In the words of Mark Twain, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”.
Unfortunately, it does matter to many employers.
Ageism might be illegal but it doesn’t mean that as an older worker you aren’t going to be faced with age discrimination during a job search. There are just some companies that won’t hire older workers no matter what.
How to tell if you’re a victim of age bias
If you’re 50+ and have awesome credentials but you’re getting little to no response to your résumé or the overall feedback is that you’re “overqualified”, then you could be the victim of ageism. While you can’t change your age or eliminate age discrimination entirely, there are things you can do to address common stereotypes about older workers in order to increase your job search success rate.
Common stereotypes about older workers (and how to deal with them)
#1: Older workers lack energy
What the employer is thinking: Older workers don’t possess the mental and physical fortitude to handle a busy workload. They don’t have the enthusiasm, motivation, or drive to get things done. The aren’t “go-getters”. They need to take a nap.
How to bust this belief: Think about the kinds of “off the couch” personal and professional activities you have engaged in that demonstrate physical and mental stamina. Where can you show that you are busy, engaged, alert, and accomplished?
- What kind of volunteering have you done?
- Do you run marathons?
- Did you scale a mountain during a team building retreat?
- What kind of group events did you organize?
- What kind of workshops, courses, or training are you taking?
#2: Older workers resist change
This is an extension of the first belief, meaning there is little energy or desire to change.
What the employer is thinking: The older worker can’t or won’t do things differently. They stick to what they know best. They don’t respond well to disruption or change. They’re stuck.
How to bust this belief: Think over your career, education, and personal activities. Where did you show the ability to be flexible, adaptable, and resilient to change? Focus on things that are recent and most relevant to your job search.
- Where did you overcome the challenges of handling sudden disruption or change?
- Where did you transition seamlessly into different job functions or industries?
- Where did you challenge the status quo and champion effective change?
- Where did you willingly learn new things or take new approaches?
#3: Older workers cost too much
What the employer is thinking: Older workers won’t be flexible with the compensation. The more experience they have, the more money they want. If they get the job, they’ll quit for more money. They feel they “deserve” more.
How to bust this belief: You’ll probably have to broach the awkward money topic to eliminate this stereotype. While you want to be paid a fair wage, you need to make yourself look like a “good deal”. Money talks. You want to convey the message that:
- Your primary goal is to contribute to an organization.
- The opportunity is the number one consideration.
- You have a lot of productive years left in you.
- Money is not the main motivator. (Maybe your house is paid off or your kids finished university.)
#4: Older workers are not technology savvy
What the employer is thinking: Older workers live in the dark ages. They don’t do social media. Technology scares them. They would rather get root canal surgery than learn a new technical skill. They still use landlines and rolodexes.
How to bust this belief: Get up to speed with all of the required technology skills for your current and/or targeted position. In addition to taking courses and workshops, there are other ways you can show that you are comfortable with technology.
- When a potential employer wants to do a Zoom or Skype video call, don’t request a phone call. That will make you look like a technophobe. Familiarize yourself with a few platforms and test them out.
- Get active on Linkedin and other social media that would be most relevant to your job search. Share content, comment on posts, publish articles, start your own blog and post links to it, contribute to groups, network on Linkedin.
- If you’re targeting an industry where it would make sense to have a personal website and display samples of your work, then set that up.
#5: Older workers can’t take orders from younger bosses
What the employer is thinking: Older workers think they know everything. They’re arrogant and egotistical. They think they know everything. They’ll be too difficult to manage and won’t listen. They think they know everything.
How to bust this belief: The Hiring Manager interviewing you could be the same age as your child. Your best strategy is to embrace this eventuality and maintain a positive attitude. Failure to do so could make for an awkward meeting on both sides. Your job is to make the other person as comfortable as possible to eliminate any preconceived notions they might have about an older worker. They key thing here is to not remind them of your age or prove how much more you know then they do (even though you do, but that’s not the point). 🙂
- Don’t keep emphasizing how many years experience you have.
- Don’t make any reference to the fact that they are as young as your kids.
- Talk about situations where you were coachable and willing to learn, especially if it was from people who held more junior positions than you.
What you need to focus on
Treat the job search as a sales process. Present yourself as the solution to the employers’ pain points (problems). Stick to the facts by highlighting your key relevant and measurable competencies, contributions, and accomplishments. You will gain more confidence when you are able to effectively articulate (and believe) what your value is.
Being “old” (it’s relative) has its advantages!
- You are a valuable resource with years of knowledge, skills, and experience to draw from.
- You likely won’t need to be trained and can produce from day one.
- You don’t have the same issues that younger workers might have such as childcare.
The reality is, there are companies who will hire older workers. Your goal is to appeal to those companies who appreciate what your years’ of experience can bring to the table.
It all starts with your résumé…..
Before you launch any job search, you need to ensure that your résumé, cover letter, and Linkedin profile are properly optimized so that you can attract your desired opportunities and generate interviews.
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