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‘Old white guys’: Stay focused on what you have to offer

Dear J.T. & Dale: I’m a white male in my fifties, and I am convinced I am being discriminated against. I feel like every time I go on an interview, they already don’t want me. I’m so angry inside, because I don’t understand why I have to pay the consequences of some men who made poor choices before me. What can I do to change their minds and get hired? – Mark

J.T.: You are not alone: There are a lot of men out there feeling like this. Unfortunately, I think you also know that saying something about it won’t work in your favor. One thing you can do is recognize the obvious and explain to them that the changing tides in the workplace have been a humbling experience for you and that you now understand what marginalized talent has experienced in the past. I would take this experience as a powerful opportunity to show humility and emotional intelligence. Explain why getting this job would mean the world to you and how it has made you far more sensitive to the difficult choices that employers need to make and why diversity is important.

DALE: Being an OWG (old white guy) myself, this is a difficult and treacherous subject. I’ve been supporting gender and racial equality my whole career. Indeed, when I was co-owner of a market research company, it was majority female and at one point I was the only one who wasn’t female or from a minority group. So, back then, I felt like I was part of the solution. But it is still a problem. While it can feel like discriminating against white males is the only gender/racial discrimination that is actively encouraged, sometimes it’s just the math of leveling the playing field. Say you’re starting a new team of five employees and your company is promoting diversity. You’ll want to add two or three women, and then you’ll want to represent two or three people of color, and depending on the gender of the minority hires, you could run out of slots before you get to white males. So, that’s what it feels like you’re up against. J.T. is right, you can’t bring it up. And to hold it simmering in your brain is going to give off hostile or self-pitying vibes. Instead, you need to do what successful women and minorities have done for generations: You (1) make sure you have specific skills where employees are in short supply, (2) direct your efforts away from large organizations (where you’ll run up against things like “diversity audits”) and seek work with smaller companies, or (3) start a business. You have to stop distracting yourself with mental debates on fairness and focus on cleverness.

Dear J.T. & Dale: I have agreed to take a summer internship. However, I just got interviewed for a full-time job that would start as soon as I graduate. Should I tell the people with the internship now that I might not be joining them even though I don’t have a job yet? – Taylor

J.T.: Absolutely not! There’s no guarantee you’ll get this job and the moment you tell them that you are searching for a full-time job, they will rescind the internship offer. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t look for a full-time job – you should. If you get one, then you’ll have to decide whether or not it makes sense to back out of the internship. Until you actually have a full-time job offer, you should not be showing your hand.

DALE: I agree, but with a sigh. Your question suggests you’re a person worried about being honest and open, and that’s to your credit. I’m sorry we have to tell you that the working world doesn’t share your high standards. Instead of being impressed that you’re being candid with them and holding the job open for you, they’ll just move on to someone else. That’s the kind of job market you’re entering and it’s important to realize the rules of a rough game. Sigh.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2021 by King Features Syndicate Inc.