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Ageism and Your Career

Age discrimination involves using age as a factor affecting how people get hired and promoted. Typically, ageism affects older workers who command higher salaries for their experience. The phenomenon is complex and challenging to overcome, but you can succeed with the right approach.  Everyone will experience age discrimination multiple times in their career.

The Youth

The way young workers experience ageism is the lack of experience: What comes first: the chicken or the egg? It is a challenging problem where you need the expertise to do the job, but you need the experience to get the job. There is an inherent risk in training someone, and they leave for another company. Companies rightfully expect a return on their investment in the employee because training is time-consuming and expensive. Employers may not want to train the future workforce and expect someone else to pay for the training.

Another way the younger workers get discriminated against is the notion they are too young to lead. Older workers may not prefer a manager several decades younger who lacks in-depth industry or company knowledge.

The End of Career Professionals

Workers towards the end of their career deal with the “if I hire you, you will retire in a few years” mindset. Also, well-experienced employees command higher salaries. It is not unusual for companies to want to hire younger workers at a lower cost because they are “good enough.” Do seasoned employees produce twice the output compared to two newer employees?  Many companies do not believe that is the case.  Two “good enough” employees are better and less expensive than one great employee.  An argument can state that you do not want to work for that kind of short-sighted company.  

Technology people suffer from ageism if they fail to improve or add skills

A hot fad today may not be the trend in the future. Technology changes at such a fast pace; it is challenging to keep up. Keeping up with technology requires people to spend time outside of their work hours to learn new skills as they do not have time during working hours. With working parents, managing a family takes up time for learning. For them, keeping up with skills goes from the back burner to entirely off the stove for a while.   

How to fight ageism in career development

Transition your mindset that your age is an asset, not a liability

To combat the potential for ageism, you must change your mindset. It is understandable to feel like a victim of your circumstances. However, the best way to go forward is to look at the ability to solve problems. When it comes down to it, companies need problems solved no matter who solves it. The problem-solving mindset is one of the primary keys to getting from the interview to the job offer.

Show only the last 10-15 years of experience on your resume

Verbosity is forbidden!

When you show more than 15 years of experience, you give indications of your age. Also, focusing on the last 10-15 years, you get to focus on your most significant accomplishments. Once you extend your resume beyond 15 years, your resume extends to multiple pages. Longer resumes tend to get tossed sooner without even a skim.  People have such short attention spans that anything past two pages get discarded.   Also, you have about five seconds to prove your worthiness for a 60-second review, make that time count!  

Do not put graduation dates on resumes

Adding a graduation date can provide hints about your age. If you recently graduated, people might think you are younger. If you add a date too far in the past, they will think your degree is outdated, and you are an older worker. By leaving out the date, you avoid the problem altogether.

Show that you are willing to mentor employees

Mentoring can go in either direction. Older generations can teach the younger, and the younger can teach the older generations. Sometimes it takes new perspectives to break the status quo. Ensure that you are trainable to a new way of working and that your experience can add value to the organization.

Sharing best practices is the goal that everyone should strive for in a mentoring relationship.

Research the company’s culture

Some companies act as magnets to particular demographics. A company that typically hires younger workers will more likely pass up older workers partly out of not fitting into the culture. Also, they may not pay for the experience older workers can deliver.    

Emphasize your stability

Managers, deep down inside, want stable and predictable employees. When they deal with an employee who requires time off on an inconsistent basis, the situation strains the entire team. Whether you are young or old, show that you have stability in your life. If you have children, have a plan in place for the times you tend to their needs.   

Also, show that you want to grow as an employee, and the job you want is not a temporary stop in your career progression.

Emphasize your maturity in handling emergencies

When all hell breaks loose in the workplace, companies want people to handle them professionally. Nobody wants to work with someone who runs around with their hair on fire. When you interview, explain how you coped with a crisis. If you did not handle the situation well, describe the lessons learned from the experience.

Conclusion

Companies are irrational at times and do your best not to take it personally.  Hiring is expensive and risky, with a flawed system for determining fit.  Always show you are flexible in your work habits, you can handle emergencies with maturity, and work for the right companies, you will succeed regardless of age!

What strategy have to used to combat age discrimination? Share your story below!

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