Are you 50-ish, in a job search, and worried about age discrimination?
It’s time to recapture the “Benjamin Button” in you.
Age discrimination is real and it can be crippling.
Earlier in your career, doors were swinging wide open and now it seems virtually impossible to get your foot in one of them.
You’ve got the credentials, lots of proven accomplishments and have been an asset to any employer you’ve ever worked for. But after years of successfully navigating job searches, you suddenly find yourself stymied by an unanticipated roadblock.
It’s not that anyone would actually come out and say you’re too old for the job, you can just feel it.
Level the playing field to overcome age discrimination in your job search
Remember the cinematic wizardry that allowed Brad Pitt to go really retro and transform himself from an elderly man to a child?
While I’m not proposing you attempt that feat (because, frankly it wouldn’t work…it only works in the movies), I am suggesting you consider his character’s attributes to level the playing field.
Through all his physical changes, he adapted to every phase of life and became relatively ageless. In the words of the character’s author/creator, F. Scott Fitzgerald, he “took life as he found it” and so should you.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
The ADEA prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years or older, but cultural stereotypes are hard to overcome and equally tough to legislate against.
When it comes to prejudice and job search age discrimination, it always boils down to the same reality. You can’t (and shouldn’t) alter who you are, but you can change the perception.
Understand how humans are universally attracted to one another and you just might find recruiters and hiring decision makers rolling out the welcome mat again.
Principles of attraction that can minimize age discrimination
Here are some principles of attraction that will elicit a positive response:
Social psychologists have shown that finding people whose attitudes, values and traits are similar to ours encourages affinity.
Simply stated, we assume people with similar attitudes will view us positively. Translated to job search, it’s a matter of finding common ground, then demonstrating it to make that first connection.
Can you judge a book by its cover? Maybe not, but unless you have a personal connection to the potential employer, the only evidence of who you are will be reflected in your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Keep in mind that 28% of managers today are millennials, so you’ll need to show you’re speaking the same language in the way you present yourself.
Start with a few simple steps:
1. Update your resume content and formatting.
It’s simple to change e-mail providers like aol or yahoo to gmail. Eliminate your street address and home phone number; use your mobile number only. Eliminate dates of graduation. Add your LinkedIn URL. List of references should not be included on your resume.
2. Build a LinkedIn profile.
85% of Recruiters are hunting for candidates here. You immediately date yourself with statements like “I don’t know anything about that” or “I’m a private person and have no intention to go out on social media” That’s like saying you want to sell your house but wouldn’t think of putting a For Sale sign out. It’s free advertising!
Make sure you have a current headshot. A blank silhouette will make recruiters wonder if you’re in the Witness Protection Program.
3. Keep the conversation up-to-date.
I was recently coaching a candidate for a Physician’s Assistant job who looked like he had just gotten his driving permit. All was going well in our mock interview session until I alluded to his similarity to Doogie Howser. The minute he replied, “Who’s that?”, I realized I lost ground as he became less animated and more guarded with his responses.
Resist references to the past; it’s just not productive.
4. Create or enhance your overall social profile.
Squash the myth that there isn’t a single person over 50 who has a clue about social platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and get active on them. You’ll increase your exposure to recruiters while upping your tech-savvy.
Being physically attractive is generally an advantage in social situations.
What’s the implication as it relates to optimizing your job search strategy? It’s really simple and is actually more about projecting self-confidence than being a beauty queen or model.
Healthy, well groomed, fit and energetic candidates are those who portray physically attractiveness; traits that people of all ages should embody.
I’m not proposing you undergo cosmetic surgery, replace your wardrobe or hire a personal trainer, but I am recommending you look and feel your best.
Take personal inventory of where you stand on the physical attraction scale and make any needed adjustments. You can debate the veracity of this principle, but let’s be honest about the reality. There’s a reason you won’t see a 90 year old in a speedo ad.
Reciprocity of Liking
The reciprocity of liking is a particular type of reciprocity that refers to the tendency of people to like others who express liking for them. A practical application of that theory translates to you respecting the experience and knowledge of the recruiter and being unafraid to express your respect.
I’m not proposing you act in an obsequious way, but rather that you genuinely regard people as worthy of your time.
Don’t repeat the prejudice that you feel or have experienced by discounting the value the recruiter brings to the table. Especially in the case of a next-gen who may be screening you. Resist the temptation to make judgments about “young people today.”
How will the recruiter ever know who I really am?
The funny thing about discrimination is that people think they know you, when they actually don’t know you at all.
Remember the basic premise of stereotyping is that all members of a particular group share the same characteristics. So, change the dynamic by focusing on the principles of attraction. Do that and you’ll score an opportunity to share the value of the maturity, empathy and wisdom gained over the span of your career.
And, in case the recruiters you encounter come from Gen Y or Z, don’t mention “Benjamin”, they might not realize who he is…..
More About Executive Job Search and Age Discrimination
Barbara Schultz is a Human Resource Executive turned Career Stager. She elevates the job seeker and peak performer to center stage, at any phase of their career. She is also a freelance writer, sharing perspectives with HR Leaders to bridge the generational divide in today’s diverse workforce. Visit Barbara on LinkedIn.