Too Soon Old: Age Discrimination Realities





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Published on Jun 25, 2010


ClearedJobs.Net HR Strategist Patra Frame shares her expertise on challenges older workers face in a job search.

Age discrimination is a reality. Sure, it's against the law but there are always reasons to exclude people that aren't legal when you're underlying reason may not be. Having said that, we can't all curl up and die at 35. So what do you do?

Obviously, you may elect to fight this and take legal action. But I think for most of us, the smarter route is to figure out how do we find the right job. And that means, first you need to understand some of a company's concerns about interviewing people that are older.

One of the big ones of course is money. They're really afraid of the fact that you will be more expensive than they have budgeted and they feel they can afford. But they also often worry about someone coming in, taking a job, and then being very unhappy and trying to either work their way into something more senior immediately when they haven't gotten back their first investment in you. Or they worry that you'll leave very quickly. Those worries are not unique to older people but they are certainly higher.

And finally, many companies worry that older people are not as current whether in the technology that is important to the job or in their ability to just do the everyday things that are involved.

So how do you deal with all that? Well first of all, you want to think about what companies really value among people who are older. And that is they value their judgment. They value the stability and interpersonal skills that such workers bring to an organization, that maturity level, that ability to deal with difficult clients or customers. And so companies do value those things and the work ethic. You want to capitalize that. And the ways that you do that besides demonstrating some of those things in your resume and your cover letter are a couple of things.

First of all, you are best served if you can network your way into an opportunity. That means using the people you already know to help you in your job search. You need to target the right opportunities as well.

Do your homework. Look at organizations that you think might offer you a great opportunity. Over a decade ago for example, CVS started really pushing hiring older pharmacists. They offered new options. They rearrange some of their corporate programs and they have been extraordinarily successful in doing that which has led them to also hire older people in other jobs.

But CVS is by no means alone. Almost any company whose clients or customers are more mature may also be a great target for you. Banks for example are clearly targeting people who are older so they maybe a good option.

You want to understand something about the organization in terms of what makes it a good opportunity. But you also want to look for those code words for young. Is the way the website is designed really full of young pictures? Do their careers, things talk all about foosball or beer bong, and do they give you those clues that they pride themselves on their young environment.

If you're looking in a job ad, does it say high potential? Does it say that it's entry-level? Those are not the places that you logically should consider going as your first choice. There are exceptions but your targets ought to be organizations who are really more likely to be seeking workers at every level. This is an area you can tell from reading about them but you can tell it even better when you in fact learn from other people about that organization.

And finally, when you are doing a job search and you have either those few white hairs or more than that, you want to be sure that you are presenting all of the value that you can bring. And you want to emphasize that in all of your presentation of yourself. Sure, you want to look good. You want to look current. You don't want to look silly however.

But more importantly, you want to present yourself demonstrating the value that you bring, the knowledge, the skills, and your terrific abilities in terms of the things employers value: maturity, judgment, work ethic, interpersonal skills. Capitalize on those, network your way into a job, and you'll discover that a lot of people still love you when you're 64 in the old Beatles song question.

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