How to Overcome Age Discrimination in the Workplace
Whether you’re gearing up to interview for your dream job, or simply want to keep climbing the corporate ladder at your current company, you may soon find landing a new position or promotion becomes increasingly difficult as you get older.
Unfortunately, just keeping your job may feel like it’s becoming a challenge. Even though Congress enacted laws in 1967 to promote and protect the employment of older people—specifically, those 40 and over—age discrimination is still a very real problem for many Americans. So much so, that 72 percent of women and 57 percent of men between the ages of 45 and 74 report that they believe they have been discriminated against due to their age.
Dubbed the Silver Tsunami, it’s projected that 25 percent of the workforce will consist of those aged 55 and older by 2020. As of November 2019, that’s over 41 million workers who are some of the most likely to be subject to age discrimination. This, of course, is thanks to the 79 million people born between 1946 and 1964—aka, Baby Boomers.
With these statistics in mind, you might be wondering if there’s anything you can do to protect yourself from becoming the victim of a discriminatory employer. Before you or someone else calls it quits on your career, consider the tips below for overcoming age discrimination in the workplace.
1. Stay tech savvy
There’s almost nothing that says, “I’m an old person,” quite like asking for help with technology that’s considered both basic and simple-to-use by your younger coworkers. From business-relevant computer software to social media apps on your phone, you can avoid being labelled elderly by taking the time to educate yourself on how to use current tech.
Asking for help every time you think an email has magically disappeared from your computer—only to find out it was just hidden amongst the millions of open tabs on your browser—is a surefire way to make yourself a prime target for age discrimination.
Even if your job doesn’t utilize computing technology in its daily operations, being familiar with popular hardware and software can help keep you relevant in the workplace. From networking on LinkedIn to building your personal brand on social media, technology can have a major impact on your career. Plus, next time your coworkers are chatting about something cool they saw on Instagram, or a viral video making the rounds on TikTok, you’ll be able to contribute to the conversation—or, at the very least you’ll know what they’re talking about.
2. Upgrade your look and your health
Looks shouldn’t matter when you’re able to produce quality work, but the fact is—they do. You may be full of energy, but if you appear slow and tired at the office, your coworkers—and even more importantly, your boss—might think you’re approaching exhaustion. In our fast-paced world, you risk being viewed as a liability rather than the asset you know yourself to be. Luckily, you can bring a more youthful feel to your appearance by making a few tweaks to your lifestyle and wardrobe.
Staying healthy and fit is the best way to avoid looking old and run-down. Focus on getting proper nutrition and regular exercise in order to reduce the effects of aging on your mind and body. Not only will you stay sharp mentally while looking younger, but you’ll also probably miss fewer days of work due to illness and/or doctor’s appointments. As the saying goes, “You’re only as old as you feel.”
Refreshing your work wardrobe is another great way to take negative attention away from your age. This doesn’t mean adopting the skinny-fit suits of the twenty-somethings surrounding you—but rather, it’s about keeping your look contemporary enough to show you still care. This in turn demonstrates to your current or prospective employer you’re not just still invested—you’re actively investing in your career. When you look good, you’re more likely to feel better—which projects a confidence that’s sure to elicit a positive response.
3. Be flexible
Learning to adapt and adjust to new ways of doing the same job you’ve been doing for decades isn’t always easy, but it’s essential for overcoming age discrimination in the workplace. The ability to be flexible—instead of stubborn and resistant to change—will be your best friend in these instances.
From filling out forms in an annoyingly different way to embracing an abhorrent open-office seating plan, smoothly transitioning will serve you well. After all, having the willingness to learn, change, and try new things aren’t typically traits associated with older members of society.
Finally, it’s important to remember that it is absolutely illegal for your employer to discriminate against you because of your age, and you should consult an attorney if you believe you are a victim. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to prevail in court, so you should try these methods for overcoming age discrimination in the workplace, even though in a perfect world you wouldn’t have to utilize any of them in order to keep your current job or find new employment.