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Older and Out of Work In Silicon Valley

posted Sep 3, 2015, 2:49 PM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Apr 13, 2016, 1:14 PM ]

At 60, Jay Hammer is among the many older workers who lost their job in youthful Silicon Valley.

By Jay Hammer

While the U.S. government was trumpeting the country's new jobless figure of less than 6 percent, I was sitting at home, feeling the sting of the newly laid off. In booming Silicon Valley, I am hardly alone. My big high-tech company, where I worked diligently for 15 years as a senior tech writer and project lead, dismissed me along with roughly 6,000 other employees. And I see regular reports from other firms of similar purges -- 10,000 here, 5,000 there.

Many of us being let go are the "mature" employees -- the older workers who no longer fit in an industry that worships youth and its energy. I've been advised to dye my hair to enhance my youthful looks and to design a resume that obscures my many years of experience.

Yes, at age 60, I am closer to the end, rather than the beginning, of my time in the workforce. But what about all that accumulated knowledge and history, that expertise and perspective and those years honing my social skills amongst my colleagues? As I wait in vain for the responses to my job queries, it seems those qualities don't mean anything anymore.

I've had to think long and hard about what to do now. I could retool with new skills. Or, I could find an outlet for my outgoing nature by becoming an Uber driver, applying my math skills as a tax preparer, or indulging my love of coffee as a barista. But these don't really capitalize on all I can still contribute in the work setting.

Of course, companies that eliminate older workers like me do so largely for money-saving reasons. Yet they pay a big price: they lose a big part of their knowledge base and their historical backbone, and they compromise their corporate integrity. I will most assuredly be replaced by a much younger, low-paid and under-trained employee in India who, though very-well intentioned, has much less understanding of the product, or the company's culture, history and goals. In the end, we all lose out.

With a Perspective, this is Jay Hammer

Jay Hammer is a former teacher and tech writer. He lives in Palo Alto.