Friday, January 18, 2008

Age Discrimination in the Job Search

In response to several clients who are in their 50’s and in anticipation of our upcoming workshop, Job Search for the Over 50 Crowd, I’ve had some thoughts regarding age discrimination in the work place. As an older Baby Boomer (I’m 59), I understand that age can be a real issue in the job search.

First of all, age discrimination, like many other types of discrimination, is a real phenomenon. It is often masked when we hear about being “overqualified” or in never having our calls and inquiries returned. And, yes, it is illegal, and yes, you can choose to fight and complain and even sue someone over it. In the big scheme of things, however, I believe that the best way to deal with age discrimination is to make a convincing case that your age is a non-issue.

This begins when you develop the attitude that your age doesn’t matter and that for you, it’s an irrelevancy in the job search. This means that you approach everyone in your job search with an open mind and open heart and that even when you experience obvious discrimination that you not let it affect your approach or mind set.

Once this attitude has been established, you will want to be able to tell your story in a clear and compelling manner, making no apologies for being somewhere for many years, having the same job for a long time, or using that terms and language that might be trendy. Instead, you focus the particulars of your story around the value that you consistently add with your work, your depth, your wisdom, your consistency, reliability, and your flexibility. And of course, you must have examples of each of these.

Finally, it comes down to the fact that most people get hired based not just on their background and competence, but on the relationships and connections they have built over the course of their careers. As someone over 50, you may have a real advantage here if you have been diligent in building and nurturing relationships. If you have not been consistent about this, now is the time to begin. Networking, which is key to a good job search at any age, becomes a key strategy for those over 50. I recommend regular informational interviewing, even when not actively looking for a new job, including talking with people who are in your field, people who are not in, but near your field, as well as anyone else who has ideas, information, advice you would find useful.
Best wishes in your job search.

Mark Guterman