For those who are 45 and over (and probably a bit younger) I see a lot of self-generated concerns about age discrimination or age bias. Let's focus on the perception and misperception of age bias for those who think they are older or feeling that their older age is preventing them from getting a job.
Does age discrimination exists? Yes. But all types of discrimination exists. According to AOL's featured career advisor and fellow Career Thought Leader Barbara Safani, "It's not so much about age, it's about relevance." A client recently asked her if 38 was too old. "Too old? 38?" They had a talk.
Too often jobseekers and executives create their own bias. They invent their own definition of old. In a word, if you are meeting with someone younger than you during your search process – networking, interviewing, interacting in any way – you may feel or even invent some bias or become defensive. Part of an executive search is to become relevant and competent to any prospective employer.
To bolster your confidence and reduce the perception of age bias and discrimination during your job search you might try to:
- Properly handle gaps in employment, They need to be explained and handled with precision. Many people in this tough economy screw up their interviews by not properly accounting for or explaining employment gaps.
- Ensure you are pursuing degrees, certifications, training and critical information that keeps you tied into what employers need now. That also means reading the right and latest information on your own. Self study matters and counts and between assignments you need to be on an aggressive educational path.
- Reinvent your career by looking at unconventional ways to lend your skills to younger, more dynamically changing companies. Blogging, writing, volunteering and consulting can help you, the perception of you and your overall mindset.
- Stop living in the past by constantly making references to what you did. Talk to networking contacts and potential employers about what you can do, will do and want to do. Many executive clients that I work with have a strong history but dwelling on the history may not be the best message to convey to an employer who wants to know how you will help them NOW.
- Up your networking power. Networking is especially important for older workers because jobs at the senior levels are the least likely to be advertised. It's important to fight the perception that your skills and knowledge might not be on the cutting edge. Stay up to date with technological trends and be sure to demonstrate your savvy when you converse with network contacts.
Sadly, many jobseekers over x age and who have been looking for more than six months or a year find it very hard to adapt to changes.
If you are an older than say a 40 year old jobseeker and you have not been productive in your search for more than six months ask yourself why. Get help. If you have the finances consider hiring a career advisor who will kick you in the butt and who may be younger than you.
But whatever you do stop doing what you have done in the past. It might just get you the same results.