Agism is pervasive in the job market and, according to study findings, women are more likely to be discriminated against because of their age than men. It’s ironic because in a time when all the focus seems to be on other forms of discrimination, one of the oldest and biggest social problems is still largely being overlooked.
While you may not like to give credence to this phenomenon, if you’re 50 plus and have looked for a job recently, there’s little doubt that you’ve personally encountered agism in the real world. No matter how accomplished you are, how many years of experience you’ve racked up, how much you’ve helped previous employers succeed, you’re now being judged—not only on your expertise—but on your age.
The problem is very evident in certain industries, especially the ones that are technology-centric. If you have any doubt as to how persistent agism really is, take a look at any digital marketing company website, for example. Click on the images you find on the “Our Team” page, which the site will undoubtedly have. Look at the faces. Do you see anyone who looks a day older than 30?
In the vast majority of companies like this, the “team” is all wearing jeans and t-shirts, fresh off the college campus or not far from it. Never mind if you were using computers before they were a twinkle in their parents’ eyes – to a lot of employers today, you’re a dinosaur with nothing to offer a “cutting edge, hip start-up.” Never mind that you bootstrapped dozens of companies during your long career, taking them from virtual nothingness into successful multi-million dollar enterprises. All that matters now is that you are too old in their eyes. The generation of today can’t fathom that you could possibly know more than they do; or even know as much as they do. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true. People, especially women, over 50 are no longer seen as a valuable asset in the job market.
If you’re looking for a second career or simply want to switch jobs, there are steps you need to take in order to sort of “age-proof” your job hunt. While it isn’t morally right that you should have to hide your age in order to get an interview, the moral high ground doesn’t pay the bills. You’re old enough to know that being able to adapt to new situations is key to success – to survival, even. Consider the following tips as a means to an end. A way to adapt to a hostile environment for a smart, experienced 50-plus woman like you. Use these tips on your resume, Linkedin profile and any other professional profile platform you may use.
Leave off your college attendance dates, especially your graduation dates. These are an easy way for an employer to guess your age. Everything else is okay to mention, including advanced degrees or special designations like summa cum laude.
Email addresses from AOL, ATT and Hotmail are dead giveaways that you’re from another era. Millennials use Gmail almost exclusively for email. Alternatively, you could use a custom email from your owned domain. Also, avoid emails that end in .net.
Does your email address contain your year of birth or the year you first got email? Don’t use this as in a professional capacity. Instead, choose an email address with only your name. If that’s not possible, figure out a letters-only email that works for you. Numbers in the email not only look unprofessional, but they can be used to date you.
Revamp your resume so it reflects current terminology. Don’t mention proficiencies with NCR, Microsoft Suite or DOS. Instead, use terms like iOS and Android. Be liberal with the use of acronyms, which is another popular habit among millennials. Use acronyms like U/I, U/X and CRM.
At one time, knowing how to use email was a job plus. Now, mentioning that will get your resume sent to the recycle bin. Don’t list skills like typing, WPM, dictation, postage meters or email.
If you don’t know already, double-spacing isn’t correct with computer typing. Still, some people still do it out of habit. If this is you, correct your resume and online professional pages so they have only single spaces between sentences.
Beyond 10, your years of experience aren’t important (to younger employers). If you have 15, 20 or 30 years of experience, you’ll want to change them to 10. No millennial or anyone in their 30’s has 20 years of experience doing anything. Your years of experience can date you and make a potential employer skip over you because of ageism. This is the hardest tactic to do for many job searchers who are 50-plus. But remember, this is just a means to an end.
Likewise with your resume. Drop the older job experience and focus on the newer items. Your resume should be no longer than two pages, unless you are at an executive level, in which you case, your resume would be more of a portfolio and as many as three to four pages.
These tips might seem like they demean all your years of hard work and achievements. In reality, you can make your expertise shine brighter by focusing more on what you’ve accomplished recently and modernizing your “story.” Once you’ve actually got the interview, you can surprise your potential new employer when they see that you’re a mature woman who really knows the business inside and out. At that point, you don’t need any more tips. You’ve got this.