Age Discrimination is Like Gravity, You Have to Deal with It
Age discrimination in hiring is very real. Employer bias against older workers includes the stereotypes of that group having bad computer skills, being set in their ways, and lacking energy as compared to younger workers. I cannot begin to tell you how many job postings in my field specifically requested a recent college grad or someone “bright” (code word for young). Job hunting is definitely more challenging if you’re 40 plus. So, I came up with the following list of guerilla job hunting tactics for myself.
Dealing with Misconception #1: Bad Computer Skills
The Long List: On the resume and in person
List tons of software and include productivity apps such as Asana and Evernote on your resume. In addition, be able to intelligently discuss Google Apps add ons in person. It goes without saying that you should know how to use Google Apps in addition to Microsoft Office. Also, put some code on your resume. HTML is good for you like spinach. If you can write code, that eliminates the whole discussion about your technical skills being suspect. Note: This is advice is for non-engineers. “Nice to haves” also include knowledge of a blogging platform such as WordPress and social media. In short, come across as someone who loves tech.
Dealing with Misconception #2: Not Being Flexible
The fact that you are job hunting means that you have to be flexible. As you already know, there are more people applying for positions than there are jobs. For some of the jobs for which I applied, the numbers of applicants ranged from 350 to 500 for one job posting according to what I was told by potential employers. You will be the one who has to adapt; it’s an employer’s market. Stress being flexible and adaptable in your cover letter and in the interview.
Dealing with Misconception #3: Lacking in Energy
Your energy in the cover letter and in person needs to bounce. Employers want people who are eager/hungry to prove themselves. You may ask, “Why do I have to prove myself?” Anyone who is job hunting has to prove themselves regardless of age. Again, please see the 350:1 ratio that I listed earlier. If you a have an inverse ratio, that is 350+ companies wanting to hire you, ignore what I just said. Act super enthusiastic and excited about whatever your profession is in your interview. Eagerness is a trait that is associated with the young. Also, cheat on your cover letter, in other words, capture the energy of someone young. I figured that there had to be a language difference between younger and older workers. So, I looked at LinkedIn profiles of people in my profession and found that younger workers use more casual language than older workers. So, I lifted some of the language from the profiles of the young people and used it in my cover letters. However, I do suggest having some discretion with that tactic because it’s acceptable to use more casual language in social media than you would use in formal business correspondence.
Another Guerilla Job Search Tactic
Experiment with resume length. I had two resumes listing different lengths of experience. I used the shorter one to send to recruiters and employers because having less experience listed helped me to look younger on paper. If it seemed appropriate, when I came in for my in person interview, I would say, “I don’t have it on this resume, but I worked at Company A for X number of years doing EFG. If you like, I can forward a resume listing that position to you.” They would say, “Yes” and I would forward my longer resume after the interview. My goal was to avoid getting eliminated due to having more work experience. After I started employing the “two resumes” technique, my response rate from recruiters and potential employers increased.
All’s Well That Ends Well
Currently, I’m working in a job that I love. But, I have to say that my job search really freaked me out and I had a “Scarlett O’Hara moment.” Remember that scene in Gone With The Wind when the Civil War is over and Scarlett, scavenging in the field, bites into a carrot and says, “God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.” I decided that I had to have another option in addition to an office job. So, I currently write as a side gig. And the story continues…
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