Background info: I work in the Financial Industry, for an American company that has a large presence in London; My team is global, however, we're only 4 people in London and the rest of the team is in US, so the decisions are make in US and most of the time, the London team is not even consulted. I am looking for other opportunities in the company that are more aligned with what I am interested in doing in the future, and I made my intentions known to both my manager and senior colleagues I work with, as they all asked during catch-ups and review meetings.
Situation: A colleague I work closely with, more senior than me, asked me to work on something extra for a portfolio manager, mentioning that she will be looking for a Research Analyst soon, to help her with the industry coverage. She didn't say anything in particular, but reading between the lines, I understood I could have a chance at the job if I did well on that assignment. I finished the assignment, talked to the portfolio manager, who was very happy with what I did and thanked me multiple times. Couple of days later I had a catch up with my colleague (who mentioned the opportunity to me in the first place) and I asked her about the research role and what advice she has for me. Her response was: "Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned this to you because the company generally looks for young graduates for these roles, and you are too old to be considered." I am 27 and I have 4 years of work experience- this is my first job after graduate school. I spent the last couple of days thinking about what she told me and I wonder if she said that because she was not happy with what I did and my performance on that assignment.
Question: How can I check if this is true or not, and how should I approach these situations in the future? Should I apply for this opportunity even if the progression path is blocked and this is a known fact in the company?
Some further details: This is considered to be a very relation focused company, where everybody talks about anybody and you have better chances to progress if you're friends with the right people than if you're doing your job well. Although my colleague is more senior than me, she is new to the project and she doesn't have the technical expertise to provide feedback on my work. Her feedback is normally centered on communication and presentation skills only.