A great majority of adults over the age of 50 will tell you, unequivocally, that ageism is alive and well in the workplace. However, it’s a battlefield often fraught with contradiction: You would think that a demonstrated aptitude or a highly credentialed background in your field would make you more valuable, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
All things considered, mature job seekers must be ready to address these concerns, whether spoken or unspoken, when they arise. It pays to be prepared for these scenarios because the likelihood that the hiring manager is young enough to be your child is quite high. Avoiding the usual ageism traps and associated verbiage is imperative if you want to navigate this minefield and its assumptions.
First, take a hard look at your digital image. What does it say about you? Here are a few tips you can use to improve your electronic representation:
1. Make sure your email is professional and easy to remember. Avoid using email handles which include the year you were born or nicknames that may give away your age or stage in life. Rather, choose an email address that uses your name only and register with a current email provider, such as Gmail or Outlook.
2. Check your online presence to see what will show up in a Google search. If you haven’t built a LinkedIn profile page, do so as soon as possible, as the lack of one may give the impression of being somewhat out of touch with current personal branding methods. Be sure to optimize your LinkedIn profile so that it shows up on page one of a Google search, should an employer chose to search your name. If you need to remove old profiles or eliminate any associations with negative posts or threads, put some effort into doing so. There are several online reputation management companies that can help you elevate your image on the web. Some of these include InternetReputation or Reputation911.
3. Update the outgoing message on your mobile phone. Keep it clear, concise, and professional to reflect the image that you are trying to project.
4. Having a youthful attitude goes a long way in deflecting ageism. Here are a few tips to help you avoid stereotyping:
- Wear stylish, attractive, and current clothing.
- Your glasses, shoes, and other accessories say a great deal about who you are.
- Do you need to have your hair done? Teeth whitened?
- Portray yourself as a fit, active, and energetic person.
5. Show that you belong in the workplace. Unfortunately, your interviewer may have some pre-conceived notions about you simply based on how you appear to them. They might think that since you are a “boomer” that you can probably afford to be out playing golf all day and therefore you don’t really need the job. They may also assume that you are not tech-savvy and won’t be able to keep up with their largely younger workforce. While it may not always be easy, knowing what you’re up against can help you prepare a useful strategy.
Here are some further suggestions to help you sail through:
- Be current with the challenges of your field.
- Project a youthful appearance.
- Show that you have the energy to keep up with the work.
- Be ready to talk about your past achievements.
- Talk about positive experiences you have had working with younger colleagues, managers, and so on.
- Explain how the work inspires you, and use this during your interview when asked to talk about yourself.
- Mention technology and apps that you use on a regular basis or that you find helpful for productivity.
- Don’t speak negatively about technology and its inherent changes as this can be seen as an inability to adapt.
In conclusion, you should be walking into your interview with the confidence that you are there because you are qualified and that the interviewer wants to hire you. It is in the best interest of the employer to be able to conclude their search quickly so that they can move on to the next task. You are simply there to fulfill that need. Give them plenty of reasons to believe that you are the right person for the job and the generational concerns won’t even be an issue.
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