Is Ageism an Issue?

Before I get started on this blog, I would first like to thank William Flower, as well as my other connections on Linkedin who offered me several great blogging ideas today. On occasion, not that often, I do run out of ideas on what to blog on. Today was one of those days. That is why it is so valuable to have a network of connections to offer support when needed. I am very grateful for the many ideas that were sent to me today on topics people would like to see blogs on, one such idea was offered by William Flower: Ageism. William wrote:

Here’s an idea.. as you notice, a lot of our unemployed people in PSM (Pink Slip Mixer) meets are middle-aged. Let’s talk about age discrimination. Although illegal, it’s common yet quite unprovable. What strategies can we adopt in our job search?

Thanks again for opening up a discussion on such an important topic William.

Even though it is illegal, you are right, ageism does exist. There are a number of companies that will and do discriminate against people because of their age, however, ageism is not quite as prevalent as you might think. After having been a recruiter for over 6 years, I can say that ageism does occur on occasion, but there are ways to mitigate its effects.

The first thing to note about ageism is that if a company is going to discriminate against you, they will.

Strategy #1: Do not worry about posting a picture on Social Networking sites (as long as it is a professional picture that is). 
-I have had a lot of job seekers ask me if they should post their picture on websites such as Linkedin, and my answer is always YES. A company is just as likely to discriminate against you based on a picture (even though it is illegal) as they will in person. Personally, I would not want to work for any company that would discriminate against me to begin with, so I would rather have them not call me in for an interview in the first place and waste my time. That is up to you. If you are concerned that your picture will knock you out of the running because you are “too old” that is at your discretion.

Strategy #2: Only go back 10 years on your resume, and do not bother listing your graduation dates. 
    -You only need to go back 10 years on your resume. This is completely unrelated to protecting your age, Only going back 10 years  is just proper protocol agreed upon by most resume writers, recruiters and career coaches.

Something to note: If you worked at a particular company for 30 years, I would suggest listing all 30 years of your experience with that company. Some people may disagree with me on this, but my thoughts are that having strong stability on your resume is still a good thing. I have had others suggest that it can hurt you to list 1980-2010, but I have found that good companies will still appreciate someone who is loyal and shows strong stability.There are certain companies that might discriminate based on this fact, but again, I would recommend avoiding these companies in the first place.

    -It is unnecessary for you to list when you graduated college, and thus you should not feel obligated to add your graduation dates unless you choose to. Putting a graduation date on a resume is a little more tricky then listing 30 years of experience or putting a picture up. If you put that you graduated in 1972, most people will automatically assume that means you are approximately 60 years old give or take a few years based on the average age people graduate college. The same calculation might not necessarily be made based on a simple picture or work history. My recommendation is not to list graduation dates as they are not as relevant to your overall resume.

Strategy #3: If you get to the interview stage, DON’T MAKE YOUR AGE AN ISSUE!
-If age IS NOT already an issue for the company you are interviewing with, DO NOT make it one! I once had a job seeker I was working with who was about to turn 60 years old. I had never once considered her age, and sent her out to my clients the way I would any other candidate because she was just as qualified as anyone else. Unfortunately, she did not feel the same way. After her initial interview with a particular company I sent her out to, I received a call back from a Recruiting Manager who said they were passing on her. The Recruiting Manager went on to explain that the job seeker had expressed concern several times during the interview about how old she was and whether the executives would like her. This Recruiting Manager thought she was well qualified for the position, however, after hearing the candidate’s insecurities about her age, the Recruiting Manager was reticent to pass her resume along in the interview process. After getting this feedback I called the job seeker to softly coach her on the subject, and then next interview she went in for, she got the job!

Just remember, ageism is out there, but there are only a small percentage of companies that will discriminate based on your age. If you do not make your age an issue, most companies will not either! Look at your age as an asset, and so will the next company you interview with.

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2 thoughts on “Is Ageism an Issue?”

  1. Well said, Jennifer. For the last 20 years or so, every time I went jobhunting, someone would say “aren’t you concerned about your age,” and my answer has always been a resounding “no.” Even today, at 65, I am confident that if I needed or wanted to land a different job, I would. I have acquired certain specialized skills that I have learned are very valuable in the legal marketplace. Fortunately, right now I look forward to having only one job on my resume – Rutter Hobbs & Davidoff Incorporated. 2011 will be year 10!

    My advice to anyone in any job – never say “no” to learning something outside your comfort zone and never think you are too “good” for a task. My favorite response, whenever asked to perform a task outside my “job description” has been “if you are willing to pay me what you are paying me to [plug in the request here], I am happy to do so, so long as it does not entail hanging from the outside of the building.”

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