I’m often asked about how to overcome age-ism. Here’s a representative question
“What is frustrating these days is that there many people (Over the age of 65) with excellent experience, knowledge, and backgrounds in their respective areas of expertise but cannot find a suitable position.
Employers, (who use younger recruiters) discreetly discriminate against older workers. Somehow or other they think that we will get up and quit after a short period of time.
Due to our current economy, many older people want to work well into their 70’s. How do you overcome or convince these younger people that we the older worker) want to work and contribute to the over all success of the organization.”
One group you might want to look into is “Grey Hair Management.” They specialize in outplacement & career coaching services for ‘older’ workers.
Looking for work over 65 is always more difficult for full time work at professional levels. The issues employers are concerned about with every older candidate are that much more of a worry for them when you are past what most would consider a ‘normal’ retirement age. The problem isn’t the age itself, it’s the characteristics that are assumed to come along with the age – employers are worried:
The more you can counter those issues right up front in the way you present yourself, the more success you will have. Come up with clear stories to deal with each of these issues. Take a close look at your appearance:
Another option is to look into consulting / contracting, where the age and expertise you bring to the table may be considered an advantage. I’ve been working with one older client to define and build an independent consulting practice, and he has quickly become quite well known in his niche, is frequently called on to speak at a variety of specialized conferences, and now has a thriving practice.
Shelley asked about tips for young people just starting out - a great topic! I’ll start the ball rolling here, and then you can add your own thoughts to mine.
First off, whether or not you admire your boss, you can learn a lot from him or her. Observe what your boss does well, and what you think could be done better. I learned a lot from my early bosses about management, often as reverse role models showing me things I resolved never to do myself when I was a manager.
Watch carefully how different people operate at all different levels in the organization - your co-workers, peers in other departments, your superiors, senior people not in your chain of command, etc. Watch for communication styles, how they conduct or participate in meetings, ways they write memos and emails, how they direct others, etc. Look for the best (and the worst) of those, and examine in what ways those differ from your own style. Figure out what you can do to emulate the best behaviors.
Pay particularly close attention to the next level up in the chain of command - the level to which you would next aspire. One of the best ways to position yourself for promotion is to model the behavior of those at that level.
Get to know the people around you. Don’t get sucked into the circles of those who are negative - you become negative by association. Seek out mentors.
Have deep conversations with your boss. Find out what your boss is most concerned about, what keeps him up at night, what goals are most important to her. People often forget that their boss has goals, just as they do. You have a great opportunity to build influence with your boss if you get to know his priorities, and can then find ways to approach your own work to better align with those.
Think about where you want to be in 5 years, and what skills and experience you need to develop to get there. Then think about what projects you could take on to develop those. Make your boss an ally in doing that. Have career discussions regularly with her to focus on the long term, and options for how you can get the types of experience that will foster your development.
And don’t forget to work on your own personal development. Take courses. Seek out opportunities to run meetings, and to make presentations. Put special emphasis on communication skills, both written and oral. Those are going to make a huge difference in your career. Consider joining a Toastmasters club or similar organization.
OK, I’ll stop there for now. What suggestions do you have to add into the mix?
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OK, I’m probably dating myself here…remember those Wendy’s commercials in the 1980’s, when a little old lady ordered competititors burgers, only to exclaim “Where’s the beef?”
I’m reminded of those ads when I see resumes that say things like “results-oriented”, “highly motivated”, “outstanding communication skills”, and one of my favorites, “proven results in …”
These are empty phrases that only detract from your message. Your resume and the statements you make should demonstrate these things; if you have to specifically say them, then you aren’t doing your job in what you are presenting.
Any time I see “Proven results in …”, my reaction is that I’ll believe it when I see the proof. And if you are showing me the proof, then why do you need to tell me you have “proven results”?
There is also a downside to adjectives. Any time you have to tell me up front you have something, instead of just demonstrating it, you reduce your credibility. When you tell me, for example, about your “outstanding” achievement, you risk coming across as a braggart, and the reader is inclined to be skeptical. On the other hand, if you simply present an achievement that is truly outstanding, omiting the adjective, readers are led to conclude it really is outstanding, and then you get much more credit for it in their minds.
So next time you are sitting down to compose your powerful description of the package you have to offer, delete all of the empty phrases and replace them with demonstrations.
Instead of saying you are “results-oriented”, show me results and let me decide you are results-oriented.
In place of “proven results”, show the results themselves.
Instead of “outstanding communication skills”, give an example of those skills you are so proud of.
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