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This is a question for all ages: do you think there's a certain amount of "age discrimination" in the audio industry?

For the young? For the old?

I ask because, as a designer/editor/mixer on the younger end of the spectrum, I often find myself hesitant to discuss how long I've been in the field or how old I am to clients who are older than me. I believe I have the skills to deliver a great end-product, but worry that my "youth" can cause a certain amount of skepticism/doubt while in process.

Granted, my skills and experiences are still developing/expanding every day, but... shouldn't they ALWAYS be?

Anyone else care to share their thoughts on dealing with this at a client or employer level?

16

I've had working experiences with younger-aged people that have been both positive and negative; occasionally folks will come into a situation with unrealistic expectations or ego, based on their lack of experience. Other times you may be surprised by a wealth of maturity, technical prowess or team building skills that far exceed the years that person may have experienced. I've also had run-ins with people who, although they have decades of work under their belts, show little maturity and/or lack of technical knowledge or desire to learn new things.

Either way, it's important to give everybody who shows a genuine interest in the craft a shot. Even if their experiences are limited, often they will be fast learners and surprise you by how fast they catch up to their peers. If nobody had taken a risk on me in my early years, I would have never been given an opportunity to grow.

  • 1
    Well put. Big +1 – Utopia Sep 22 '10 at 20:08
  • Agreed - thankfully I've had someone take a chance on me - has provided a tremendous amount of great experience in a very short amount of time... which I guess is why this question has surfaced in my mind! – Joel Raabe Sep 24 '10 at 17:56
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We are all the sum of our experiences & eg mixing a feature film requires such a huge range of skill & experience that it is usually readily apparent how much experience someone has by their behaviour, creative ability etc more than age. Learning to deliver a great end product is only a part of the role, it takes great maturity and people skills to manage a room full of very experienced film makers. This is not necessarily dependent on age, but it does tend to be dependent on experience...

  • Very true, way more to the process than just the technical and even creative side. How often we become therapists, mediators, ego-managers, etc... – Joel Raabe Sep 24 '10 at 17:55
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Great thread, I bet you are not the only one to have those apprehensions Joel.

Just as an observation, if you are going to be working under a supervisor, sometimes they find younger talent to be an asset (you may have to remind them in an interview), because they aren't set in a certain way of doing things, and can easily to conform to the way the supervisor likes to work.

I also agree with what has already been said about other things being vastly more important than your age. If someone turns down a talented sound guy with good credits and a great work ethic simply on the grounds of his/her age, that is foolish.

And as a side note to anyone, don't do good work for less money than you deserve because you think undercutting on pay is the only to get around your age.

3

While there may be a certain amount of ageism in the industry, any that I've experienced has been mostly based in fear. And it's certainly not exclusive to the audio industry.

When hiring potential editors one ex-boss put it this way: "Hiring young is an investment in the future. Hiring old is an investment in the past."

Basically what he was saying is with younger, less experienced professionals (theoretically), you're allowing for the opportunity to assist in molding and developing the talent and skills of the employee. You're banking on the thought that they will become exactly the employee that you want and need. But, there's the potential of offsetting costs at hand, i.e. more down time while troubleshooting, lack of client skills, lack of contacts.

While with older, more experienced professionals (theoretically), you're paying them for the wisdom that they have already developed over their years in the field. They may come in with a client base, have seen (and tackled) most problems, and have built up a reputation in the industry. All are immediately valuable to any company. But, you also run the risk of ego, limited knowledge of new tech, and fear of the young kid who's eying their job. So it's a matter of priorities for the company, hiring manager, and the team that you'll be working with.

2

Demo reels and products speak louder than age and years of experience, IMHO.

And solely in my opinion, the younger you are (i.e. the "more years you don't have of experience") the more years you're going to have to grow and learn and get better and all that good stuff.

If you're young and talented (which your posts show signs of YES) then you have nothing to worry about and I think employers will see past the "lack of experience" if you're young, enthusiastic and have a good work ethic.

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Ideally, age shouldn't come into the equation when jobs/gigs are involved. There are laws against that sort of thing. ;)

Of course, practically, that doesn't always work out the way it's supposed to. You can avoid conversations about you're age, but you're not going to be able to get around the topic of your experience. That is one of several central topics to any job interview (be it permanent, contract, or one shot). You need to be able to sell yourself. Have confidence in your abilities and talk those up. Obviously though. don't oversell yourself.

Of course, skill and talent aren't the only keys to success in this industry. There are a lot more people than jobs out there, and there's a lot of luck involved. People and communication skills are key as well. Network like crazy and keep in touch with people you've worked with in the past. If nothing else, they can act as references for potential clients.

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I've never had an issue with it. Though I sound very young in my voice which I think sometimes makes the client second guess the demo and my age. But as noted previously by a prior poster, how well you do your job is what matters in the end.

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I think it's a fairly natural selection with a kind of a barrier to entry to it. The more jobs one works on, the more people they (likely) know, the higher the chance of getting new projects, likely coming from those same people or someone they know. Factors like people's politics may affect this but I wouldn't attribute much to discrimination.

If there field is not entirely level, then the older, more experienced professionals, should feel at an advantage, and not only on merit, but also due to the way age gives ability to trace cultural references and interpret things in context often different from the immediate, which is a common requirement, no?

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