The law says employers are not permitted to discriminate because they deem someone too old, yet employers do so every single day. How can they get away with it? The answer is, By thinking it but never talking about it or documenting it. When questioned, their answer is, It was not a good fit.
There are many reasons people who are no longer young are associated with certain preconceived ideas — for example, poor physical appearance. In some cases, it’s true, and a candidate should show concern and responsibility for improving such an image. Easily said and challenging to reverse but often can be improved through, say, physical fitness, a more contemporary eyeglass frame, better-looking and better-fitting clothing, and proper grooming can make a huge difference.
Another example is the expectation that an older and more experienced person is expecting — and needs — more money. In many cases, this is not true. While everybody wants more money of course, there are many situations in which the person has already built a nest egg, and money is a secondary or tertiary concern. Going out and working, regaining identity, contributing, and just being with other people often outweigh everything else.
One more example is the preconception that younger people are more tech savvy. Yes, that’s often the case, but I can easily argue that an electronics engineer with years of experience and who’s gone through the technology evolution has a profound understanding and a big-picture point of view, which could be major assets. And how about the notion that older folks have low energy, often have a so-called corporate mentality, and a lack of flexibility? Again, some of those might be true in some cases, but from the examples I’ve presented here, it’s easy to see that each case must be judged independently and weighed on demonstrated facts.
How can a candidate mitigate often-false prejudices? First, a candidate must be careful about social media presence. Ninety percent of employers check out candidates prior to making a first contact. Why this practice? Because it’s simple, quick, and free. The way candidates do the same by checking out the company and, possibly, everything they can about those they’re going to interview with at the company. It’s called due diligence on both sides. As a job candidate, you should check out your own social media score via mywebcareer.com.
Furthermore, check out your social media presence via socialmention.com. The latter website takes a holistic approach, including videos.
Second, if you’re not clear on how an interviewer might view you, a session with a career coach can surface and reveal all your doubts. In fact, if the career coach is in the habit of using a video camera, you could see it for yourself. In addition, initiate a conversation on this subject with your spouse and your good friends and possibly do a mutual exchange of opinions with other job seekers.
Third, get into the frame of mind that says that as an older person, you possess a special asset: experience. Practically speaking, that means that all of the past mistakes were made on some other employer’s account and would not be repeated. How about your problem-solving skills, which are by now well developed? And how about the fact that you’re already in the habit of practicing good judgment and have good work habits. After all, you come from the old school.
Alex Freund, a graduate of Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration (Class of 1974), worked for a number of large corporations, including Tyco, Honeywell, and Sanofi-Aventis. Active in networking groups, Freund also writes a blog for job seekers accessible via his website, www.landingexpert.com.
#b#Job Seeking Skills For Older Workers#/b#
Searching for a job can be daunting for people of any age, but the strategies someone in their 20s and entering the work force might use can be very different for people ages 40 and older. Nancy Anderson, president of Blackbird Learning Associates, a job search training company, has more than 25 years of experience in human resources and relationship management at Johnson & Johnson, the CIT Group, the Bank of New York, and Chubb Insurance. During her career, she has trained thousands of domestic and international employees.
Anderson, who is the author of the book “Job Search for Moms,” writes about job search issues in her blog, “The Flap,” at blackbirdlearningassociates.blogspot.com. In a recent post, Anderson wrote about mistaken assumptions older job seekers make based on a report released by MetLife Mature Market Institute:
I will just do what I was doing. Many older workers assume that they can continue doing what they did before leaving their last position. But in reality, skills and technology have probably changed. Older job seekers need to visualize themselves doing something different or using their skills in a new way.
My past experience is enough. Anderson says if you can’t link your skills to the employer’s needs then you are discounted before the interview. “Older workers need to be able to explain how their experience can help solve problems in the future and help make that company a success.”
I’ll be a consultant. Many don’t take into consideration the actual skills needed to be a consultant as well as the physical demands and psychological fit, she says.
I’m good with computers. People must evaluate their technical skills to see if they are relevant. “If not, don’t include them on your resume and get some training in the current technologies,” says Anderson. Do some research and find out what employers are looking for.
I’ve always been successful. Why should things be different now? “Thinking that the past is the best predictor of the future isn’t going to work today,” she says. “Technology, wages, and skill sets have all changed.”
According to Anderson, there are several keys to a successful job search for older workers:
Acknowledge the new realities of the job market. “Yes, there is age discrimination, but deal with it,” she says. “Realistically assess the local employment market and go from there.” Job hunters need to identify growing or stable industries – food, transportation, energy, healthcare, and accounting do well during bad economic times — and also look for organizations that are respectful of older workers. She recommends checking retirementjobs.com, looking up AARP’s Best Employers for Workers Over 50, and researching small and medium-sized companies that might value your experience and skill set.
Reframe your expectations to demonstrate your future value. Identify the specific value you can bring to the workplace while at the same time recognizing that your underlying skill set must be constantly evolving. Most importantly, be aware of your skills, values, and passions and be able to articulate how these can have an impact on the future of the company.
Nurture your network. “Nurture your network to cut through the electronic application process and the age bias,” says Anderson. “Align your passions and skills to similar people, volunteer, or speak at various events in your field. Realize that networking isn’t always about finding a job; it is about developing relationships.” Spending time with people in their 20s and 30s isn’t a bad idea either.
In the long run, people need to also evaluate their future financial needs as they relate to their need versus want to work. “Some people in this age group have a waning urge or ambivalence to work, but this must be balanced by understanding and seriously planning for the future,” says Anderson. “Older job seekers may be more successful if they are absolutely clear about their financial needs.”
Reprinted from the May 8, 2013, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper.