In states that require helmet use for all riders (operators and passengers), 99% of motorcyclists wear helmets. Nowhere near the same compliance when it comes to age discrimination in the workplace. Although age discrimination in hiring is illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), it’s clearly a research-supported reality that older workers have more difficulty landing new jobs than their younger counterparts; even when skills are comparable. The harsh truth is that, according to a 2020 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), workers 40 years of age and above are only about half as likely to get a job offer as younger workers if employers know (or surmise) their age. But, take it from someone who at 70 and 72 has been offered notable positions with major companies, it IS possible to secure meaningful work…you just need to know how.
The best counter punch to ageism is subject matter expertise (SME) leveraged by your perseverance to stay current in your field and immersing yourself in the latest technology. Here are some strategies I’ve learned and seen work for my career coaching clients for job searching at 50+:
BE A LIFELONG LEARNER: Don’t read a job description and lament over the fact it requires a program you’ve never used. Take the deficit and turn it into an asset by learning the new technology. Here’s a shortlist of the best communication tools to have on your radar in 2021:
Demonstrate to a prospective employer that you’ve got the goods they’re looking for PLUS more relevant experience than your younger counterparts.
ATS PROOF YOUR RESUME: Get rid of the dates of your education and don’t go further back in your experience than you need to. I use the 10-year rule unless there is a compelling reason to go further back, like being with the same company for 15-years accompanied by a successful ladder of promotions or if your earlier work includes a job title or skill that is specifically relevant to the job posting (job titles are an important keyword!). Edit your resume to include only the skills and experience the employer is looking for. Oh, and those outdated email platforms like Yahoo and AOL that scream ageism? Replace them with Gmail…NOW!
BE IN THE RIGHT CULTURE: Not every company welcomes or embraces older workers. Even if you’re offered a position, check out the culture by reading employee reviews, perusing the company website and being vigilant when doing an onsite interview. Startups which have not had the opportuning to nestle into a status quo often look for seasoned employees who can take on multiple roles and wear several hats.
PARLAY YOUR EXPERIENCE: Embrace everything about your career so far, including your experience, achievements, education, promotions, special projects, etc. Showcase everything you bring to the table that has value for the employer based upon the ideal candidate they’re looking for. Never miss the opportunity to leverage your experience by offering to help mentor employees who are earlier in their career.
BE A THOUGHT LEADER: Demonstrate to the employer that you understand the challenges they face and what’s happening in their industry. Position yourself as someone who is actively engaged in your field. Know the prospective employer’s products and/or services inside and out and be able to discuss them in the interview. Offer insight as to how the company is affected by industry trends and news. Create interview conversations.
PREPARE FOR THE TOUGH QUESTIONS: If you’re an older candidate don’t surprised if the interviewer refers to your being overqualified or out of their pay range. Prepare for such questions by saying, “I don’t view myself as overqualified but as someone who will bring added expertise to the company.” Deflect questions regarding being too expensive by saying, “Salary isn’t the driving decision in my seeking to work for ABC company. I am more interested in how the role aligns with my long-term goals” or “My priorities for my next opportunity are finding the right role, feeling inspired, and adding value to an organization that inspires me.” No hiring manager can argue with that logic!
MASTER THE LATEST VIDEO COMMUNICATION TOOLS: Don’t just focus on getting up to speed with the latest technology specific to your role. Become proficient with the leading video conferencing tools, such as:
Demonstrating that you can use the latest communication tools eliminates any concerns a manager may have about hiring an older worker. It also extinguishes any assumption or bias an interviewer might have that older workers are unwilling or not able to learn new technology. If the employer schedules an initial video interview be sure to download the platform ahead of time and practice with a friend or family member so you’re familiar with how to navigate it and share screens.
TAP YOUR NETWORK: Networking is a vital component for any successful job search strategy but especially important for older workers; so much so that 85% of 50+ers find a job through networking rather than by responding to a job posting. Craft and share your 30-second elevator pitch with people in your network. When you get a connection, research the company thoroughly as well as the industry and the role you’d be performing. The more often you tap your network the more likely you’ll be on people’s minds when relevant opportunities come up. And be sure to thank those you’re reaching out to and offer to reciprocate in any way that might be helpful.
About Garrison Leykam:
Certified Business Coach (Expert Level)
Certified Remote Work Professional
Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC)
Certified Professional, Résumé Writer (CPRW)
Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP)
Certified Life Coach (Expert Level)
PhD Marketing, MA Psychology
LinkedIn profile in Top 25 MA, PhD profiles in U.S.
Top 1% LinkedIn Industry Social Selling Index
Author, Audacious at Any Age and Design You