“I think my age might be a problem.”
I hear this from clients regularly, perhaps every other week. Even so, this last time shocked me. My client was 44. Nonplussed for a second, I asked her whether she was supposed to be too old or too young for the role - too old apparently.
It’s certainly the case that strange ideas start to get traction in the world of job applications. When we started Wordsmith Consultants back in 2011, people would call me and say “I hear you only have 60 seconds to impress a potential employer before they move on to the next resume.” Two years later that number was down to 15 seconds; someone quoted 3 seconds at me last month. By logical extension, employers will be making choices based exclusively on random selection by next year.
So yes, some of the age-discrimination rumours are just that: rumours.
If you’re 44, you are probably too old to be an Olympic gymnast but if you’re worrying about being too old for the workplace, there’s a good chance that you concern is unwarranted.
On the other hand, age discrimination certainly does occur for older people and there is evidence that the discrimination is uneven across genders. The phenomenon includes some outright discrimination as well as a few justifiable concerns, particularly for physical roles. Mostly it’s not so much ill-will as lack of imagination on the part of employers.
There is always a solution. Consider the following:
1. Your age is nobody’s business
Resumes are your sales pitch. You don’t have to include your age and you don’t have to include every job you’ve ever had. Cover your recent and relevant experience and leave off older roles that might date you.
2. First impressions matter
Competent use of technology is considered a minimum requirement for most professional jobs these days. If your resume looks like you’re still on MS Word 2003, it opens you up to being written off. It doesn’t have to be funky; in fact, unless you’re in social media, it probably shouldn’t be. It does need to be clean, professional, well-formatted.
3. Framing is important
A defensive line the personal profile about being in good shape for your age is only going to underscore concerns. Instead focus on your experience and track-record. After all your last job isn’t the end of your career, it’s the pinnacle.
4. Explaining what you have to offer is your responsibility
Instead of worrying about the downsides, focus on the positive attributes that your age provides. Maybe that’s the credibility of many years developing your technical expertise or perhaps it’s a calm demeanour born of life experience. Do you have strong rapport with an older demographic or a natural flair for mentoring younger staff as they start their careers?