Older workers who fear age bias during their job search can use these tips to turn a long career of work experience into their chief asset during their next job interview.
One of the greatest fears many job seekers have once they reach a “certain age” is the specter of ageism. While age discrimination is hard to prove on a case-by-case basis, it seems clear that most hiring managers tend to favor youth, especially their energy, their flexibility and their embrace of change – not to mention the low base salaries they command.
At the risk of seeming like an old fogy, I say “Balderdash!” Older workers – let’s say those 40 and older – are not only experts in their fields, they tend to have developed a wealth of intangible skills that younger workers find difficult, such as solving problems, making decisions and exuding a general air of confidence.
Before we turn the page on a new year, here are a few tips for those over 40 to turn your age into one of your greatest assets.
Focus on leadership. If you’ve been in your field for 20 years or more, chances are you’ve already seen most of the bumps and pitfalls that can occur, and have already overcome them. Describe to hiring managers how you’ve had a steady hand during a crisis, helped formulate plans for resolution of the problem and delegated responsibility to your team members. If you can keep your head in a storm, make quick decisions that can improve the bottom line and also help your hiring manager assess other peoples’ talent down the road, you will quickly move to the top of the resume pile.
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Demonstrate your technical know-how. There are some hiring managers who still believe older workers are somehow out of touch with the latest trends. In reality, though, people in their 40s and 50s have likely seen many cycles of technical advancements and have developed a reliable sense of what has worked in the past and what has been tried before and failed. Use your experience with these past dead-ends to show that you understand how technical problems have more than one easy solution.
Act as a mentor. If the company is forward-thinking, it will value those workers who can pass along their skills and knowledge to other younger workers. Discuss the ways in which you’ve mentored other young workers during your career and helped develop new talent for previous employers.
Look for help. If you’re concerned that your age may have become a factor in your job search, remember that you’re not alone. Contact groups such as the Seattle Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens and the Employ Experience page on the Workforce Development Council site for Seattle–King County.
Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.