Good Afternoon Dorothy:
I am 60, unemployed (2 years), recently broke, due in part to this thing called “the economy”, and have acquired some skills regarding coping with today’s job market. My resume has been tuned and retuned several times. Keywords are plentiful, my social network is developed, LinkedIn has been SEO’d and I’m at over 600 connections and participating daily in over 25 groups. In spite of my developing talent for being unemployed, I can’t forget the words a Canadian recruiter said (off the record) about a very nice zone management position with a prestigious multi-national company, which had interviewed me twice. I felt so positive after the second interview that I was ready to move immediately. He said, “the company has classified you as ‘mature – experienced’, which means that they’re looking for someone with your skill set…but younger!”
Since I’m ‘mature – experienced’ enough to know ageism when I see, hear, and read it, what wisdom can you impart upon the growing group of boomers who are facing these issues? Are there real bonafide companies who hire seniors for the long-term and not simply for part-time ‘smiley faced’ customer service positions? I’m healthy and in serious “age denial”; I don’t like being treated like an old pair of shoes – only worthy of being used when cleaning the dog kennel…after a rainstorm.
Hi T, I completely understand your frustration with the ageism thing. There are a few things you can do to help mitigate the issue but as all biases go, they can sometimes be so subtle you never really know. Here are a few thoughts:
- Essentially, the concerns people/companies have with older workers is: 1- retiring soon 2- difficulty making changes/want to stick with “old ways” of doing things 3- lack of energy and therefore dedication 4- avoid technology. With that said, I believe the best defense is a good offense. Sprinkle words in your resume and cover letters that reflect just the opposite of what I just said. Repeat during interviews so any prejustice they might have is already addressed. If they don’t ask, bring it up with a rhetorical question like: You may want to know what my plans are for retiring? Or we haven’t discussed my technology capabilities but they are fairly advanced…..
- There is a great book that covers every aspect of a job search for people over 40 it’s called: Over 40 Job Search by Gail Geary. She doesn’t mince words. She tells you to check how you look and many times there is real room for improvement and updating our look. My mother told me a long time ago that one thing that ages people is their failure to keep up with current styles. I’m not saying you have to dress like a hip-hop artist, but if your clothes are older than 10 years, get new ones. She also addresses everything from how to format your resume to how you interact during an interview.
- My observation is that while the ageism is not gender specific, it does seem to hit men harder. The reason is that women have generally been faced with bias most of their careers. I know I have. This may be something new for you. It doesn’t have to mean you won’t get hired at a position of your choice but it may mean you will now have to work at it harder than you used to. I never looked at the gender bias I faced as anything other than I would just have to work a bit harder to get ahead and it always seemed to work. One of my mentors was a very successful black man, who also understood that reality for him. He simply shrugged it off like I did. We, like you, will come to understand that you really don’t want to work for a place that doesn’t want “people like you”. It will be unpleasant and demeaning. So, no, you don’t have to relegate yourself to becoming a door greeter. You can make this happen without compromising your career but you are dealing with a “double whammy” of a tough job market and age. It will work for you, just stay in the race and keep doing all the right things you are doing.
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