Guest Post by Laurel Black: Thoughts on Ageism From a Former Member of the Youth Cult

laurel_60sGraphic Design is unique among the professions in many ways, and one of the most striking is the lack of gravitas accrued by practitioners as they gain experience. With lawyers and accountants, for example, their perceived value increases in relation to their years of practice. In the field of design, however, it is well understood that if you are much over 40 or 50, the likelihood of being hired by an marketing or advertising agency is remote. One could almost say it is inversely proportionate to the number of years one gets beyond the magic four-o.

Even though the legendary Paul Rand was productive up to the year he passed away (age 82 in 1996), and Milton Glaser continues to work into his 80’s, the rest of us seem to be struggling against a cultural perception that after a certain age, designers can no longer keep up or remain relevant. This is ironic because we are the generation that invented the youth cult in the 60’s, and now it is coming home to haunt us like the Ghost of Woodstock Past.

As I embark on my sixties, I find myself enjoying my work in design more than ever. The tools now available to designers are amazing, my abilities have had time to grow and mature, my curiosity is even sharper than it was 30 years ago, and I can hardly wait each morning to get down to the studio. I am doing the best work of my life. Why should I stop? It’s not like it’s physically strenuous. The other cool part is, my family is grown, my husband is still working, and I can do pretty much whatever I want. I have never had so much freedom. What a lovely surprise at this point in my life.

Since I have been self-employed for over 30 years and wish to remain that way, the problem of getting hired isn’t an issue for me. But I worry about how these perceptions influence our culture in general, and whether they’ll hurt my ability to get new clients. The answer seems to be to push back against age stereotypes by proving them wrong: do the work of learning new tools and techniques, keeping abreast of trends, and keeping my passion for design current. And it is well to remember that the insidious nature of complacency can be as much of a pitfall as the incorrect assumptions made by others.

I intend to keep working until my hands can no longer curl around a mouse or a pencil. And I intend to continue with the dedication and discipline that it takes to stay in the game.

laurel_pushing_60s photoAbout Laurel
Laurel Black is the owner of Laurel Black Design located on the Olympic Peninsula near Seattle, Washington. Laurel holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Oregon. In addition to her accomplishments in design she is also a writer, blogger, illustrator, consultant and humorist.

Laurel’s blog site is: http://laurelsdesigndeli.blogspot.com

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4 Responses to Guest Post by Laurel Black: Thoughts on Ageism From a Former Member of the Youth Cult

  1. I know that people get better with age. Their accumulated wisdom makes them better able to take on any task. I might be biased because I train people on how to use LInkedIn, but I would say the one place on the web where experience is an asset is LinkedIn. That’s because someone with more experience has so many places to describe their experience in their profile. They can list their accomplishments, and talk about how they added value to different organizations. Someone just new to the workforce simply cannot compete in that area. So, I will say two things: 1. No matter your field, if you have lots of experience don’t stop learning. Get good at using the internet, and study some internet marketing and social media marketing. Every company will want that. 2. Get on LinkedIn, and create a 100% complete profile that shows all that you have learned how to do in your life — you will shine above less experienced people. For information on LinkedIn Coaching, please visit my site at http://www.LinkedSuccess.com.

  2. Kevin Bryce says:

    Thanks for your comments Dan.
    I agree that LinkedIN.com is an excellent resource for those who are interested in career objectives or growing their business network. You are spot on with your comment regarding the need to continuously learn. Learning and growing is essential and needs to be an ongoing process no matter what your career level.

  3. Rita Kitenplon says:

    Re: Laurel Black guest post of Thoughts on Ageism. I think both Laurel and Kevin have the key to fighting Ageism in our employment culture today….never, ever stop learning. I made a complete career change after I lost my job in broadcasting and went back to school to get a certification in web design and e-commerce as well as social media strategies. I got a grant from the state of Florida to get that education. Best thing I ever did and I had fun learning. The only problem is, and I wish someone would address this, that even though taxpayers sent me back to school, because of age discrimination in hiring, I am not able to put my new skills to work. I see THAT as a huge waste of taxpayer money but I am trying my hardest to get a job with the skills I now have; skills I continue to upgrade every day. Seems kind of ironic doesn’t it? Some of us aren’t able to work for ourselves from home so finding employment is a bit more difficult. It must not be just me because my career counselor says she is hearing the same thing from others in my “age group”.

    • Rita, thank you for your comments. I’m glad that you have a positive attitude and have taken steps to transform your career. Laurel and I both advocate developing new career skills and continuous learning. Now that you have the tools it is important to network and get involved with professional groups. They can be the pipeline for employment opportunities you are seeking. Donating your time and skills to a worthwhile charity can also be a “win-win” and give you added visibility.

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