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Staring Down Age Discrimination in Your Job Search

Does age discrimination exist? Yep. Can you eliminate it? Nope. But the good news is that you have some level of control, probably more than you think. Before we tackle that, let’s get it all out on the table. WHY does age discrimination exist? Like all forms of discrimination, there are some misguided assumptions or beliefs that people may have.

– Older people will cause my health care costs to rise.

– Older people are set in their ways and can’t/ won’t learn new tricks

– Older people are technologically out of date.

– Older people have less energy and are really looking to just coast to retirement.

Before you get indignant and insist none of these apply to you, think of it this way. Let’s acknowledge that one or more of these thoughts may be in the mind of the person who has some control over your fate. But most hiring authorities are smart enough to keep from verbalizing their biases. What do you have control over and what do you not?

Clearly, you have no control over your chronological age, and you can’t actually eliminate an individual’s biases.

But you can mitigate the impact of these biases with a long hard look at yourself. Let’s attack them, one by one.

Older people will cost more as a part of my health plan.

Are you doing everything you can to maintain your health? Do you appear healthy and vital? If you are, or if you aren’t, it can show and often does show. Assumptions will be drawn.

Older people are set in their ways and can’t/ won’t learn new tricks (processes, methods, programs, etc.)

It’s not enough to say “I love learning new things!” Think back throughout your career and think of examples and stories that tell and show that you have eagerly embraced learning opportunities. Find opportunities to weave those examples in to the conversation.

Older people are technologically and otherwise out of date

Well, are you? If your technology skills are out of date, it may be assumed that your ideas and professional skills are out of date as well. In the world we are now living in, outdated tech skills really do impact your effectiveness. If you are not prepared to operate in a digital world, your “bag of tricks” is significantly limited. If you find yourself challenged in this area, get it fixed without delay.

Take a look in the mirror. Is your physical presence up to date? Nothing screams old like out of date glasses, clothes and hair style. If your clothes don’t quite fit anymore, or haven’t left the closet since the Reagan administration, you need to make a small investment and update your look. Maybe physical appearance shouldn’t matter, but we all know that it does.

Older people have less energy and are really looking to just coast to retirement.

Again, what does your physical presence say? Are you looking people in the eye, smiling, walking with energy? How do you spend your free time? If you are involved in any higher energy pursuits (running, hiking, camping, etc.) you may be able to work it in to the conversation.

The positives? There are many! Older workers can be a great asset to the workforce for many reasons that can counterbalance, or even outweigh the perceived negatives. It’s no secret that a stronger work ethic, greater loyalty, less drama and more professional maturity often come with hiring older workers. We were raised differently, look at work differently and aren’t always necessarily looking for the next great thing or job. Think of examples of times when you have displayed those qualities as well, and look for opportunities to tell those stories.

Put yourself in the employer’s shoes. All want to find and hire people that will embrace their new role enthusiastically, will bring fresh thoughts to the table and will be a fully participating member of the team. That’s you, right? Then show it.

Julie Bauke, President of Congruity Career Consulting believes that we all deserve to “skip to the shower” on Monday mornings. Julie@congruitycareer.com

Bill