I used to put my date of birth on my CV. “It’s just standard information you include on important looking things,” I thought — wrong. Just another trivial tidbit about me that would pale in comparison to what I would be bringing to the table.
Right after I was offered a job, the hiring manager gave me a piece of advice that I never really thought would matter.
“You’re great, Sam, but remove your birth date from your resume”.
I was pretty surprised, but chalked it up to a cultural difference and left it alone. Surely, people don’t discriminate like that.
In fact, I completely forgot about it, until I started looking for a new job.
I was struggling to find my next move, and I couldn’t figure out why. I looked to my peers who had achieved the upward trajectory that I was searching for, but couldn’t find any particularly distinguished differences in what they were doing that could explain my struggle. Then I remembered what that manager said and decided to put it to the test; I removed my birth date from my resume.
Oh boy. The results were night and day. It was as if a whole new world had opened up to me.
I looked back on all the times a client or colleague had asked about my age — were they just innocent questions, and was I undermining myself each time I answered? But surely our age shouldn’t matter!
As a matter of fact, it shouldn’t.
“Age is of no importance unless you’re a cheese”, Billie Burke.
Actually, there’s plenty to be taken from the cheese metaphor.
Cheese isn’t just old milk.
It’s a labour of love for everyone involved in the process — pasteurizing the milk, separating the curd and whey, using the right culture… you don’t just leave some milk in the carton for a year and hope for the best.
Similarly, someone’s age means nothing without considering the amount of effort they put into their profession — the hours spent labouring over projects, studying, successes, failures, and all the experience that comes with it.
To Brie, or not to Brie
Gorgonzola, Ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Mozzarella, Cheddar, Brie…So many different types, which are all aged for different times. However your 5 year aged Cheddar is probably better replaced with a fresh Mozzarella on your pizza. Understanding the difference between perfect aging and aging perfectly.
And so many different types of professionals! Marketers, Copywriters, Designers, Accountants, Lawyers… similar your cheese conundrum, a 22 year old accountant probably understands tax law better than a 40 year old copywriter.
Just as you wouldn’t be crumbling Ricotta on your Margherita pizza, you wouldn’t hire an accountant to design your logo, or get an artist to do your tax return. I mean you could add Ricotta to your pizza but I’d hate you.
It ain’t easy being cheesy
The rule of three had me really reaching for an extended metaphor here. Blue cheeses aren’t for everyone — maybe you just prefer your cheese squeezed out from a can, or packaged in individual slices, or pre-shredded in a bag.
Just remember that sometimes, you’re going to need to explain your work to someone in an industry or age group completely different to yours, and they might not necessarily appreciate your work for what it is or quite understand the process. “I’d like to make this design pop more” they’ll say, “Why can’t we just do what that other brand does”.
You won’t be able to force your professional equivalent of a soft, triple cream, ripened blue down their throats. Offer them your Kraft single, pre-packaged and easy to digest — a simple justification for your work.
The whey forward
The point I’m trying to make is that age, for the most part, is just a number that you’re stuck with at birth that doesn’t define anything about you.
In today’s business world, we celebrate young professionals with awards, and the last 20 years have been shaped by youthful entrepreneurs that play a large part in our lives like Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Spiegel, Kevin Systrom, Jack Dorsey.
On the flip side, there are plenty of aged people of influence who are pushing the most disruptive ideas of our time — Bernie Sanders, Elon Musk, Bill Gates just to name a few.
So let’s stop judging people by their age, and instead by their work. Caciolater.