While employers may not officially be able to discriminate based on age, it’s happening everywhere. Don’t believe it? Just look at all the euphemisms out there like “looking for someone upbeat, enthusiastic, with a can-do attitude.” Or those trendy job titles like Guru, Whiz, Ninja, and Rockstar.
If you read between the lines, these companies are mostly seeking a 20 something who is energetic enough to accomplish everything that is expected of them—and then some—but naive enough to never ask questions.
Employers once sought out experience; something that came with age. Having years under your belt once made you a prime candidate for any potential employer. Not so much anymore. Experienced candidates like Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers, are now caught in a huge employment drought.
We criticize businesses that outsource to developing countries because of its effect on unemployment, yet somehow we look the other way when companies favor younger and arguably cheaper candidates.
These employers might not openly confess to a hiring bias, but that doesn’t make it any easier for job seekers who no longer qualify as a ‘firecracker’ or ‘wizard’. The good news is that we can still control how we market ourselves.
Here are a few tips:
Focus on stability. A 25 year old probably isn’t looking to stay in a role more than a few years, yet a 40 year old probably is. Hiring an older employee also saves money by reducing turnover costs since the job only has to be filled once.
Fake it. I’m the last one to endorse insincerity, yet I recognize there are times when you need to fake it. Like when relationship stress, family drama, or money problems are clouding your charm. In other words have a drink and cry after the job interview.
Stay current. Apart from attitude, there is another reason younger applicants get hired faster—their technical skills are up to date. Their resumes are also modern, and they are also more likely to have an established online presence through platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. Get social!
Aim high, not low. When we don’t get hired for the first few jobs we apply for, a lot of us begin to question our worth. Maybe I’m not as great as I thought? This inevitably leads to lowering our standards for jobs we apply for—but then don’t get these jobs either. Why? Because now we are overqualified. The point I’m trying to make is that a lot of us need to aim high, not low. The sooner you see your own worth, the sooner a potential employer will too.
Find a friend to kick your ass. Everyone needs someone in their life to give them a good kick on the pants. Finding a job is rough and can likely involve rounds of rejection. Yes, you may need someone to hold your hand, but you also need to surround yourself with people that can keep you motivated and focused when you are feeling down.
Leverage your experience. If you know you are going to be up against a firecracker, use your experience as your competitive advantage. Focus on the tangible results you’ve achieved over time. Sure, employers want a great attitude, but most importantly, they want someone who can help them improve business. If you can do that, let them know!
Find a real role model. Stop trying to compete with that 20-something whipper-snapper, and instead seek a real role hero. I have an amazing friend who is pushing 60. She’s hip, has a wealth of experience, and has more energy than I ever will. I have learned a ton from her, but mostly how to remain upbeat and find my value in the marketplace.