Employment bias against the over 50’s?

Thursday, September 18th, 2008 - career management, CV Writing, Job Application, resume writing

Employment bias against the over 50’s?

Mark asks: I hear daily from friends and colleagues about the pernicious effects of hidden systemic discrimination against contributors over the age of 50. The masking subtleties seem to pre-empt any direct challenge. Is age bias real? Is it defensible? What strategies are effective in breaking through the age barrier? Have you employed alternative career strategies that are more effective?

In answer:
Yes – its clear, plain and obvious on a weekly basis for a recruiter from employer briefs that many individuals are still biased on the basis age, sex, race, religion and disability basis: I am not saying its the corporations or their policies, its the individuals giving the briefs. The law is particularly clear in Europe, where if a recruiter took or selected on such a written or unwritten brief, they would be co-liable to breaking the law. Around 90% wake up and with good candidates easily change their ways – the other 10 percent, about one employer a month, we refuse to do business with.

However, I also have to say that the “bias” is not necessarily related to age, but to attitude. Too many over 50’s are not stretching themselves to learn new skills or are not keeping up with current trends. Also, over 50’s need to allow themselves to be more adaptable to change. How many over 50’s understand Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 concepts? How many are using social networking sites? How many are going back to school to learn new skills? How many are thinking about product innovation?

The best career strategy – where evr you are in your career – is to continually grow your skills and your professional network. Be the expert! Be the most productive worker!

With that in mind, and recognising the soft people skills that many over 50’s have, I think that you should perhaps consider a career change to a more flexible consulting based position, rather than looking for another permanent job. It would allow you to learn, and allow the employers to learn about you – you are more likely to over come bias through evidence than words.

Here is a suggested strategy:

  1. Make time to learn new technologies — particularly IT and social media. If Twitter & Plurk just sound like non-sense, you’re out of the loop! Create a solid presence on LinkedIn, Facebook and other networking sites that apply to your industry.
  2. Hire a coach or other objective party, even if only for a short term, to help you define YOUR VALUE. Before you dust off the resume or jump into self employment (i.e. consulting), you need to be able to succinctly state what value you bring to others. This should be in quantifiable terms. Knowing your strengths is great, bringing quality to an organization is wonderful, but getting hired depends on what you can do financially for that business.
  3. Polish up your image. Get objective opinions on your look. Are your suits out of date or tired? Is your hairstyle a decade past due? Would a touch up of colour in your hair erase a few years? This is not about looking young — but avoiding looking old, aged, or dated.
  4. Get out and meet people. See and be seen. Make lots of connections. Be genuinely friendly and curious about what others do. Find people who do what you think you’d like to do and buy them lunch. Ask lots of questions. Be disarmingly honest about your goals and dreams. People love to help. Become part of a networking group and they will work for you!

Age will never stop you being employed, but attitude will.

Good Luck!


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