Apr 28, 2023 | Advancing Your Career

OPINION: We See Increasing Evidence of Ageism

Q. Dear Zenagos,
I was laid off from my job a few months ago, and I’m in my late 50’s. I’m not getting as many opportunities from interviews as I used to. Am I experiencing ageism?

At Zenagos, we feel that corporations are consistently undervaluing over-50 employees today. We say we “feel” this because it is difficult to prove. Employees over 40 years old are considered a “protected class” by the U.S. EEOC, and there may be several local, state, and federal laws in place to protect them. As a result, employers who discriminate against older candidates almost certainly know that doing so is illegal, and they can be expected to hide their prejudice.

We Observe a Pattern
What we can say with certainty is that we at Zenagos keep hearing from people who are over the age of 50 and have been laid off multiple times. Considerable research documents that older candidates are less likely to be hired and promoted than equally qualified younger candidates (Avolio & Barrett,1987; Bendrick, Brown, & Wall, 1999; Harris et. al., 2018). For example, in the Avolio and Barrett study, participants gave equal ratings to two candidates with equal qualifications when their age was not designated, but gave higher overall interview ratings to the younger candidate when the ages were known. This research is consistent with the pattern that we are observing.

Whatever the reason for the decline in employer enthusiasm that our over-50 clients experience, they are tired of receiving the feedback that they are not wanted. They come to Zenagos because they want to start their own business, where they can make the decisions – and they can’t be laid off. They seek to take back control of their lives.

A “Third Act”
Some of these older entrepreneurs describe their venture into entrepreneurship as a “Third Act.” They recall their early careers as Act 1, where they built their skills and received early promotions. They view the prime of their careers – where they gained increasing responsibility (and often grew their families and their involvement in their communities) – as Act 2. So, they have a desire to start a new phase: Act 3. They see their Third Act as a time when they are no longer considered “high potential” employees, but they aren’t ready to retire. Instead of being considered an “old guard” – to be marginalized or counseled out – they want to create their own renaissance in the Third Act. They want to build a role in which their experience is valued and valuable.

The Zenagos Innovation Trek as a Bridge
We welcome these seasoned aspiring entrepreneurs to the Zenagos Innovation Trek program, where we (the Zenagos Experts) walk alongside them as they explore a business idea. In the Innovation Trek, they join an encouraging community, where they can validate the value of their skills and renew their confidence in themselves. They receive unlimited coaching feedback and practice marketing, networking, and selling skills in live Zoom sessions. At the end of the 12-week program, even if they decide not to start a business, they have enhanced the skills they need to sell themselves in a hostile-feeling job market.

Related Blog Posts
I recently retired. Am I too old to be starting a business?
I’m getting boring assignments. Am I a victim of “quiet firing”?
My company does nothing for my career development. What can I do?
My boss says I do terrific work; why don’t they promote me to VP?
I have been a VP for ten years. How can I get into the C-Suite?



Avolio, B. J., & Barrett, G. V. (1987). Effects of age stereotyping in a simulated interview. Psychology and Aging, 2(1), 56. https://doi.org/10.1037/0882-7974.2.1.56
Bendrick, M., Brown, L. E., & Wall, K. (1999). No foot in the door: An experimental study of employment discrimination against older workers. Journal of Aging & Social Policy, 10(4), 5-23. https://doi.org/10.1300/j031v10n04_02
Harris, K., Krygsman, S., Waschenko, J., & Laliberte Rudman, D. (2018). Ageism and the older worker: A scoping review. The Gerontologist, 58(2), e1-e14. Retrieved on April 26, 2023, from https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/58/2/e1/2894393?login=false


  1. Julie

    Although I have not experienced Ageism, I know people who have. For them, it turned out to be a good thing since it gave them “permission” to starting their own passion projects.

  2. Cindy Wheatley

    Thank you for posting on this important topic! It is unfortunate that companies do not value the wealth of experience and wisdom that older employees bring. As someone who was laid off at the age of 61, I realized that working for a company is no less risky than starting my own business. I probably would not have taken this leap had I not been pushed!


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