Managing Age Issues as an Older Job Applicant

If you’re in your 50s, 60s, or even 70s, chances are you may find it necessary to conduct a job search.

Job losses during the Great Recession, a shift in the norms about the value of work and the rise in retirement age are some of the factors fueling the job hunt, which tends to last a lot longer for mature workers. Older workers need an average of 50 weeks to land a job compared to an average of 34 weeks for workers under 55, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Age discrimination is illegal, but it exists

The amount of time it takes to get hired isn’t the only challenge. As a mature employee, you will likely encounter issues in the workplace that range from outdated notions to outright bias. Yes, age discrimination is illegal, but it exists. What you can control is your attitude and narrative, especially if the person interviewing you is half your age. Chances are you’ll either work with or for someone nowhere near you in age as the largest segment of workers today were born between 1977 and 1991. That doesn’t mean you need to act younger, but displaying a positive attitude and a willingness to embrace new ideas and be flexible, combined with your experience, can open doors. You don’t want anyone to hold your age against you, so don’t hold the age of a younger boss against him or her.

Prepare to face stereotypes

Before the first interview even occurs, take a long look in the mirror and be honest about whether you need a style update. This is not a call to attempt a more youthful look, but appearances matter, and if you’ve worn your classic work clothes and hairstyle for some time now, retire them until after you’ve been hired.  Just updating your interview attire may add bounce to your step.

Another stereotype about older workers is that they lack energy. No one wants you doing jumping jacks during an interview to combat this notion. Just make sure to display a can-do attitude and energy.

Mature job seekers also need to combat the misconception that technology is a challenge. Stay current with technology, including social media, to demonstrate your competence. Get a LinkedIn account and keep it updated. An online portfolio can trump the best paper resume. Consider starting a blog to showcase your expertise and passion. Use Twitter to follow industry leaders and influencers.

Bridge the gap

You can also bridge the age gap by staying current with popular culture—music, movies, television shows and books popular with the younger generation. Knowing what your younger boss or coworkers value will help you relate to them and make them more comfortable with you.

Interested in a new industry? Consider an internship to help you network and observe up close whether this new path is right for you. If an internship isn’t offered, propose one, as it can build your skills, knowledge and resume.

Perspective, experience, transferable skills and the proven ability to navigate obstacles younger workers may not have experienced are selling points—regardless of the position you seek. Older workers possess value. Knowing your worth and what kind of contributions you want to make as an employee can provide clarity during the job hunt and serve as a roadmap once hired.

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