CHRO for one of the largest non-profit organizations in the West, a highly respected expert in her field, former VP - HR for an association that benefits the health care HR professionals in Southern California.... still looking for a job.
Why? Nancy is brilliant, funny, kind, exceptionally knowledgeable, well-versed in HR laws, a consummate businesswoman with an outstanding reputation. She networks with her recruitment and HR friends, cruises through the job boards, has interviewed with top executive search firms but to no avail. Again, why? Because she is 58. I asked her why, "Ageism..., a recruiter actually told me I was too old. I have heard it all: that I didn't know what a hard operational HR job was, that I was over-qualified, they were looking for a different profile..."
She has never misrepresented her age but, still, she was surprised to hear it actually said out loud considering the legalities attached to that kind of statement. The recruiter who said the words too old was representing a hospital that had just settled a $30 million lawsuit, "I would have thought they would want someone who could help them avoid additional legal issues..." They want someone mid-career, not someone who has 'been there, done that.' "That did wake me up and it is definitely an issue."
Options? "There are not very many. I could hang out my own shingle and someone has talked to me about working with outplacement. I just keep networking and going back to job boards. The ideal position would be with talent development or consulting, strategic planning, or organizational development. And yes, the economy definitely contributes. In the past, I might have been hired temporarily, they would have taken a chance."
I find it ironic that the same people that once bowed to the queen, who consistently wooed her, and yearned to have her sign on the line which is dotted are gone - nowhere. Friends with smaller firms have stayed in touch and call every once in a while to see how she is doing. It is the big firms that have disappointed her - they have disappeared. "During my career, I have given them a considerable amount of work." Nancy continues, "It is a good lesson that you are not just your work. You have more value in the world, this would be twenty times more difficult if you didn't."
She gives a last piece of advice, "I think it is typical of those in HR to put others way ahead and keep themselves at the bottom of the list. Push yourself to the top and always have your resume ready to go. Always network, even when you are not looking for a job. You cannot afford to not do these things, you never do know..." Nancy adds, "If there is ever a time in your life that you need to ask friends and family for help and support, you have to go ahead and do it. You need to do it, humble yourself and don't give up."
To find what you seek in the road of life, the best proverb of all is the which says, "Leave no stone unturned." ~Edward Bulwer Lytton
Fascinating discussion about age here - remarks come from all walks of life and many are very, very candid! A small sample:
The main reason younger workers are hired is that they get a smaller salary.
I’d probably be wary of the older women too but I’d be the least likely to hire an older man.
...the cumulative effect of 30+ years of salary growth — at compound interest, let’s not forget — may mean that the senior person earns nearly double what the almost equally productive junior person does.
A lack of general skills makes it harder for them to learn new software, and many seem to resent having to learn.
The technology knowledge lag is huge.
I prefer hiring “older” workers. To be perfectly blunt, they have less child care issues and don’t expect to be able to take 3 hour lunches because “Thursday is yoga class.”
Why hire someone who knows all your tricks when you can hire someone who is naive enough to believe them?
Humans would rather hire a young, attractive person in the workplace than an old, not so good looking one.
Health care costs to firms are a thorny issue ...
At 54 yrs...I’ve never heard of the concept, “You have to make me happy” until I clarified no support for personal tunes on the workstations. I’ve had to explain numerous times why the server blocks certain websites, including net radio sites. I’m the one who has to educate these people with standard office applications. I have to remind them to write the instructions down after the 3rd or 4th time of demonstration..."
All those snobby nosed latch key kids that are now labled Generation X need to be told where to go. Yoga class during work…..please.
Age isn’t the problem in any workplace: (the lack of) maturity is.
And the list goes on, and on...here.