(Age) Discrimination isn’t something new.
It has been around in many forms for many centuries.
Age discrimination might not reach the front pages of the news on a regular basis.
That, however, doesn’t mean that it isn’t real.
Discrimination based on age exists.
There is evidence that age-based discrimination is a harsh reality.
In the Netherlands, where we live, over 50s have a difficult job to find work.
Even though the situation on the job market has slowly shown some improvement.
Unfortunately, our country isn’t unique in this sense.
Many Companies Tend To Discriminate On Age.
There’s quite nothing like the experience of hearing the word “overqualified” applied to you a couple of times.
It tells you that you’ve finally joined a particular segment of the workforce – one where every path leads to age bias.
Among people who are middle-aged and older, unemployment happens to be higher today than it’s ever been in 30 years.
Hiring managers today keep getting these multipage resumes from hopeful applicants in their ’40s and ’50s who have plenty of experience on IBM mainframes and the like.
And these HR managers often turn them down without any second thoughts.
What do you do when the whole work environment tends to ageism – when it’s not just any one company?
What you need to do is to try to turn all of that experience into something that looks like a great bargain to the hiring manager and not something that’s annoying and irrelevant.
Perhaps one reason so many older workers have trouble finding jobs (and on average they are on the hunt for 35 weeks straight before they land something) is that they look at the biggest companies in the country first.
The problem there is that the major companies all have very inflexible job tracks and career paths.
You’re supposed to get in there on the ground floor and make your way up through the ranks.
They believe they have a corporate culture and they don’t want anyone from the outside to come in and upset their structure.
It’s often these major corporations that tend to age n – they call you inflexible just because you happen to be 50.
What you need to do is to call them stubborn for having a rigid corporate structure; you need to head for a younger company yourself.
There are certain kinds of organizations that love the experience and the ability that an older worker brings.
Try schools, government offices, and nonprofits.
They love the discipline, the all-round knowledge, that an experienced corporate worker can bring to their organization.
The American Association of Retired Persons or the AARP and SimplyHired allow you to search for companies that count older Americans among their customer base and are interested in employing older workers to help focus their business better.
It will not help you get an interview or a job offer when you know about Age Discrimination, and when you believe you will be a target.
And it might not be worth the effort.
Ways To Overcome Age Bias
Fortunately, there are indications that ageism in recruiting is sinking to a lower level slowly.
Even so, there are still several things you can do to overcome age discrimination.
Or at least to minimize the likelihood you will be subjected to it while seeking work.
Most recruiters, consultants, employers, and successful age 50+ job seekers will agree on the following steps:
1. Dismiss Any Age Bias Thoughts You Might Have
Try to think age-neutral by turning off that mental age discrimination inner voice to the “off” position.
Before any real questioning starts, you should try to focus on the interviewer and build a connection.
Don’t fall for the “reverse age Discrimination” trap where you believe a young person can’t possibly understand you.
Get them onboard with your enthusiasm.
Convince the company that your age is an asset, not a liability.
Many baby boomers will acknowledge that their age is not an issue at work.
Keep that in mind!
2. Practice Interviewing Before You Do It For Real
Take a job interview serious.
It might be a skill you haven’t used for a long time.
Your recruiter may be someone half your age.
Practice should include answering and asking questions simply and directly.
Have an answer ready for possible awkward questions such as “Do you believe you are overqualified for this job?” or “How long do you plan to work?”
Don’t get offended or defensive.
Give direct and honest answers.
Try to move the recruiter to discuss your qualifications and “fit” for the job.
3. Highlight the experience you have.
Experience and longevity provide a wealth of experience younger workers can’t match.
Experience has thought you what works, and how.
You know by know what doesn’t work, and you understand why.
Your experience will help your employer avoid costly mistakes.
So as a bonus, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
4. Emphasize your maturity and wisdom.
Emphasize your hindsight, your learning from mistakes, your self-awareness, and the value you can add thanks to your rich background.
As an example, you might be able to tell how you used your life experience to resolve a volatile workplace relationship.
Your loyalty to employers suggests that you aim for a long-term, productive relationship rather than seeing the job as a step to another one.
Mature starters need minimal workplace supervision and often boast a career’s worth of experience and contacts.
Your experience and a quick study will cut the time it takes for you to get up to speed in your new role.
Mature starters are often more reliable and stay with their future employer for more years than younger candidates.
Point out that because you are engaged and loyal, your productivity is likely also to excel.
5. Highlight And Sharpen your up-to-date skills.
Make certain that you keep up with the latest knowledge and expertise that are relevant to your field.
Disprove the unfair notion that you, as an older worker, are not trainable, by getting some up to date training.
It’s about you showing trainability and eagerness to learn and keep up to speed in your field.
Continue to attend meetings of professional organizations.
Stay current on your field by reading trade publications and relevant news/blogs.
You can also update existing skills and learn new ones.
If you’re considering a career change, this might even be necessary.
Put your computer and other skills on your resume.
Preferably at the top.
Talk about yourself as a person who is intrinsically motivated to learn and grow.
Focus on the capabilities acquired during your work life.
6. Draw attention to your engagement.
Younger workers have the stereotyped reputation for being entitled and self-absorbed.
In both your cover letter and interview, you can use that stereotype.
Share a story of how you learned that the best way to succeed is to consistently do your best work.
That you can only get things done by being involved with the tasks and projects at hand.
You go above and beyond what people expect of you.
Show your enthusiasm, energy, and positive attitude.
Older candidates need to position themselves as confident, enthusiastic, and capable!
Get this message across.
You are excited by the opportunity, and you have a valuable set of attributes and skills to offer the organization.
7. Stay in good shape physically and mentally.
To get an energetic and positive outlook, you need to exercise, eat sensibly and develop healthy habits.
To prospective employers, you will look good when you feel good.
Do as much as you can to stay mentally sharp.
For example by reading and solving crossword puzzles, learning a language or what have you.
Before interviews get plenty of rest and do some exercise.
Be sure to wear something contemporary and fresh for at your interview.
Looking sharp and professional is still important.
8. Develop Your Software Skills
A fundamental working knowledge of software skills is often a prerequisite
Many companies use, for instance, Microsoft Office applications like Word (word processing), Outlook (a basis for most corporate email systems, Excel (spreadsheets), and PowerPoint (for presentations).
Know how to do a thorough internet research on Google or similar sites.
Be sure to have a Computer, Cell Phone, iPhone or PDA Device because employers will expect to communicate with you through these devices.
Showing your technologic “savviness’ is a good thing.
9. Avoid “Age” References when possible.
Present only the most recent 10 to 15 years of employment.
Summarize prior work without dates or durations in a single paragraph.
10. Get on board with social media.
Use Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to how you are up to date and able to learn new tools.
You can also use social media sites to network and show your expertise.
Show employers that you are “wired” into the internet.
A useful tool is “Linkedin.com.”
Sign up and invite your hiring manager prospects to join your network.
Search for your name such search engines such as Google.
Make sure your search results are the best they can be from a hiring manager’s perspective.
If you find information online that is unfavorable, try to get it deleted.
11. Work for yourself become an entrepreneur.
Many baby boomers start businesses.
You could even try to market yourself as a consultant or contractor at your previous employer.
The current crop of mature workers isn’t like older employees in the past.
If you’re one of them, you can remain as productive as you want to be.
You have every reason to believe you can rise above age discrimination.
In your work life, these later years can be the perfect time to change careers.
Try something new or follow that long-buried passion.
Happy job hunting!