In my most recent post, which you can find here, I shared some thoughts on the subject of age discrimination and encouraged older professionals to “go on offense” and focus on framing their years of experience as a unique asset/advantage to employers.
My thought was that even if a job hunter didn’t overtly bring up these points in an interview, they might at least gain a fresh burst of self-confidence by reminding themselves of the many ways in which their years of experience might make them a high-value employee. I was quite pleased, as well, to have a number of readers chime in with comments agreeing with this perspective — and suggesting some additional ways in which a person’sage/experience might translate into a proactive selling point when chatting with hiring managers.
As promised, however, I wanted to pass along a second list of tips related to mitigating age discrimination — this time focused on various “defensive” steps that a job hunter might implement to help sidestep the entire issue in the first place. This list outlines a range of different strategies that a candidate might use to camoflouge their age to a significant degree and/or avoid reinforcing the potential stereotypes that can lead to bias against older workers.
These “defensive” steps might include:
• Acquiring new educational credentials or certifications to demonstrate you’re fully up-to-speed in your field
• Seeking out training on relevant technologies, software, and social media tools if you feel you’ve fallen behind
• Using professional branding techniques (e.g. blogging, tweeting, public speaking) to gain credibility and compete in the age-agnostic “marketplace of ideas”
• Ensuring you radiate vitality and a high energy level by kicking off a new exercise, diet, and/or personal wellness regimen
• Updating your personal appearance/attire/style (including dyeing your hair, if needed) to ensure you’re not coming across as “behind the times” in terms of your image
• Rejuvenating your networking efforts and commitment to your industry by getting involved in a relevant new set of offline/online groups — or forming one, yourself
• Improving your ability to work across age groups by studying generational differences or engaging in “reverse mentoring” converations with younger professionals in your field
• Practicing your interviewing skills to ensure you’re not telling too many war stories and that you’re focusing on your bright future, not your past
• Trimming a healthy chunk of your early career experience off of your resume and LinkedIn profile, focusing instead on what you’ve accomplished in the last 10-15 years
• Monitoring your attitude carefully to make sure you’re demonstrating flexibility, adaptability, and enthusiasm — qualities that employers crave from employees of any age
Of course, as an alternative, I suppose all of us folks in the 40+ range could simply “lawyer up” and wait for an employer to slip up, just once, so we can legally clobber them — but in general, I think it’s more constructive to incorporate some of the techniques above if you’re truly concerned about your age being an obstacle in your search efforts.
Are all of the suggestions above equally appropriate for everybody? Probably not. You’ll need to pick and choose the ones that you think are right for your own situation, personality, and comfort level. And you’d definitely want to combine them with some of the “offensive” tips from my earlier post, for best results. But again, knowing that live in an imperfect world and that it’s unlikely we’re going to see a marketplace free of age bias (or any type of bias) in the foreseeable future, I think it’s important for candidates to focus on specific things they can do to create positive perceptions and exert greater control over their career destiny.
As always, your questions and comments welcomed…