The economic downturn from the subprime mortgage debacle of 2008 has had a disproportionately serious side effect on “older” workers. For example:
• Workers over 45 are unemployed longer than younger workers.
• By 2018, the number of employees over 55 will reach 39 million, compared to 27 million in 2008.
• Older workers are considering postponing retirement because of the down economy.
• Research has found no relationship between age and job performance.
First off, it’s illegal to discriminate
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act says that it's illegal for an employer to discriminate against you because of your age, but that only applies if you're age 40 or older, and only if the employer has at least 20 employees (or is a government of any size). Some states, counties and cities have laws that protect employees of smaller organizations. Some states also have laws that further limit age-based discrimination. Always check with an employment lawyer in your state when in doubt.
For many job seekers, it’s not a legal issue, but they find themselves shut out from the senior jobs. How to address age discrimination and promote your candidacy for employment?
Start with your resume
One way to overcome the perception that your age is an issue, is to “age proof” and edit your resume. Limiting what you include on your resume, from a chronological perspective, can help job seekers avoid the stigma of being considered "too old" by a prospective employer. You may want to check out Joyce Lain Kennedy's Resumes for Dummies, which gives the following pointers:
• On your resume limit your experience to 15 years for a managerial job, 10 years for a technical job, and 5 years for a high-tech job
• Leave your other experience off your resume or list it without dates in an Other Experience category
• Consider using a functional resume rather than a chronological resume
Job Interviews for Dummies, also by Joyce Lain Kennedy, recommends emphasizing the positive when interviewing:
• Project yourself as cheerful and flexible and back that up with proof of your skills and success
• Review the benefits of older workers - commitment to a career, hands-on experience, a track record of success, stable, realistic expectations - and think about how they apply to you
Let potential employers know that you are flexible on the compensation front. Even though you may have earned six figures in the past, perhaps you no longer need to or you would be willing to accept a lower salary to get your foot in the door.
If that's the case, when salary requirements are asked for, mention that yours are flexible or negotiable, based upon the position and the entire compensation package, including benefits.
Employers may think that you are close to retirement and don't need the job, but that's far from true for most Americans. They might also assume that older employees will miss more work or have more medical issues. Yet statistics show that older employees tend to be the most reliable. Challenge the stereotype and let your prospective employer know that your experience is only one of the many reasons to hire you.