Past the age of 50, searching for a job can prove to be a daunting task. There is a plethora of advice on the internet, though, telling us how to be successful and get that interview. “Camouflage your age on your resume!”, they say. Don’t let on that you are in your fifties, by lopping off the first 15 years of experience. “Dress younger!”, “Dye your hair!”, “Wear contacts, not glasses!”. All this so-called “advice” can be a bit irritating. It seems to condone the practice of potential employers discriminating against an applicant, based solely on their age and asks older job seekers to try to "hide" the clues that give away their age, on a resume. This seems to play right into the hands of those with the lowest mentality who would deny someone a job, based, solely on their age. Age discrimination is no less heinous (and no less ILLEGAL) than racial, gender or any other kind of discrimination, yet it is TOLERATED, even condoned in the workplace. We are expected to “pretend” that we do not belong to this class of people, about whom so many ill conceived and incorrect notions are perceived.
Another one of my favorites is the one that goes, “Stay up to date with “new” technologies!” Show that you can embrace these “new” technologies and that you are not afraid to learn “new” things and, or so they say, you will get hired. First of all, simply the use of the word “new” tells us that these so-called experts believe that these technologies are “new” to US! That we have no knowledge of or proficiency in the use of this new thing called “com-pu-ters”.Most of us in the 40-60 age range invented this “new” technology and some of us have actually followed along with its development! Shocking, I know. The late Steve Jobs of Apple Computers was born in…1955. Just like me.The challenge seems not to be GIVING them the impression we’re not current. It’s a belief that is already present from the moment we first enter the interview room. So our challenge is an uphill battle from the start. The question is, how do we DISPEL this notion, in the limited time available in an interview? Outside of wearing my ThinkGeek.com t-shirt, I am at a loss, but employers really should consider the possible benefits of hiring older workers.
Writing in the Huffington Post, journalist and New York Times bestselling author Nan Silver offers these 6 points you might want to drive home in a job interview:
1. We don't have childcare emergencies. You don't have to worry about our having to "work at home" because the nanny called in sick or Brunhilda is teething or the day care center was condemned for asbestos contamination.
2. We aren't tired or distracted. We didn't suffer a sleepless night because our recent ex's Facebook status just changed to "in a relationship."
3. We are experts in psychology. Having raised a kid or two, we can deftly handle the arrested development displayed in any corporate department. We are unfazed by sulking or tantrumming toddlers of any age. We know how to deal with the backstabbing Mean Girls in sales, the passive-aggressives in accounting, and those narcissistic clients.
4. We aren't about to quit or die on you. Despite what you secretly fear, our brains aren't on the verge of atrophying. Check out the actuarial tables. Life expectancy for healthy people of our generation is now 80-something. We can work for you for many years to come. In fact, we have to. If we retire at 65 our savings aren't going to last as long as we do.
5. We aren't angling for your job. Probably, we've already had it and know what it's like, so no thank you. All we want is to put in a full day doing something that matters--oh, and health insurance, please!
6. We aren't spending our lunch time interviewing at other companies. Who's going to hire us?
It seems to me that potential employers see us as we see our own elders. That 50 is the new 80. I truly believe that, when I am sitting across the table from an interviewer, he is seeing his Mom, who calls his cell phone nightly to ask how to cut and paste. And technology is not the only area in which we are discriminated against. “Resistant to change”, “inflexible”, “lethargic” are terms they use to describe us. US – the Woodstock generation who brought them free love and marijuana! Yes, you’re welcome! This is the thanks we get? Once we were considered individualistic, at all costs. Now we are all lumped into one, big undesirable category. When did 50 become “elderly”?
My Mother does not know anything about computers. She also does not want to learn. (Believe me, I have tried!) SHE is resistant to change, inflexible and yes, lethargic. But she is EIGHTY. Facebook is full of people our age. Likewise Twitter, and any number of other social media outlets. I don’t know what the answer is. Perhaps it is for us to make our own way, just as we always have. After all, if we are such a great, individualistic generation, we shouldn’t need the approval of corporate America. I realize there are those, both young and old, who are not especially tech savvy. I know a lot of them. Most of them think I am some kind of technological genius or a witch because I can make my computer do such magical things. :) So the issue then becomes, how do we get employers to see each and every applicant as an individual, instead of categorizing us all, based on their observations of a few? That, and how do we get so-called job search experts to stop condoning their behavior? That is the real question.