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Jewish World Review Nov. 4, 2002 / 29 Mar-Cheshvan 5763

Steve Young

Steve Young
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Consumer Reports

We can all fight ageism!

Tips on duping employers into thinking you're young enough to be hired...even if you're over thirty | "I've had so much loose skin pulled back my eyes are where my ears should be."

If I had a dime for every time I heard that from some unemployed actor, salesman or secretary, I'd have...just an amazing amount of dimes. Not that I'd be wealthy, because I'd have spent it all on a excessively expensive health plan and fresh-brewed coffee once heaped upon me for free when I was...what was it again...? Oh, yeah... employed.

For years the terminal disease of aging has been the unspoken, not-so-secret discrimination in Hollywood. Recently, "Everyone Loves Raymond's TV mom, Doris Roberts, testified in front of Congress of the bias toward anyone who actually experienced the 80's. Not the age...the decade. But, if truth be known, ageism has spread though working class America like death. Everyone will be partaking, but few speak to it. And more than the fear of death, in almost all walks of life, there seems to be a greater fear of aging.

In Hollywood, it's pure horror. I doubt you would have many of the young and the gorgeous residing in the glitzy world of entertainment, choosing aging over death. I think that's why they call it youthenasia. At least in death there's no unemployment...that we know of. Even behind the camera, where it is ability and not your looks that get the job done, admitting your age would be next to...well, there is no next to. You just don't.

The work world treats aging like old fruit. The older it gets, the more it rots and the less refreshing it is. "The older you get the better you get" is a thought only meant for fine wine, the kind of wine we can no longer afford because employers refuse to believe the expression applies to a work force.

Other than its superstars, America, looks on it's elder statesmen (which could fall almost anywhere over thirty years), to be just that. Elder. Not businessmen. Not athletes. Not models. Not secretaries. Not actors. Not writers. Not nothing, no how. Nothing that would allow you to work anyplace save where your questions of clients includes, "You want fries with that?" There are exceptions but they are just that. It's really a quandary since every one of our young people will either get older or die. In some dire cases, both.

Why this happens is not the point here, because the fact is, it's a fact, and it will continue be that as long as younger people continue to be born and invade the business world. And they will. Unless, of course, we kill them first. But that would be unseemly and should be used as only a last resort. The question is, is there anything you can do about it? Thankfully, the answer is yes. That is why, ladies and gentlemen, I have chosen to write this book. To give those in need the tools with which to turn the tables on those who have chosen to discriminate. To beat them at their own game. To once again join the work force even though you had the luck to be born over twenty-nine years ago. To show that you are still viable, vital, and most important...employable.

It takes more than Hair Care For Men or another layer of make-up to once again become an attractive candidate for work and simply lying about age is a non-starter. Saying that you're ten years younger than you are still leaves many at least ten years older than they need to be. Stating any age is the mark of a rookie AARP member. It's more about the illusion you create.

No matter what you do for a living I guarantee (though that guarantee is as flimsy as a $75 toupee), you will find that most of the recommendations here are applicable and usable in almost any business, social or just plain living and breathing situation.

Good luck and get ready to get back into the game, even if you have to limp


As we approach the dreaded age of forty (160 in employable years) we are surprised to find that we have reached employment limbo: considered too old to be a serviceable candidate for employment and still about twenty years too young to write children's books. The ages vary for every part of the business world, but suffice it to say that the age of employment acceptance is falling faster than Enron stock.

The whole thing started in Hollywood, don'tcha know.

First it was the actress. Most of the good roles for women become non-existent just minutes after the theme of their fifth grade hygiene lecture comes to fruition. Ask any thirty-five-year old plus actress that is deemed too antiquated to play opposite Michael Douglas.

Then it spread to male actors. Those who have honed their craft for years will find decent television roles nonexistent unless they want to play the crotchety old next door neighbor. Other than superstars, actors are twixt and between, going for that lead prime time role or retiring to the actors post-puberty retirement home. Even hitting the big 1-0 for child stars is tantamount to a death sentence.

Comedians who have for years relied on appearing hip as a way of remaining topical and relevant, must be extra vigilant. Being introduced as "one of the country's hot, young comedians" is not enough. Ask David Brenner. References to Viet Nam and "what's with these cabbage-patch dolls," labels any "hot, young comedians," as near dead.

The young guns of film-making are jettisoned around the same time they start to shave.

But now, the rest of us, including office personnel who once seemed insulated from gettingtoooldtobeproductiveism are feeling the apartheid of aging. If you don't own company, expect the cubical next to you to be manned by a recent Beverly Hills 90210 look-a-like suit. But there I go, using one of them there prehistoric references.

Of course, no one will ask how old you are. Executives and personnel directors can ferret out the facts with more surreptitious methods than the CIA. They first attempt to get you comfortable with a couple of easy ones like, "How 'bout that Eisenhauer and his golfing?" "What were the Sixties and during what years did they fall?" Then, when they think you've let down your guard, they'll slip in a tricky one like, "Have you heard the new Kid Rock record?" Regular Tiger Beat research can make you sound like a Kid Rock stalker, but most agers tend to slip up on the "record" reference. Only anti-aging pros know that the proper response to this question is made with a baffled "Record?" accompanied by an RCA dog tilt of the head, much as you might react to the term, "typewriter." Any slip up on these types of questions clears the way for immediate seat ejection.

But when the shock sets in, along with the hopeless feeling that your work life is over, 'cept for the occasional dental-safe, pre-chewed chicken retirement dinners at Denny's, where the only benefit are the prices on the senior citizen menu, fear not.. There is still recourse.


The resume. The door opener. This is the fact sheet that tells your potential employer just how much experience you have. Right there we find our first precautionary "buzz phrase" for ageism... "just how much experience do you have?" You should never have much experience as much as you have enough experience.

Clear your resume of all work experience pre-1997, Nobel Prizes and Emmys included. You want to be hot, not legendary. Unless you're Alan Alda, drop M*A*S*H*.

It doesn't matter how many years you worked or how many awards you've won, unless they are based in the past three years, they'll only serve to announce that maybe you've been around too long. Don't ever list something on your resume that shows you have been around long enough to have been around.

Adjust all education graduation dates. Dates can do nothing but date you. Only list dates that will establish your age as somewhere under thirty. Remember to update on a daily basis.

If you include a bio, stick in "vibe" somewhere.


Never let them see you sweat...or curl up into a fetal position. You'll likely to be interviewed by someone younger than you, perhaps younger than your youngest child. Expect this. If you don't, you may experience a jaw-dropping reaction. Jaw-dropping and fetal-position curls are clear indications of elder applicants. You must be ready to converse at the level of the child conducting the interview.

Talk about how you want to do the kind of work that you'd want your kids to be proud of "...whenever I have them."


(NOTE: Most specific hip references will be outdated with the publication of this article, nevertheless, there are a couple of precepts to follow)

Anything your interviewer says more than once is hip. Your job is to fit it in to your replies as if those references are as second-nature as back pain.

Whatever the interviewer has hanging laying his office. Your first few seconds in that office are the most important. Glance, but do not stare. He must not be aware that you're taking stock. Again, drop it in smoothly, as if you didn't see the item. Ex. If you see an issue of "Skateboard Quarterly," drop in..."So, while I was watching Buffy last night, I was thinking...they just don't give the X-Games their proper due."


Assume if you've heard of a song that it probably isn't hip.

Don't use the word "hip."

Hanson is not in. Kid Rock soon won't be. Mosh Pits and Carsen Daly are right on the cusp.

Never use the word dork. Actually, don't use any slang. It changes before your words hit the air.

Don't overdo "dude" or "the Internet is the next big thing" thing.

Saying you know any Brittany Spears or N'Sync songs only means you listen to Radio Disney or...see dork.

Never let on that you ever watched a "black and white" television.

Never use the term, "talkie." If you happen to slip, cover by saying you said, "Trekkie."

(Which, in fact, is right on the border line of being not hip.)


Say there's something in your eye, then reach in and actually pull out your eye. The interviewer will be ahem in their pants and you, my friend, have a job for the rest of your life.


Never talk about getting back in shape. Never let on that you've been around long enough to get out of shape. Don't mention that they play those movie trailers way too loud.

Speak to your dread of turning thirty, and how you already feel thirty-two.

When they ask you what you'd like to drink, never ask for prune juice or a diet anything. Mountain Dew or Red Bull plays. (NOTE: Never take more than one sip. See bladder control tips)

No prostate or bladder control references.

Never boast about the number of times you had to wake-up to use the facilities.

If you don't own one already, buy a large capacity catheter. The less you run to the bathroom, the better.

Never reveal to anyone at work any special diet considerations. "Fried anything is fine with me...again," is a proper response to "What should we get for dinner?"

Don't utter the word "roughage" within a mile of the work place.

JWR contributor Steve Young, Prism Award winner and Humanitas Prize nominee for his television writing, is contributing editor at the Writers Guild of America's "Written By" magazine. He is the author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful: Mistakes, Adversity, Failure and Other Stepping Stones to Success," . the director/writer of "My Dinner With Ovitz," and opens car doors for students at his very young kids' school. His website is Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Steve Young