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Tuesday, February 20, 2007
An Equal-Opportunity, Self-Imposed Glass Ceiling
Everyone has heard of the term “glass ceiling” originally coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe the hiring/promotion discrimination against women in corporate America. With the notoriety of the term, companies started paying more attention to their promotion and hiring practices where women and minorities were concerned. While most would agree that the glass ceiling still exists to some extent, things have improved.

To be honest, I haven’t thought of this issue in some time because I’m an entrepreneur and believe that there is no ceiling; how far up I go depends solely on me. Not everyone is an entrepreneur, though, so I occasionally get reports from clients that they feel their _________ (age, gender, race – you fill in the blank) is causing them to hit a glass ceiling or at least making the next step on the career ladder almost impossible.

The most common worry we see as far as hiring discrimination is the fear of age discrimination. As the Boomers start to near retirement age, they are often concerned that they will be seen as people looking for a “smooth landing place” for a job that will ease them into retirement or that employers won’t hire them because they are above a certain age. For the most part, this is a myth. Employers are seeking experience, something the Baby Boomer generation has in abundance.

A dynamic, do-it-our-way generation to begin with, the Baby Boomers are simply looking for more challenge. Many have imposed their own glass ceiling. They have accomplished what they want and now they are seeking something “fun” to do or something that will contribute to society. Often that means a lateral career move or even a step backward. Some are changing career fields entirely in order to pursue something other than money, prestige and standing while they still have the drive and energy to do so.

Another self-imposed glass ceiling I’ve seen on a couple of occasions lately is education related. Many otherwise highly qualified job seekers feel they get passed over in hiring or promotion due to a lack of a certain degree or educational level. I am the first one to encourage education but I believe there is a large gap between education and knowledge. Smart employers hire knowledge and promote wisdom while short-sighted employers predicate all hiring on having a certain degree for executive level jobs. Knowledge is always more important than education.

Are you imposing a glass ceiling on your career by not going after a secondary degree? In certain industries, yes. Finance and banking tend to promote only if that MBA has been achieved. That doesn’t hold true so much in other industries. I talked to a job seeker last week who was the manager of a mine in South America (American expatriate). He had spent 25 years in mining and had worked his way up to the top job. Now he was concerned that because he never attained his undergraduate degree, he would not have a chance to advance further in his industry. I started thinking “What school teaches what he now knows after 25 years working in nearly every position in mining? There is no such school.” I didn’t see how a degree would make any difference in his career. That’s the difference between knowledge and education.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that only 20% of college graduates actually work in the field of their major after graduation. What does that tell us about the disconnect between education and knowledge?

November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 /


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