Ageism in the Job Market: Truth or Hype?

10/10/2011 03:31 pm ET | Updated Dec 10, 2011
  • Mary Eileen Williams Author, 'Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50'

Are you over 50 and feeling overlooked? If so, you're not alone. There's no doubt about it, looking for work is tough and it's even more difficult for mature jobseekers. Or is it?

Those of us over 50 are constantly fed distressing news. We've been told over and over that our chances for finding work -- let alone a good job -- are next to nil. Nevertheless, and despite all the hype, there are 5 compelling reasons why you need to avoid believing all the dire predictions about ageism in the job market.

1) Consider the source. Who is feeding the spin machine and telling us that, once we hit our half-century birthday, we're no longer considered of value in the workforce? Why it's the media, of course! And what do they spin? It doesn't take a marketing guru to answer that one. Whether you pick up the newspaper or watch the evening news, you'll soon get your fill of bad news. Somewhere in the media Bible, they're told it sells. So that's just what they spin... and plenty of it.

2) Statistics can be skewed. By definition, statistics are generalities and cannot possibly reflect your individual strength as a candidate. How you conduct your job search, how many hours per week you devote to looking for work, the contacts you develop in your network, and how you present yourself during an interview are all personal factors that have a huge impact on your success. Statistics have nothing to do with these or a myriad other individual attributes that are unique to you alone.

3) You're lumped in with the time-wasters. Many of the mature jobseekers reflected in the media's discouraging statistics are not savvy in the ways of the marketplace today. They may have held a job for years (even decades) and are conducting their job search like they did back in 1986. This won't work -- mature applicants need to understand the current and most effective ways to approach potential employers and connect with key decision-makers. Otherwise they're spinning their wheels and making those gloomy statistics soar to even higher.

4) There's strength in numbers. Throughout our lives, baby boomers have been blessed to enjoy the power and clout our massive numbers provide. The look of today's workforce is far greyer than it used to be. Workers over 50 are no longer an anomaly or considered to be "just putting in time, waiting to collect retirement." We're now close to a third of the workforce and the over 50 demographic is growing at a rapid rate. Every 7 seconds another boomer turns 50, 60, and, as of this year, 65.

5) Even if you don't believe any of the previous points, believe this one! If you buy into the media's message (the one that says you're unwelcome in the workforce and no one will hire you), what do you think this will do to your attitude? It's difficult to come off exuding confidence, energy, and enthusiasm -- three key attributes you'll need to project -- when you're feeling unwanted. So don't allow them to make you feel "less than" just because of your age. Focus on the strengths, talents, experience, market-knowledge, mature work ethic, and people skills you bring. Recognize and be proud of the numerous pluses age alone provides and approach the market from a position of strength.

The fear of ageism is perhaps the number one key holding back most applicants over 50 from achieving their goals. We'll be exploring this important topic, telling the truth behind all the debilitating myths, and discussing ways to counteract them in future posts. So be sure to check back often and please share these posts with your friends over 50 who are looking for work.

In the meantime, although it is tough out there and there's no denying ageism is a factor in hiring, avoid falling for all the hype. Hold your head high, take pride in your experience, express your positive attributes with confidence, and show 'em just how fabulous a jobseeker on the far side of 50 can be!

Check out Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50. Also be sure to take a look at my blog, Feisty Side of Fifty and celebrate your sassy side!