How To Overcome Age Discrimination

Dear Dr. Civitelli,
I’m 58, soon to be 59. I have spent the last 15 years as an entrepreneur and I have published six books. I want to get back into the workforce but I’m either overqualified or my qualifications aren’t current enough. I can’t even get a job at the local grocery store because I’m overqualified. But the real reason I’m suspecting is my age. I’ve talked to lots of women my age and they all are experiencing this problem. I have a nursing background, but my license expired 20 years ago. I was a Director in a non-profit organization for seven years, owned several successful companies in food service and in importing. I have so many transferable skills, but no takers. How do you get around age discrimination?

Stop Age Discrimination
Dear C.F.

There are really several issues at play here: your history of entrepreneurialism, your age, and your broad skills when most employers are seeking focused skills. In reality, these issues are intertwined because they are all related to the same concerns on the part of hiring managers: Do you have up-to-date skills? Does your career focus make sense for the organization’s hiring needs? Will investing in hiring you pay off for the employer? Will you fit in with the company culture?

To answer your question, I asked a wide variety of experts for their best advice on how to counter age discrimination. Here are their recommendations:

My best advice for people over 50 is to focus a job search on start ups and small companies. Small companies value experience. They do not have time to train so they want employees who can contribute on the first day. Unless you have a direct connection with senior leadership at Fortune 500 companies, your changes of getting hired there are limited. They promote from within and they want to build a pipeline of talent with younger employees.

Many white males are experiencing discrimination for the first time, especially after age 50. When I was researching my book, I interviewed 100s of people. One person who was a 60 year old white male executive was told by a 35 year old hiring manager of a Fortune 100 company that “he didn’t have enough runway left.” He was hired by a much smaller competitor as the president of Asia. In the last three years they have taken significant market share from the other company. He’s also been promoted twice.
Mary Stern, Principal of Monument Publishing and Consulting and Author of “6 Steps to Land the Job – Essentials of Job Search Success”

Here are some of the strategies I teach to Boomers in a “Career Resiliency” program I teach:

1. Refuse to decline: We can pay significant attention to the health of the brain — in addition to supporting a healthy body.

2. Be a futurist and a lifelong learner. The future is uncertain and complex, with the workplace favoring people who are flexible, adaptable, accepting of new technology, and good at learning new skills.

3. Wake up your sleeping entrepreneur. It may be true that no one is going to hire you, so you must depend on your resilience and resourcefulness to create options.

4. Leverage your wisdom, talents and experience to create a flexible business that benefits from virtual alliances and risk-free experiments.

5. Harness the power of numbers — and employ your technology tools. From time to time I find myself in a conversation with an older Boomer who insists that it is “too late” or “too annoying” to learn, understand, jump into, and profit from social media. This attitude isn’t helpful.

6. Communicate across generations The workplace and marketplace are changing, and those changes can be challenging and chilling. We now have four generations in the workplace — presenting interesting opportunities (and barriers) to leaders, business owners, managers, and their coaches.

7. Focus on legacy and lifelong learning.

8. Free yourself of the constraints of geography: Go virtual. In 1994, a year after I left my last corporate job, I traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil to present a newly created workshop to an innovative professional organization. The title of the workshop was “The Virtual Corporation: New Strategies for a New Millennium and a Global Viewpoint.”

9. Expect happiness. It is possible to create work you will enjoy even if it has been difficult to create any kind of work at all.
Judy Feld is a Dallas-based executive coach with a private practice working with clients all over the world. She is also the founder of the Executive and Professional Coaching Program and on the faculty of the School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas.

1. Distribute a Combination Reverse Chronological Functional Resume rather than a pure reverse chronological formatted resume. This style allows the focus to be directed on competencies first.

2. A Summary or Highlights section is mandatory on a resume. An objective is optional depending on the size and nature of the company. A Summary or Highlights section allows the writer to present a picture that mirrors what the employer needs.

3. Create a master resume. Never distribute your master. Tweak it to fit each position you apply.

4. Do not distribute a career obituary. Approximately 10 years back is generally adequate.

5. Former owners of companies should use their operating titles such as General Manager or Operational Manager. Do not use corporate titles such as President. Using the wrong title raises questions such as, “What happened?” “Will they quit?” and/or “Will this person take my clients to open another business?”
Larry Goldsmith, Career Strategist

The advantage of the older worker is their key experiences. Stating you have 35+ years in your job sector doesn’t cut it. The age 50+ employee has to describe their unique selling point: What is it that you possess that an younger employee doesn’t? How much combined profit have you made over a 35 year period? How will your vast sector knowledge and expertise add value?

Applying for positions is all about adding value and the older workers have seen it all; they have dealt with every problem, tried and succeeded in every task, and know their sector inside and out. Being older doesn’t make you redundant, it makes you a valuable asset. You need to sell this valuable package throughout the job interview.
Chris Delaney, Career Coach

1. When interviewing, let the employer see your great attitude and earnest desire to learn about how you could be of service in the role you are pursuing.

2. Be realistic in your expectations and recognize that although you may have been in the workforce for a long time, you’ve just entered their place of business, are the newest person there and quite likely the least knowledgeable in terms of what the company does, how they do it and the company’s culture.

3. An entitlement mentality is not an attractive mindset to any employer. See each job interview as an opportunity to start again with new adventures in store. You can say how much you want to be making but realize that it may take a little time and some proven results before you get there.
Stephanie Ciccarelli, Chief Marketing Officer,

When you’re coming back to the workforce as an older professional, there are definitely some things to consider. Ageism in the job search is a problem, but one that can be overcome. My first tip would be to start from scratch. Create a new resume, write brand-new cover letters, get a new job interview wardrobe, and overhaul all of your social media profiles. Focus on coming across as positive, experienced but willing to learn new things every day, and generally open to new experiences. Also, don’t date yourself unnecessarily. Include work going back no more than 10-15 years, don’t use your graduation dates on resumes, and don’t include knowledge of out-dated technology (word processing, anyone?). To get back into the workforce without jumping in full time, consider flexible work opportunities like part-time schedules, project or contract work, and working from home. In particular, professional part-time jobs are a growing sector of the job market for which experienced professionals are particularly well-suited.
Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and Founder of FlexJobs

1. Get up-to-speed with social media and technology. Otherwise you will always be viewed as irrelevant by your younger colleagues.

2. Get a makeover. Dress stylishly. Invest in a good haircut, nice watch and shoes, but don’t pander to the college dorm look of younger employees.

3. Get in shape. Nothing makes you stand out more from younger people than being overweight and out of shape. If you’re out of work, take an hour a day to exercise. Stop eating junk food and sugary treats.

4. The average job-seeker in 2012 spent just 18 minutes a day looking for work. It takes more effort than that. Make a plan. Learn to network. Don’t just send out hundreds of resumes.

5. Use the newer, applicant tracking system software friendly resume format style.

6. Create a consulting business in your field. Get business cards, an address (P.O. Box), etc. If you are seen to be still working you are much better off than someone who is seen as “unemployed.”

7. You’ve probably neglected your personal “brand,” if you ever had one. Now is the time to catch-up…with a fully built out LinkedIn presence. You may want to consider other social media as well. But LinkedIn is essential for professionals…and a lot of blue collar workers now too. Join Groups. Follow companies. Get a good headshot. Spend time making your Profile exciting, approachable, and keyword searchable. And participate in their rich job-search functionality.

8. Make time for rest and relaxation. This is a stressful time. You’ve likely worked long and hard before losing your job. Get out with the family, take a long weekend, and spend more time with your friends.

9. Get some good self-help and motivational books. Keep your head in a positive place.

10. Practice interviewing with confidence. Learn about body language. Ongoing education in career management is essential to getting a job and long-term success.
Eric C. Wentworth, Author, A Plan for Life: The 21st Century Guide to Success in Wealth, Health, Career, Education, Love, Place…and You!

The hiring environment is, thankfully, becoming a bit more realistic about the fact that employees sometimes have to take time away from their jobs, are downsized, or even fired. Use this new hiring atmosphere to your advantage, and don’t be afraid to include a brief explanation about time out of a job. If you were running two households, solving elder care problems successfully, and/or delivering a comfortable lifestyle for aging parents on meager Social Security checks, those are skills that are valued in and out of the workplace.
Sandra Lamb, Career, Lifestyle, and Etiquette Expert and author of How to Write It and 3000 Power Words and Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews

1. If you haven’t experienced success with traditional job search methods, try something different. Forget knocking on the front door of competing with every other Tom, Dick, and Harriet through online postings and job boards. Instead, do steps #2-7 below.

2. Do a self-inventory about where, at this point in your life, you would really get juice out of a workday. Ask yourself, “What if money or career DIDN’T matter? What would I want to be doing or engaging in or talking to people about? Where is my real true passion vs. what I may think I HAVE to do to get a job?” Come up with a few subject areas of interest.

3. Research online or through folks who are the people at the forefront of whatever those subjects are, and reach out to them NOT because you need a job but because you seriously have questions and interest about the subjects.

4. Meet those folks and just get them talking about themselves and whatever they do that fascinates you. Get into their world and interview THEM about how they got where they are, what they love about it, etc.

5. Ask them to refer you to others who can have input for you.

6. Follow up with all of them about what you are finding out from all the folks you’re meeting.

7. Never ONCE imply that you need a job, but build relationships in this way, and all front door blocks such as age, time away from the workforce, or even applicable skill levels will disappear as the power of relationships take over to open doors of opportunity.
Darrell Gurney, Author of “Never Apply for a Job Again: Break the Rules, Cut the Line, Beat the Rest”

Was this article useful to you? If so, please share it!

Share this post...