Companies who want to sell their products to Baby Boomers use advertising slogans like “60 is the new 50”, implying that somehow older people today are younger than their chronological ages. This psychological approach has worked well for selling Harleys and Viagra® to aging Baby Boomers. However, corporate hiring managers and recruiters are not buying it. Their truthful assessment would more likely be “50 is the new 60.”
In fact, a major shift has occurred in age-based employability during the 21st century. Rather than seeing their 50’s as a time to grow their careers and stay at the top until choosing when to retire in their 60’s, today’s job seekers understand that they need to achieve their career peak by their early 50s. If you are a Baby Boomer in your 50s or early 6os, you know what I mean. If you are in your 40s, take heed and get to work!
To get to the crux of this issue, I polled several recruiter friends and asked them what they thought about age discrimination in hiring. As noted in Chapter 2 of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!), the consensus of recruiters was as follows:
“The main reason that older workers do not get invited for interviews and do not get hired has less to do with their age and more to do with their conformance to the “older worker stereotype”.”
This stereotype has a variety of components that typical older workers project, including
“-Resistant to change, with inflexible opinions
-Lack physical energy and drive
-Looking for a place to park until retirement
-Do not have current, competitive skills
-Lack of up to date knowledge of the job, industry, etc.
-Have “let themselves go” regarding dress, weight, hair, etc.
-Do not meet typical educational criteria”
So, what can you do if you are an older worker? My advice is to recognize that discrimination exists, but avoid using this as an excuse for a lack of personal success. Make an honest assessment of your attributes. Decide where you are conforming to the older worker stereotype and make an effort to become non-conforming. In other words, strive to change your personal brand from “I’m an older worker” to “I’m an experienced worker with what you need.”
Every corporate hiring decision involves discrimination. Employers want to hire a person with the right personality, experience, knowledge, credentials, work ethic, technical expertise, etc. And, yes, they have an expectation of the age range of people who will or won’t tend to “fit in.” If you will eliminate your negatives and stop acting like a typical older worker, you can definitely increase your odds of success.
What do you think? Have you experienced age discrimination in your job search or career? Do you agree that you could make changes in your personal presentation that could reduce the effects of such discrimination, or not? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Richard Kirby is an executive career consultant, speaker on career strategies, and author of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!). Richard Kirby’s earlier experience includes managing engineering, human resources, marketing and sales teams for employers that ranged from a Fortune 100 to a VC-funded entrepreneurial startup. For the past 11 years at Executive Impact, Richard has helped hundreds of executives and professionals successfully navigate today’s transformed 21st century job market and achieve better employment for themselves. Richard’s expertise includes career assessments and goal setting, personal marketing/branding, resume enhancement, strategic networking and job interviewing, and “contrarian” job search methodologies. He is a Board Certified Coach (in career coaching) and a Certified Management Consultant (recognized by the ISO).