Careers Agony Aunt: Am I being considered too old?

Helen BrownI’m a graphic designer with 12 years’ experience. I have recently had a few interviews and the feedback is always the same: “Lovely person, presented her portfolio well, just not quite right…” I am concerned that at 42 I am being considered too old to be in the ‘creative industries’ – particularly if my recruiter is younger than me. Legally I can’t be disqualified against on age – but how can I try to overcome this?

Kind regards,

Hello KW,

Correct, legally you cannot be disqualified because of your age – maybe this is the reason, maybe not but either way there are some practical actions you can take to combat this perception. Mature employees bring with them past experience and a level of gravitas that is of great value to businesses. Fact. However we are in an industry that for reasons that never made sense to me, prefer a younger workforce. The idea behind this seems to be that fresh ideas come from fresh minds. Those a few years down the line have been tarnished by life and view the world through a pessimists ocular orbit. In an industry built on optimism, this is seen as a death knell for brands – even brands with products and services aimed at the older consumer.

So what to do? If you are contacting agencies in a recruitment company, ask them for more directional feedback so you can learn from and make appropriate changes and likewise, if you are approaching creative agencies directly ask them to be brutal in their feedback but make it clear you’re not about to take them to the cleaners if you don’t like what you are told! In addition, here are three suggestions that I hope may help 1) Accept this sorry state of affairs and leave the industry – of course if you do you’ve already become that pessimist. 2) Take a long look at how you present yourself to prospective employers, do you project a creative, optimistic persona and does your portfolio of work reflect multi-channel, relevant campaigns for the clients the agencies work with? 3) If you can’t beat them join them; approach creative agencies that specialise in delivering campaigns for the grey market.


My name is Helen Brown and I’m your Careers Agony Aunt for Brand Republic.  I’m also the Chief Talent Officer for Mediacom.  Maybe you’re frustrated about losing that promotion or not sure whether to accept a tempting job offer?  You might be suffering from a lack of development or struggling with management. Whatever the problem, email here and I’ll do my best to help.

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