It’s unfortunate, but it’s true: The threat of age discrimination is already looming ahead for workers in their late thirties. Many research authorities now define an “older worker” as as someone who is 45 years or older, which may have something to do with the fact that millennials surpassed Generation X as the biggest workforce generation this year.
Older workers are perceived as being far less flexible than younger workers, and many employers believe they don’t have much technological competence, according to reports. Older workers are also seen as more expensive in terms of salary and health care costs. Job seekers in their forties, fifties, and beyond often have to fight against these unfair and baseless negative stereotypes in order to land jobs.
In a perfect world, age discrimination wouldn’t exist. Until that time comes, older job seekers need to start building career strategies that overcome the damaging myths that abound about them.
Don’t give employers the opportunity to indulge in false, untested, negative stereotypes about you. Open their eyes to reality with these four tips.
1. Explode the Technophobe Myth
Show prospective employers that you are tuned into the latest technology. How?
Well, you could start a blog. You’ll need to learn several technologies and engage with social media to do this successfully, which will quickly show employers that you are a technophile who basks in the glow of the Web. You’ll get bonus points if the blog is filled with content that is relevant to your profession.
Or, you could make use of a relevant lifestyle-enhancing mobile application — like a jet-lag app, sleep aid, or fitness tracker — to show employers that you are utilizing modern technologies and adapting to the modern age.
2. Show Employers That You Aren’t Stuck in Your Ways
Older workers are often unfairly seen as being “stuck in their ways.” Many employers believe they have no interest in new tools or ways of doing things.
You can counteract this myth by demonstrating to prospective employers that you’re open to developments in the world around you. Consume new media, travel frequently, and get creative when handling challenges at work. All of these things will show employers that you’re keeping up with the times and not afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.
3. Practice Good Health Habits
Like it or not, older workers are seen as bigger health risks than younger employees, and many employees feel they will incur high costs as a result of age-related declines in health and workplace performance.
You don’t have to start running ultramarathons or going skydiving on the weekends, but you do want to integrate health and fitness into your personal brand.
Consider running for fun, joining an intramural sports team, or just making the gym part of your regular activities. Doing these things will show employers that you’re dedicated to your health — and not about to fall apart!
We know — most people in their 40s and 50s are in good health. They aren’t decrepit and sickly. But the sad truth is that many employers — especially those run by younger entrepreneurs — have negative biases against older workers because they wrongly assume these workers are in decline. You can prove them wrong — maybe even by blowing past your 35-year-old interviewer in the next local race.
There’s another benefit to staying active, too: If you engage in team sports with a wide spectrum of ages, that will show employers that you work well with younger workers.
4. Prove That Your Experience Can Make a Difference
One advantage you have over younger workers is experience — but just saying you have more experience is not enough. You need to demonstrate how your experience can make a difference by identifying challenging situations that the employer may face and showing them how your experience makes you better able to handle these situations. Draw from your career history to show examples of times you learned valuable lessons and gained new skills. Then, explain how those lessons and skills can be applied directly to the role you’re seeking.
Finally, it should be pointed out that you don’t want to go barreling into an interview to blurt all these points out in the interviewer’s face, nor do you want to stuff your cover letter full of them. Doing either of these things will make it seem like you’re overcompensating. Rather, these tips should be subtly communicated at opportune moments during the job application and interview process to achieve the desired effect.
Age discrimination is wrong — both morally and factually — and it’s downright illegal in most instances. Still, that doesn’t mean some employers won’t entertain discriminatory thoughts or engage in discriminatory behavior. In fact, many employers don’t even realize when they are being discriminatory.
You don’t have to let their stereotypes get you down. Prove to them that workers over 40 are just as good for business as the young folks are.