As a post-50 job-seeker, you know all too well that ageism presents some major barriers to your success. Younger hiring managers are far too prone to believing unfortunate stereotypes about your skill sets, fit within the organization and attitude. Yet, by recognizing the negative preconceptions you are likely to face and preparing ways to address these obstacles, you can shift their focus to highlight your strengths. Below are three of your biggest roadblocks and some of the best ways to handle them.
Roadblock #1: Technology
Negative preconception: Your technical skills are deficient and outdated.
What you can do: This is the #1 stereotype held against applicants of a certain age. Unless you take the steps to address and resolve this belief, you will be eliminated on the spot.
- First, you have to be very clear that your skills are up-to-date and valued in today's marketplace. There is no way around this. You must have the technical skills for the job. For a listing of websites that offer free and low-fee training, check out my recent Huff/Post 50 article entitled, "Why Right Now May Be The Best Time Of The Year To Find A Job."
Roadblock #2: You Won't Fit In With The Group
Negative preconception: Hiring you will prove a cultural and personality mismatch. As an older applicant, you are likely to be stuck in your ways and unable to deal with change in a fast-paced environment. Furthermore, you will refuse to take direction--especially from someone younger.
What you can do: Make it very clear that you have reported to younger bosses many times in the past. It has never been a problem nor have you experienced difficulties dealing with a rapidly changing workplace.
- Proactively state that you enjoy working with and learning from people of all ages. You are invigorated by diverse, fast-paced environments and thrive on variety, challenge and change. Prepare examples of times when you came up with innovative solutions and/or resolved unexpected problems. Share instances when your boss was especially complimentary and you were singled out for your contributions.
Roadblock #3: You Are Too Expensive
Negative preconception: Your salary requirements far exceed what they are willing to pay.
What you can do: This roadblock is particularly tricky. You don't want to undersell yourself and leave money on the table. On the other hand, you do not want to price yourself out of the market so that you are eliminated before you have had the chance to demonstrate your added value.
- Your first step is to arm yourself with information. Websites such as Salary.com and Glassdoor.com are good places to start. Using these sites as well as other resources (recruiters, informational interviews, job boards, etc.), determine the going salary range for someone with your skills and background. Then take a good hard look at your income requirements and see how flexible you can be. Remember that many organizations favor "young and cheap" over "mature and experienced," so recognize that this is a real issue that may hold you back.
Being an older job-seeker isn't easy. But, by recognizing the barriers you face and spending time on some upfront planning, you will be well prepared to overcome any roadblocks you may encounter. Most of all, come from a position of strength. Age and experience hold great advantages, so be sure to stress these whenever possible. Your confidence, competitive skill set and winning attitude will go a long way to help you conquer the ageism factor and turn you into a candidate who is strong, competent and awfully hard to beat!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!