Are you over 50 and feeling frustrated by the lack of opportunities in the job market? Do you think you're being overlooked simply because of your age? Are you tired of seeing the jobs go to younger, less experienced applicants? If so... read on!
There is little doubt that age bias is out there. In fact, many younger employers hold three main objections to hiring mature workers:
- They believe you lack energy and your commitment to your work has waned over the years.
- They think you will have trouble reporting to a younger boss.
- They take for granted that you probably lack the technical skills for the job.
Despite these disconcerting assumptions, there are doable, practical ways you can overcome the stereotypes that may be holding you back. Here are 3 things you can do to counteract age bias:
1. Mind your nonverbal messages
Your goal is to project an aura of confidence, energy, and enthusiasm for the position as well as the strengths and skills you will bring to an organization. So remember to stand tall, give a firm handshake, look your interviewer in the eye, open up your body language, and smile. Exuding these types of confident, energetic nonverbal cues will go a long way to banishing any beliefs that you're tired, slow, have health problems, or are just going through the motions until retirement. For more information on this, check out my previous post: 5 Surefire Ways to Make a Positive First Impression.
2. Proactively address the age difference
As age discrimination is unlawful, savvy interviewers are trained to avoid any reference to an applicant's maturity. This elephant in the room, therefore, needs to be addressed by you. In many cases, you have little to lose by proactively bringing up the topic. The reason? Younger interviewers may quickly decide that you are unfit for the position due to your age alone. Therefore, if you get the sense that your age will be an issue, consider saying something like: "I can see there is an age difference here and I want to assure you that this has never been a problem for me. I've reported to younger bosses many times over my career. In fact, I learn from people of all ages and enjoy working in an age-diverse environment."
3. Proudly reference your technical skills
Take a proactive approach to overcome the widely held stereotype that you lack the technical skills for the job. Make a point of highlighting your technical expertise and substantiate your ability with examples of you performing your work at its best. Share times when coworkers have turned to you for advice, where your technical skills have made a difference and when you've received compliments from your boss. Be certain to stress how your skills resulted in improved performance, saved time and/or money, and made a positive impact on your organization's bottom line.
Also, make sure to add a special section to your resume. Place this under your formal education and call it Ongoing Professional Development. Using this particular phrase will draw positive attention because "ongoing" suggests a desire for lifelong learning--something employers like--and "professional development" says it all. Then cite several classes and/or any online, technical training you've taken as well as certificates you've received.
Most of all... come from a position of strength. As an older job-seeker, you will need to be aware of the hidden age-related stereotypes and take the necessary measures to overcome them. So do not be shy about bringing up the many positive attributes that distinguish you as an applicant of experience and maturity. Speak to your skills, substantiate them with winning examples, present yourself with confidence, and anticipate success!
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!