In today’s modern world, people are living longer, postponing retirement, and returning to the workforce after retirement. I’m sure you’ve noticed that the current crop of mature workers is different from older workers of years ago.
Although these workers are better educated, healthier, and driven to keep contributing, they are by no means immune to age discrimination. In fact, in a survey of older workers conducted by AARP, 12 percent say they have been passed over for a promotion because of their age. Eight percent reported being laid off or fired because of age discrimination, and 19 percent of older workers claim they haven’t been hired for a job because of their age.
If you’re an older worker, you need to arm yourself against age discrimination so that you can continue doing what you love, whatever that may be. Here are some tips to help you keep age discrimination at bay.
Demonstrate how you are keeping up to speed in your field. Continue to attend conferences and meetings of professional organizations. Read trade publications and blogs to stay current on your field. But don’t just absorb knowledge; disseminate it, too. Are there opportunities for you to advise businesses on even a pro bono basis? Your knowledge is valuable. Share it.
1. Network! This is the number one piece of advice that I give all jobseekers, whether they are newly minted college grads or seasoned, experienced executives. Your network is the most valuable resource you have. Seek out like-minded people and interact with them. One of the common misconceptions is that networking only occurs in a professional setting. It can occur anywhere. So, get out there and get involved. The more people you know, the more people to whom you can be introduced. Age discrimination is real, but it’s easier to overcome if people know who you are and what value you can bring.
2. Get comfortable with LinkedIn. If you are looking to remain in the workforce, you need to use LinkedIn. There is no way around it. Ensure that you have a great profile that focuses on your achievements and is not merely a task list. Also, be sure that you include a photo with your profile. If you don’t have a photo, recruiters and hiring managers will be suspect.
3. Conduct your job search armed with a great resume. Combat age discrimination and look current and competent with a well-written resume that highlights your accomplishments. If you need help getting started, consider using a professional resume builder. Also, it goes without saying that you should customize your resume for each position you apply to.
4. Cull outdated information from your resume. What worked in years past may not work so well anymore. You want to be sure that you come across as current, so get rid of things like objective statements and physical mailing addresses, both of which are outmoded and can cause age discrimination. Still using an AOL email address? Get rid of that! Nothing says you’re out of touch like using AOL, Hotmail, or Yahoo. Get a Gmail address. As far as your career history, there is no need to go back any further than 20 years. And to avoid blatant age discrimination, you will want to remove the dates from your education.
5. Take advantage of local and national resources. Does your county’s workforce office offer any services or training for older workers? Many do. In addition, most large universities have programs to assist experienced professionals in their careers, such as this one at Rutgers University in New Jersey. AARP also provides a wealth of information on combating age discrimination in the job search.
6. Learn to tell a story that highlights your maturity and wisdom. Don’t emphasize your years of experience, but rather, hindsight, learning from mistakes, self-awareness, and the value you can add as a result of your rich background. Show them that candidates with more experience are more reliable and likely to remain with an employer for longer than a younger candidate.
7. Get an internship. In the film The Intern, a 75-year-old character, played by Robert De Niro, accepts an internship with a local startup. Although a work of fiction, the film depicts the very real practice of experienced internships, or “returnships.” Although an internship is never a guarantee of a full-time job offer, it allows you the opportunity to allay fears brought on by age discrimination and to prove your value and worth.
8. Sharpen your skills. To disprove the notion that you, a mature worker, are not trainable, get some training. Online learning opens up new worlds of possibilities. It’s not just about showing trainability; you can update existing skills and learn new ones, which is especially important if you’re considering a career change. A demonstrated commitment to lifelong learning can go a long way toward stamping out age discrimination.
9. Demonstrate how you are keeping up to speed in your field. Continue to attend conferences and meetings of professional organizations. Read trade publications and blogs to stay current on your field. But don’t just absorb knowledge; disseminate it, too. Are there opportunities for you to advise businesses on even a pro bono basis? Your knowledge is valuable. Share it.
Get comfortable with LinkedIn. If you are looking to remain in the workforce, you need to use LinkedIn. There is no way around it. Ensure that you have a great profile that focuses on your achievements and is not merely a task list. Also, be sure that you include a photo with your profile. If you don’t have a photo, recruiters and hiring managers will be suspect.
10. Stay physically and mentally fit. Good diet, exercise, and healthy habits will contribute to an energetic and positive outlook. When you feel good, you will look good to prospective employers. Projecting an aura of confidence and health goes a long way toward reducing age discrimination.
11. Create your own job. In other words, become an entrepreneur and work for yourself. For example, consulting engagements allow you the opportunity to share your knowledge and experience with businesses on your own terms. When you’re working for yourself, you drive the decisions.