If you're a post-50 job-seeker, you know all too well that ageism can prove a real threat to your job search efforts. However if you hope to be successful, you can't allow your gray hair to stop you from presenting yourself with confidence. Rather, you can go a long way to conquering the age factor if you make the effort to identify the negative stereotypes that younger employers are likely to hold against you, plan ahead to address and overcome these roadblocks, and present yourself in an upbeat, can-do manner. In fact, if you work it right, you might even turn your age into your advantage!
The following are four ways mature applicants can actively address the age factor:
1. Focus your search. Do not waste valuable time and energy on organizations that will discriminate against you based solely on the fact that you're an older applicant. Who wants to face multiple rejections? Instead, spend your precious energy and effort concentrating on companies and industries where your experience will be valued.
There are a number of websites dedicated to helping mature jobseekers find work at age friendly organizations. Here are four to get you started:
- Workforce50.com (Boasts a long list of age friendly companies.)
- Encore.org (You'll find job listing resources aimed at Encore Careers for older applicants.)
- Simply Hired 50+ (Will send you job listings from age friendly companies.)
- AARP's Life Reimagined for Work (Participating companies must sign a pledge that they are actively hiring and are age friendly.)
2. Proactively address unspoken objections. We know that younger employers are likely to hold a variety of unflattering stereotypes they associate with age. However, unless your interviewer is woefully inept, these objections will remain unspoken -- rendering them silent but deadly. Therefore practice ways you can proactively bring these unfair stereotypes into the open, address them, and show how your age and experience can and will give you the edge over the younger competition.
- Let your contacts and interviewers know that you've kept up to date professionally and that technology is not a problem for you. In fact, share several examples of instances when coworkers turned to you for help with their technical and other work-related issues.
- Give examples of how you're a quick study and enjoy learning new things. Periodically refer to the fact that you like what you do, know you're good at it, and want to continue to grow your skill set. Share times when your boss was extra complimentary and when your contributions made a significant difference.
- Stress your flexibility and adaptability by highlighting your cross-functional skill sets. In today's organizations, you'll be expected to perform a wide variety of tasks, so demonstrate your ability to accept and even thrive on challenge and change.
- Proactively state that you enjoy working with and learning from people of all ages. You've reported to younger bosses many times in the past and it was never a problem.
3. Don't ignore your all-important soft skills. In addition to letting potential employers know of your technical and other job related skills, be certain to stress the ways mature workers hold a big advantage: your soft skills. Your soft skills (or personal strengths) have been honed over a lifetime of handling people, pressure, and responsibilities and are a major plus to any job-seeker over 50.
Soft skills are vitally important because they represent your added value as a unique individual. So whenever you're interacting -- whether it be networking at formal events, casual gatherings, volunteering, or during a job interview -- you'll want to cite a number of examples when your soft skills were valuable assets and saved the company time and/or money.
- You used your interpersonal skills to turn around a disgruntled customer, saving the organization thousands in lost revenue.
- You drew upon your leadership abilities to create a cohesive team, which led to a major project being completed ahead of time.
- You gave back by mentoring younger workers, thereby making them more valuable to the company.
- You used quick thinking to handle and resolve a crisis situation that could have cost the firm substantial amounts of both time and money.
4. Come from a position of strength. Above all, remember that a positive attitude will absolutely help your chances. Employers want to bring on workers who are confident in their skills, know that they have much to contribute and are pleasant to work with. Moreover, as a candidate of maturity and experience, you have the wherewithal to display these qualities in each of your job search interactions.
So anticipate success. Despite the much-publicized difficulties facing older applicants, with the right opportunity, a bit of luck, and the right attitude, you just might find yourself landing your next job before you know it. And, believe it or not, your gray hair might even prove to be an asset!
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 February 2013, 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!
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