If you are over 50 years old and looking for a job, the dismaying odds of age discrimination may have crossed your mind. Despite a wealth of career experiences, it’s common for mature job hunters to get discouraged in today’s fierce employment market.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports a stunning 17% hike in age discrimination complaints since the economic downturn. Age discrimination is illegal against anyone age 40 or older, but baby boomers know their days are numbered. They’re often last to be hired and first to be downsized or passed over for promotion.
A recent AARP voter survey found nearly 75% of working boomers worry about delayed retirement. Half are doubtful they’ll ever retire. A study by The Clute Institute identified nearly 70% of employees between ages 45 and 74 reported experiencing or observing age bias on the job.
“Everyone has taken it on the chin during this recession, but older workers are the ones who don’t have the time to recover if they’ve lost their jobs or used up their savings,” says Debbie Chalfie, AARP expert on age discrimination.
The good news is that mature workers have a growing arsenal of resources and strategies available to confront age barriers.
Highlight Recent Experience
One way to overcome age prejudice is revising your resume. The resume is a marketing tool to showcase your relevant accomplishments, skills, and abilities to employers. However tempting, it’s not the place to document your life history.
- Showcase recent professional experiences and accomplishments. Experts variously cite 10 to 15 years as the threshold.
- Highlight quantified results with a “Career Accomplishments” section on your resume. Omit any telltale dates. If necessary, you might also refer to earlier jobs under a heading like “Other Relevant Experience” without dates.
- Experts debate the question of whether or not to omit or include graduation dates. You don’t want to mislead an employer or call attention to your seniority if you graduated earlier than 1990.
- Use verbiage such as “comprehensive” or “significant” when speaking of experience instead of “professional with more than 27 years of experience.”
Make the Most of Your Abilities
Does age really matter? It has less impact if you effectively sell yourself as an expert resource with unique abilities to drive results.
What do most employers want to do? Cut costs. Accelerate revenue. Slash inefficiencies. Improve productivity. Enhance processes. Generate profits. You can win the job with proven accomplishments like “spearheaded revenue gains of 15% above targets for six consecutive years” or “streamlined vendor pool and inventory to save $3.5 million in three years.”
Quick tips to display your abilities include:
- Be certain to highlight any technical skills, expertise, or proficiencies if job postings require tech savvy.
- Do you participate in social media such as Twitter or LinkedIn? Don’t easily identify your age in your email address, for example, like email@example.com.
- Tailor and tone your presentation to align with specific job requirements if you’re overqualified. If you come on too strong, the employer might think you’re too expensive to hire.
- Stay active and abreast in your field. Keep updated with courses, webinars, seminars, and tutorials. Augment your skills with training classes and continuing education.
Even when it seems the future belongs to the young, remember that baby boomers are a huge, powerful demographic force with formidable clout. The impact of this aging population group on society will continue to shape major issues.
CareerBuilder.com has a list of secure jobs for workers age 55 and above. The AARP has resources for best employers that support age diversity along with help navigating the job market. The AARP has life/work initiatives such as LifeReimagined and WorkReimagined.
Another great source to find age-friendly employers is RetirementJobs.com, in addition to tactics for sharpening job-hunting skills and adopting an “age-neutral attitude.”
“You can’t change your age, but you can change your attitude and adapt to contemporary ways of learning and working,” says executive coach Rosemary Cardno, M.A, SPHR. “You can show employers that you may have been born in the middle of the 20th century, but you have much to offer them in the 21st.