Overcoming Ageism in Your Job Search

I keep hearing more and more about ageism nowadays. It's as if employers, in their hurry to hire millennials to set themselves up for the future, are forgetting what the highly valuable experience that many older candidates bring to the table can do for them today. Growing up, I was taught to show deference towards all those older and with more experience than I, so I find it very sad that the same folks that I respect and look up to are being deemed as less valuable than those who have not had the time to gather the wisdom and experience.

When I set out to write this article, I wanted to narrow my view down to just one perspective. And the perspective I've chosen is one of that of an employer who compares between a younger, greener candidate and one that is over 50 years old, and ultimately chooses to hire the former. I am not intimating that such employer wouldn't hire candidates older than 50. What I am trying to show, however, is that if such an employer prefers to hire younger candidates, that there are ways older candidates can present themselves so that they may level the playing field against their counterparts and win over the employer's trust and confidence.

Why some companies prefer to hire younger candidates

The list below describes how some employers perceive younger employees and candidates. This is just a list of pros, no cons. It is by no means a generalization of all young people, and even more importantly, it does not imply that the descriptions are exclusive to young people only. Here we go.

  • less expensive to employ
  • likely more moldable, more adaptable, and less resistant to change
  • more current with existing technologies, and better at learning, and adapting to, new technologies
  • more motivated to learn and grow with company
  • fresh ideas and creativity that may be more relevant to the current state of the employer
  • better fit for workplace cultures of the 21st century
  • likely more relatable to existing employees of employer

There might be more, but let's move on.

Ways older job seekers can level the playing field

Here are some ideas that may help the older job seekers make themselves more valuable to prospective employers. Older job seekers who have tried and mastered the ideas below may make themselves more competitive in the job market.

Understand the new ways of job searching, resume writing, recruiting, and hiring practices. What used to work during your last job search 5-20 years ago, may not work today. This point alone deserves its own lengthy article just to detail all the key ideas it covers. Do some research, or work with someone who understands today's job search strategies. If you're in the DFW area, look up careerdfw.org for a comprehensive list of local resources that were created to help professionals in transition.

Start with the right employers. Ageism could be tied to the market, the industry, or the employer, but not all employers have age preferences. Do your research to come up with a list of employers that you think would value your many years of service.

Show/prove that you are capable of understanding and utilizing the technological resources that the employer uses. This includes using Microsoft office and the internet proficiently, being able to type fast, knowledge of the newest and latest versions of tools and systems, and being current with today's technologies and advances in general.

Use social media. Create and publish your Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook accounts on your resume and profiles to show recruiters and employers that you're staying current with today's trends. If you're looking for work on LinkedIn, get active on LinkedIn by posting, commenting, and interacting with other users to create a trail of activities, which will also make you more visible to recruiters. Also, make sure you have a complete and up to date LinkedIn profile that stands out.

Invest in your continued growth. You may have more knowledge and experience than most people that have spent less time in the workforce, but that doesn't necessarily mean that 100 percent of your knowledge is still applicable, and it also doesn't mean that you know more of, or possess, the currently relevant skills and information that employers are looking for. Get yourself updated on current certifications, trends, practices, and technologies within your industries. For example, if you've been a successful salesperson for the last 20 years, but all you've done is outbound cold calls, then you'll need to learn the new ways people and companies are engaging prospects and clients today.

Know what employers are looking for and show that you can be the ideal candidate for them. Despite your high level of experience, continue to show that you're eager to learn and try new ideas. Stay sharp, show creativity, be open minded, be adaptable and moldable, insist on working longer into your career. Be open to working for a boss or bosses with less experience than you. Accept lower compensation for positions that you are overqualified for, and make sure you are clear about this. Where necessary, acknowledge that you do realize that the role is a "step back" for your career, but explain why you would still be happy with it.

Embrace and emphasize your strengths and qualities that are attractive to every employer - loyalty, stable work history, reliability, strong work ethic, commitment to success, strong under pressure, little to zero baggage, time flexibility, organized, confident, leadership skills and experience, strong people skills, and large network of potential leads and clients. These are the traits and qualities that employers want their young employees to eventually gain more of, so you're already way ahead of most of those candidates.

Attend relevant networking events to meet and learn from people that may be able to help you. Get out there, and let your name be known. If you're lucky enough to meet the right person with the right connections, they could help you bypass the whole job search process and put you straight through to a waiting job.

Create a brand for yourself. What makes you so great and so valuable? Make yourself stand out and be unforgettable. Create a "portfolio" of your work, thoughts, and ideas, and make it available publicly so recruiters and employers can see exactly who you are and what you know, and be impressed with you. This is not a requirement by any mean, but it is one way to stand out from the crowd. This is the way of 2020.

Be proud of your past accomplishments, but be aware of what employers need to have accomplished in the role you wish to take on. Some employers don't really want to hear you talk about what you've done in the past; they just want to know how you plan to help them accomplish their current and future goals.

Finally, be secure in your age. Life events and experiences are beautiful things, and for you to have lived through so many moments and experienced so much, you should always be proud of yourself. Don't let the workplace or future employers dictate how you should feel about yourself, or negate what you've accomplished throughout your career. If any employer doesn't see or value your potential contribution, then they don't deserve you.

I'm not suggesting that you go and implement all these ideas, only the ones that apply to you. These ideas don't necessarily guarantee anyone a successful job search, but they at least give everyone a fighting chance.