Ageism is an on-going problem in advertising. As previously reported by Digiday, it can be difficult for agency employees to land a new gig once they pass the age of 40. For some, having the breadth and depth of experience on a resume after two plus decades in the business can actually hinder their chances of getting hired in an industry perhaps overly, and wrongly, focused on youth.
Finding a way to combat the ad industry’s ageism problem rather than continue to talk about it led 100 Roses From Concrete founder Keni Thacker and Lisa Heinsdale, a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, to recently develop a mentorship program for people over 40 in advertising.
This past January, 100 Roses from Concrete, a non-profit network, paired seven 40-plus mentees (ages ranged from 40 to 50) with mentors, both a junior and senior mentor, at agencies and brands including Deutsch, Swift, State Farm, FCB Health, Digitas Health, RPA, Ogilvy, VMLY&R and Duncan Channon with the goal of helping them get hired following the 12 week virtual program.
“From January 4th to March 29th, they were all just totally different people,” said Thacker, adding that the program seemed to help boost the mentees’ confidence. “One of the fellows we were actually able to get hired. They started at an agency two weeks ago; the connection they got through the program. The rest of them are either interviewing or finishing up their portfolio books. Their confidence levels literally went from like zero to a hundred in 12 weeks.”
Over the course of the program, the seven mentees worked with a junior mentor and a senior or executive mentor to get two different perspectives and advice to help them, whether they were looking to enter advertising or re-enter the business, explained Thacker. Aside from weekly check-ins with mentors, mentees also had weekly check-ins with Thacker and Heinsdale. While 100 Roses from Concrete traditionally focuses on professionals of color, this program was open to various people over 40 in need of mentorship.
Following the program, mentees are now interviewing at agencies, working on creative certifications as well as interviewing for internships and residences to help boost their portfolios and make their way into or back into advertising. At the same time, the mentees will also participate in executive coaching sessions funded by 100 Roses from Concrete this summer to continue to work with them and help get them hired. The program helped mentees up-skill how to present themselves in today’s ad world as well as how to negotiate and navigate new roles.
Thacker declined to reveal the identity of the mentee who was hired as he didn’t want to single out or spotlight someone’s age as they are looking to get hired. In surveys following the program, mentees noted that they had a “renewed confidence.”
“Mentoring from the youth to the more aged point of view on the world is so important,” said ad industry talent recruiter Christie Cordes when asked for her perspective mentorship. “It’s an opportunity to bring fun back into the creative workplace and strengthen a trust-based environment too. Creative companies need to prioritize experimentation in a learning culture.”
Thacker plans to run another mentorship session for people over 40 next spring. He believes that the ad industry needs to seriously rethink their ageist nature when it comes to hiring.
“They need to know that the shiny quarter — and I call the shiny quarter people 25 and younger — are not always the answer when it comes to talent,” said Thacker. “People that are probably two quarters, 50, or even more, they’re just as much as the answer as shiny quarters. Sometimes they shine even brighter because of life experience.”
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