Ageism is a reality of today’s job search for mature professionals.
Discrimination in hiring based on age is illegal, but let’s face it, it’s happening out there, so it is an issue that mature job seekers must be aware of and learn how to strategize against.
As the Great Resignation marches on, the age of job seekers continues to rise. Being conscious of the negative assumptions frequently made about older workers is critical to developing a proactive approach and ensuring job search success. Often the actions taken based on these assumptions are invisible which can make them hard to identify and combat.
Negative assumptions made about older workers
Some assumptions employers make that cause them to be resistant to hiring mature, qualified, experienced, hardworking people:
- Technical skills are not up to date.
- Unaware of or reluctance to embrace industry trends.
- Resistance or inability to learn new technology or workplace concepts.
- Unwilling to take direction from someone young enough to be their child – or grandchild.
- Traditional work ethic may intimidate others that may view work/life balance differently based on their generational perspective and experience.
- Desire for “too much money” and belief that a younger worker would be willing to do the job for half the salary.
Of course, we know these assumptions to be untrue.
Putting the focus on value versus age
Mature professionals often unwittingly place attention on their age instead of the value that the accumulation of their experience creates for an employer.
What mature job seekers can do to break down these negative assumptions, position themselves as the candidate of choice, and place the focus where it belongs – on the value they add to the workplace:
- Limit the information on your resume and LinkedIn profile to the last 12-15 years. It is unlikely the experience you had beyond that is relevant in today’s quickly changing employment market and technology-accelerated world.
- Remove the year you graduated from college as well as outdated certifications, training, and technology.
- Ditch the AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo email addresses for professional communications and use a Gmail account instead. I always say Gmail takes five years off your age and 10 pounds off your hips!
- Identify any technology soft spots as they relate to your job targets and proactively improve them to remove any concern and boost your confidence. Make sure to include your updated skills in your resume and LinkedIn profile.
- Begin using the term “years of success” in “x” industry versus “years of experience” with a focus on your achievements instead of the length of time you held a position.
- Keep yourself mentally and physically fit. Projecting health and vitality can go a long way to influence a hiring manager that you are up to the tasks required to do the job. This is particularly true if the job you are targeting requires a significant amount of physical work. It also boosts your self-confidence.
- Include any experience mentoring others and describe how the direction you provided and the advice you shared positively influenced the trajectory of their careers.
- Consider updating your headshot for your LinkedIn profile, specifically, one that is more relaxed than the traditional, stodgy headshot. What I’m talking about is personal branding – define yours to bring out the best in you and showcase that you are more than your job; you are the complete package.
- Do research and target companies that value the contributions of mature workers. These companies are out there and will welcome what you have to offer. Never underestimate the impact of cultural fit as a driver of job satisfaction.
While you may never know if you were not selected for a position because of ageism, you should always put the best version of yourself forward to open the door to the opportunities that you seek and keep focused on organizations that appreciate the value you bring to the workplace.
Remember that a successful job search at any stage of your career begins with mining your accomplishments, knowing what you are worth, and strengthening your negotiation skills to receive the salary you deserve and obtain the benefits important to you.
Now go show ‘em what you’ve got!