Age bias is real, but not insurmountable, if you know what recruiters and hiring managers want. Here are six tips for overcoming it.
According to a recent article in The New York Times "workers over 54 remained unemployed for an average of 47 weeks in New York City during the second half of 2013, compared with 41 weeks for the labor force as a whole."
1. Get With The Program
If you were a COBOL programmer working on mainframe computers in the 1980s and don't know a thing about Java, C++ or Python, it's time to update your skills. Technology evolves in a matter of months and by the time you become expert in a particular programming language, it can already be considered obsolete. Regardless, if you are a software programmer or financial analyst, your skills need to match the current needs of hiring companies.
2. Identify Your Marketable Skills
One of my clients worked for years in the traffic department of a publishing company, managing the scheduling and workflow of print magazines. With print publishing on the decline, looking for work in that industry was unlikely to yield promising results. When we did an assessment of his skills, he realized he was good at developing work schedules, organizing tasks and meeting deadlines. After extensive networking, he landed a job in an advertising agency managing the daily workflow of multi-media advertising projects; TV, print, radio and digital.
3. Make Social Media Your Friend
If you were born before personal computing was a gleam in Steve Job's eye, let alone before the Internet, learn to become comfortable with social media. This doesn't mean you have to pose for selfies and post them on Instagram, but it does require that you get comfortable with business networking sites like LinkedIn. Since the recruiter who interviews you is likely to be half your age, and very tech savvy, the first place they will vet you is on social media.
4. Update Your Image
Like it or not, people will judge you by how you look. The fastest and easiest way to combat age discrimination is by updating your image. Start with your glasses. If you haven't bought a new pair of eyeglasses since Clinton was in the White House, now is the time. Nothing ages you more than out of date eyewear. The same goes for clothes. Investing in a new suit or dress is well worth the money.
"By animating your body language, you engage others. Body gestures, facial expressions, and a vocal tone that demonstrate passion leave more memorable impressions, whether on a stage or around a meeting table,"says psychologist Ruth Blatt.
6. Have Plans B, C, and D
Pinning your hopes on one opportunity or one company may leave you disappointed. Creating a target list of employers and researching their needs will enable you to demonstrate your knowledge and problem-solving skills on interviews, setting you apart from others less prepared.