I was listening to the news the other day and heard that in Pennsylvania there have been an increase in complaints of age discrimination related to employment. One of the interviewees noted that employers often think that young people know technology better than older people, and so want to hire them. One area she specifically mentioned is social media. Thankfully, the interviewee also noted that this view of older employees shows a serious lack of knowledge about the modern employee and marketplace.
Personally, I know many people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who are quite conversant in technology. On the other hand, a 20 something just out of college certainly doesn’t have the business knowledge, maturity, never mind marketing, and management skills that come with time and experience. Experience, not age dictates the ability to apply one’s knowledge, technology or otherwise, to the business world. A recent college graduate who has been working since 15 running a web business and understands the implication of social media is one thing. Someone who has only used social media for personal reasons is altogether different.
As I listened to the story, I realized, since I turned 40 a few months ago, I am now protected from age discrimination. So does that mean an employer would think I do not have the technology skills of someone right out of college? Well, frankly, that is just a silly idea. Age has little to do with technology knowledge. What controls one’s knowledge is a willingness to stay up-to-date and to continue to learn throughout her career.
Turning back to social media and whether businesses should hire recent college graduates to manage their online presence; to me it depends on the individual. Some young people are very mature, understand both business and technology, and can manage a presence as long as there is appropriate supervision. Others cannot. For a post that analyzes why you might not want a recent college graduate managing your social media presence, see 11 reasons why a 23 year old shouldn’t run your social media.
Since I work with law firms, I am less concerned with age than I am about making certain that any person posting on behalf of an attorney or law firm appreciates the unique ethical constraints under which attorneys must operate. Lawyers are responsible for managing the behavior of those who work for them. If the person fails to obey the rules, the attorney is the one who will be charged with the ethical violation. As a result, it is crucial that attorneys feel safe putting their hard won reputations in the hands of whoever is posting on their behalf.