No Country For Old Tech Writers

F.B. (p18) -  Number 3050 - page 6
Creative Commons License photo credit: Digital Sextant

What’s the average age of tech writers in your company? When you’re hiring, is it graduates or silver foxes that get the job? I ask this as several friends in their 40s who’ve hit brick walls trying to find work. Some blame out-sourcing, others the recession. Maybe it’s more than that.

The Myth of Age Discrimination?

Age discrimination in the IT Industry is always sensitive. It’s something we dance around and kind of hope it goes away. Oddly enough it’s one of the few things that most everyone has in common.

For graduates coming out of college.

“What kind of experience do you have?”

Anyone know what’s the right answer to that.

For single parents getting back into the workforce there’s the unspoken, “how you’ll juggle your kids and a busy job.”

For 50s, there’s the backhand compliment of being told that you’re ‘over-qualified’.

Same As It Ever Was

Why am I writing this?

I get about 10 CVs every month. Most of these are from Tech Writers looking to either supplement their income as freelancers or trying to break out of tech writing because there’s no work out there.

Daily rates are less now than they were 15 years ago.

Most are finding it increasingly difficult to increase their earnings once they get over 40. And for those over 40 with kids, the marketplace is very unsympathetic.

Careers have stalled.

It’s harder to get an interview.

And when you do, the person interviewing you may be 10-15 years younger. Or more.

They have different interests, values, and expectations.

and they also use different language. I honestly didn’t know what ‘take a squat’ meant.

Others are trying to re-enter the marketplace, for example after taking a few years out to start/concentrate on child-rearing (not necessarily women, by the way.)

Again, these find it increasing frustrating to break into the market and get back into well-paid jobs or at least on a par with their previous salary.

Where does the STC fit into this?

When the recession was at its worst – and the STC was trying to get tech writers to renew their subscription fees – I wrote on their blog that one way they could make this happen would be to pro-actively look for ways to find work for laid-off tech writers.

Or help re-train them. Or have workshops. Or write books. Or…

The respond was muted.

If you’re in the STC, you get access to the Jobs board. The paradox is that those who most need it may not be able to afford the annual subscription. The STC didn’t seem to see it like that.

Surely, if ever there was a time to help those who’d paid their dues in the past, then this was it.

I stopped reading the STC and looked for more practical ways to help.

So, here’s the question.

How difficult is it to get back into tech writing if you’re over 40?

Let’s flip it around.

If you’re hiring, would you prefer a 25+ graduate to a forty-something?

Why?