As a career coach for more than 20 years, I’ve met many laid-off people who complain of age discrimination. Rather than succumb to this issue, ask yourself whether you are giving employers the opportunity to knock you out of contention for jobs because of how you present yourself. Here are some suggestions to avoid age discrimination:
1. Understand what employers want. Do some introspection. Why is the job there in the first place? A job exists because there is a business need. You’ve been around the track a few times, so figure out what that need is and demonstrate how you are the solution. And, if the job looks like it has been written for you, don’t just apply – take the time to network into the decision maker as well. You’ll stand out amongst the others who are simply clicking “Apply” on the job board.
2. Focus on providing value. As product life cycles continue to shrink, so do job life cycles. Employers and employees are less loyal than they used to be, so use this to your advantage. The company is expecting you to make a lifetime commitment to them. If you sell them on your value proposition – the contribution you will make for, say, 3-5 years – age does not matter.
3. Look at how you look. While power suits, pinstripes, shoulder pads, Movado watches, and Ray-Bans were the height of fashion in 1980s, they might age you today. Find someone with a little 21st century fashion sense who can help you update your wardrobe inexpensively and age-appropriately. And, take the opportunity during your job search to do a little exercise – you may lose few pounds, and you’ll certainly feel better and more positive.
4. Update your skills. Technology is not cyclical, contrary to the pager salesman on 30 Rock. Computers are an integral part of nearly every job, so brush up on your skills. For a start, find someone under 30 with the patience to show you how to use email, search engines, and video chat. Do some free online tutorials on Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Learn keyboarding so you can type with more than your two index fingers. And become familiar with the go-to software tools in your field, so you can hit the ground running in your new job. Online learning platforms including LinkedIn, General Assembly, Coursera, and edX offer a range of no and low cost programs – all the way through advanced learning – that can help you learn the latest skills to enhance your opportunities.
5. Be enthusiastic. Rather than telling prospective employers what you won’t do, show them how eager you are to contribute. Capitalize on your extensive experience, by being a positive role model. Be a mentor, calming people during times of crisis. Reassure that less experienced hiring manager you are not after his or her job. You have seen the ups and downs of the business cycle and know how to help them and the business survive and succeed.
Employers worth working for do not start their screening process by discriminating on age. They want people who have the skills to do the job, are eager to work, and will fit their culture. Show that this is you, and age will be less of an issue. For ideas on how to use age to your advantage, check out Robert de Niro in the movie The Intern.Career Advice | Job Search