CTV Montreal recently reported that ageing Anglophones are struggling in the job market. Ironically, the very next day it was reported that the newly-appointed chair of Hydro-Quebec is a 45-year-old Anglophone. He may, however, be the exception that proves the rule. And, yes, ageism and linguistic discrimination can go hand-in-hand in Quebec. Or they can be mutually exclusive. But they are not insurmountable challenges.
Excuse My French
If Anglophones are being passed over in the job market, is it simply because they are unilingual, which you feel might be out of step with the way your company does business, or is it because they are a part of an identifiable group whose culture is seen by some to be a detriment? You can see how that last alternative can be problematic, as language always is in this province. But it doesn’t have to be a barrier to a viable career.
Learning a new language, any language, is like being handed a set of keys. In fact, anytime you do anything to upgrade your skills you are opening up another door, making yourself more marketable, whatever your age. But in this politically-charged climate there is always blather as to whether you speak enough French, or whether it’s the right kind of French, or whether an individual from one linguistic group fits in with a team that is predominantly of another.
But it’s 2014; we do business everywhere, we just happen to live here. So being a unilingual Anglophone living in Montreal doesn’t have to be a barrier to working in English elsewhere. Even employers here know that language isn’t the issue that it once was. With the world on our doorstep, with your people skills, and your command of your mother tongue, and of course your experience and expertise, you are poised to be an ambassador for any internationally-minded company that will have you.
Out of Touch. Out of Time.
And what about age? How big a difference does it really make?
Talent is talent. It doesn’t — or shouldn’t — matter how old a prospective employee is. The millennial, fresh out of school and hungry for success, might not be the best person for the job. But the older, more experienced candidate could turn out to be your star employee. Put a 20-something Wired Magazine-reading gamer up against a tech guru with, say, two decades of experience and knowledge under her belt. Which do you think would be a better choice to lead your team of programmers?
That is not to say that you should never dip into the younger talent pool. A fresh-faced, high-energy hire could be that outside-of-the-box thinker that will light a fire under your R&D team. But to simply eliminate a candidate based on age alone, because you think they’re too old or out of touch, is discriminatory and could leave you open to lawsuits. And you also might be depriving your team of necessary talent and skill.
Open yourself up to talent
Sure, there are employers who would prefer to hire someone of their own culture or linguistic community. It’s out there. In some cases it’s blatant discrimination. But sometimes it’s simply a matter of wanting to help out recent immigrants, which is okay. As far as age is concerned, I think it’s clear, by now, that you should not let age stand in the way of a hire if the rest of the package is exactly what you’re looking for. Talent is talent. Open yourself up to what is out there, regardless of culture and language, and regardless of age. And remember to walk a mile in another person’s shoes; you may be a young executive now, but you’ll be an ageing executive sooner than you think. Also consider that young professionals change jobs every 3 or 4 years. So chances are that you’ll have to replace a staffer who’s moved on. And, who knows: you might be the one looking for a change, hoping someone will hire you despite your advanced age. Doesn’t sound so nice, does it.