Don’t let your age hold your job search back. Employ these strategies to make your search smoother.
Getting older is hard enough on a personal level, but when you are faced with a career change, layoff, or other upset to your professional life, age can seem like the greatest obstacle to your success. However, don't despair, there are plenty of reasons why a candidate over 40 is a great choice for a position. Here are some strategies to help you combat ageism during your next job search.
Stay relevant and current
This is one of the biggest challenges older job candidates will face when overcoming age discrimination. While you have the experience and qualifications for the role, sometimes recruiters see you as stuck in a rut or clinging to old ways. Fortunately, this is an easy fix. Through ongoing professional development or training, especially in technology, you will be able to overcome ageism by demonstrating that you are flexible and able to combine both currencies with experience.
Let's say an employer is reviewing two resumes. The first candidate has more than 15 years of experience but isn't comfortable using the latest technology in the field. The second candidate only has five years of experience but has been able to produce measurable results in his current role using this new technology. What's more important to the employer right now? Obviously, it depends on the industry, but most of the time, it's going to be the person who is keeping a pulse on the trends in his field and is comfortable leveraging them in his role.
Streamline and upgrade your resume
While your experiences are likely impressive, the reality is that when your resume lists experience from 1984, you are dating yourself. Imagine that resume landing on the desk of a 30-something recruiter. Although many hiring managers and professionals are able to get past inherent biases, there is still a prevalent fear that older candidates will not work well for people who are younger than them. At the very least, let this become a concern once you're in the office for the interview. The general rule is to limit your employment history to the past 15 years. There are some exceptions, of course — for instance, if you are transitioning back to a field you worked in more than 15 years ago or you have a significant accomplishment with an industry-leading company outside that timeframe. For the most part, though, the skills and achievements that are beyond the 15-year window should be left off your resume.
Be ready to respond to interview questions about your age
Yes, it's illegal to discriminate based on age, and yes, employers are not supposed to ask about your age. However, they often do in subtle ways. A popular question, somewhat noted in the last point, is “How do you feel about working for a manager who is younger than you?” Of course, you probably already have at some point, so preparing yourself for these kinds of questions (and you may find them impertinent, but if asked, it's still best to be prepared) is another tool for your job search.
Flexibility is key
It is very hard to start over, and even harder when you have worked for 10-20 years in the same position or in senior-level roles. However, that's not always going to be possible and you may have to start in a lower level position or take a pay cut. It's scary and that may not be feasible for you, but knowing your limits and being flexible is going to be an asset during this time. You don't want to undersell yourself, but many employers view candidates with extensive experience as being too expensive. If asked about salary requirements, give a range that may mean less than you were making. Demonstrate in an interview that you are willing to adapt to a new role and that you are ready to start over with enthusiasm.
Don't get bitter
This is a tough one because you may see that finding a job after 40 is harder than it was at 25 or even 35. Still, there are jobs out there. Plenty of hiring managers and recruiters are older than you. If you are relevant and offer something fresh, you will find work again, but find ways to stay positive through it all. Maybe volunteering or taking classes, which helps with maintaining your relevance, can take your mind off the search. It is also a chance to network. Positivity is key for any age candidate!
Reach out to your professional network
In fact, as an older job seeker, you have an advantage in this area. You likely have a deeper professional network than someone just getting started. Use your resources!
No one will tell you that searching for work after 40 is easy, but it doesn't have to be horrible, either. You have a great deal to offer — show that off to employers!
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TopInterview: How to Combat Ageism During a Job Interview