It’s been said that getting old is not for the faint of heart ... and that’s perhaps truer in the workplace than anywhere else.
A 2017 AARP workforce survey of employees age 45 or older showed that “61 percent of respondents said they have either seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.” Of these, more than half believe that age discrimination begins when workers reach their fifties.
From this, we see that age-related discrimination isn’t going away any time soon. However, if you’re an older worker, you can keep it at bay with the right tactics. These include:
Learning and practicing strategies that prevent you from being seen as obsolete
Clearly showing that your experience is valuable to (and lucrative for) your company
Knowing your rights when it comes to being hired and fired, and knowing how to make yourself stand out by tailoring your resume and using hiring technology wisely
Stretch your comfort zone
Here are some ways to stay competitive in today’s job market and in your own specific employment role, as well as stretch yourself out of your comfort zone.
Keep learning: Whether you want to strengthen a current skill or acquire new knowledge to enhance your career, education keeps your mind sharp and shows that you’re still interested in being your best for not only yourself, but also for your company.
Improve your technological skills: For some of us, this means moving rather far outside our comfort zone — but it can provide a huge payoff in getting key projects that will paint you as a valued team member. If you’re in a job search, you can get hired more quickly if you have current technical skills.
Get on social media: The best place to start is LinkedIn because you can build your brand on a site that’s meant for business connections. You’ll be seen by others in your industry as well as your company, allowing you to build relationships and show that you’re up-to-date on today’s networking tactics.
Find a sponsor: A sponsor is someone who is willing and able to create opportunities for you in your company. Try to work on projects that will make you visible to a potential sponsor so you have someone in your corner as you take more risks.
Be a mentor: As your sponsor mentors you, do the same for an up-and-coming co-worker or team member. There’s a lot you can learn from each other as you work on your goals. You’ll have a colleague who sees you as “experienced” instead of “old” and who may well go to bat for you if age issues arise.
This kind of personal growth can be key to an older worker landing and keeping a job without fear of age discrimination.
Know (and share) your value
Take the time to understand and articulate your value and the value you would bring to the company in your position.
Once you have it, share it. Keep your managers and team members updated on your accomplishments in and out of work. You can also start and maintain a brag book to make it easier to recall and share all the relevant details of your recent accomplishments.
Understanding your value also means challenging your own assumptions about being an older worker. Are you avoiding the “choice” assignments because you think your manager wants a young team? Do you think you’re too old for additional responsibilities? Your own assumptions can end up hindering you in the long run. You have valuable experience to share that could help a younger team avoid unnecessary pitfalls, save time, and create better revenue structures. That kind of experience only comes with many years of productive work, and no one will know you have it if you don’t tell them.
Be aware of your legal rights
One of the best ways to avoid age discrimination in the hiring process is to not give away your age — and legally you don’t have to.
There are two ways to avoid putting your age on a resume:
Don’t include the years you graduated from high school or college.
Keep your resume to two pages that cover your most relevant and recent work experience from within the last 10–15 years.
When submitting an electronic resume that requires a graduation date in order to complete the submission, use the “9999” trick: Type all nines into the date field. This satisfies the form requirement while not giving away your age.
For employed older workers, keep an ear out for any age-related negative conversations or jokes and document everything. Being fired for your age is hard to prove, but the documentation can help you leverage a better settlement from the company — or help in a lawsuit if you choose to go that route.
By 2022, nearly 35 percent of workers will be age 50 or older, says AARP. On the flip side, studies say that around 58 percent of millennials will spend just three years or less at one job before moving to another. This could mean good news for those older workers who are staying abreast of workplace changes and arming themselves with the right education, training, and networking.
Finally, as older workers navigate today’s ever-changing job market, this quote from author and entrepreneur Richie Norton is a great daily mantra to keep in mind: “Success is not about age, it's about action.”
Choose your actions and prove that older doesn’t equal obsolete.
Click on the following link for more advice on how to get ahead.
Is your resume helping you or hurting you by revealing your age? Check with a free resume review from TopResume today!