As a new generation floods the workforce, many people who are still actively seeking employment can come up against a serious obstacle: age discrimination.
With over 70 million millennials entering the job market in the last 10 years alone, competition is steep. And that means no one can afford to let anything become a disadvantage in their hunt for jobs and careers. While you take every precaution to ensure you have the necessary skill sets and motivation to do your best work, you can still be beset by a perceived disadvantage from something over which you have no control. That being your age.
The older generation, namely the ~77 million baby boomers now in their fifties and sixties, have chosen longer working lives than those that came before. Many, perhaps yourself included, are opting out of retirement for a wide variety of reasons. But, with a wave of jobseekers in their 20’s and 30’s who can also claim a sufficient amount of experience in their field, the high work ethic of the boomer generation isn’t always enough to make them stand out to recruiters.
Ageism occurs when two equally skilled and credentialed job candidates are evaluated differently because of a difference in age. Typically, the older candidate will not be given the same opportunities as the younger. It is not strictly a matter of prejudice; younger workers tend to cost less to employers and they may not have certain bad habits ingrained in them. There is also a bias to perceive them as more technologically aware. These and other factors are associated with different age brackets and, in the narrow margins of a high-supply, low-demand job market, can be the deciding factor when relevant work experience is not the question.
Taking control of your job search as a member of an older generation means reconfiguring your approach. There are many things you can do to show employers that your particular skills are actually in short supply, thereby increasing demand for your greatest commodity: yourself. Let’s explore some strategies to circumnavigate the age discrimination issue, so you can keep yourself in the running for your dream job!
Networking and job hunting is very much a marketing game. Like any billboard, print ad, or even Super Bowl commercial, your focus should be on developing your brand image. And what exactly is your brand?
Your professional brand is the skills and traits that set you apart as an individual.
There are many chefs in the world, but you’re not just a chef, you’re an haute French cuisine expert who specializes in desserts and pastries. That, of course, is an example. But the essence is the same for how you should define yourself. Identify your specialties and areas of expertise, so you don’t get lumped in with all the rest.
When you shop around your resume, be clear about what your specific value is. Like any ad, you should be making a clear value proposition about what you offer that they couldn’t get anywhere else.
What are the things you do that no one else does?
Plan Your Professional Development
Like a shark, professionals who don’t keep moving forward will suffocate. Creating a plan to keep you moving forward in your career and personal development is key to keeping yourself both relevant and engaged in your industry.
If the changing workforce of the last few decades has shown anything at all, it’s that change is a ready constant. Developing long term action plans for periods of decades, or even entire careers, is a rocky enterprise. Set reasonable, actionable mid-term goals for yourself, only 1 or 2 years out, and keep aligning them as the employment landscape changes.
That flexibility is an important part of professional development, as well. Many people tend to stagnate later in their careers, finding comfort in holding a certain position, or a disdain for adopting new skills. But, if you want to have success and stay relevant even in one spot, you need to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to new skills and technologies that are inevitably going to affect your field.
What are your personal development plans?
Keep The Bigger Picture In Focus
What we mean by this is that it’s easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty of a certain job or your daily tasks. But that means it’s also easy to lose sight of the work you should be doing to grow and maintain your relevance in the job market overall.
They say that your net worth is equal only to your network. Keeping up with industry peers, staying engaged with potential employers, and basically shaking as many hands as you can (either virtually or in-person), is the best way to build and maintain the opportunities that you need to succeed.
This will also allow you to tap into the hidden job market. Many of the best job offers can come through word-of-mouth, and put you at a stronger vantage than applying for a position that’s accepting any applicants. This is where the real potential to turn your brand into business lies.
Brush up on your networking tools, such as LinkedIn and other social media. Find out where your industry conventions are and get out there to make your presence known. Do whatever you can to market yourself strongly (but professionally) until your brand is a household name for any potential employer.
What are you doing to network yourself?
These strategies are great techniques for anyone looking to set themselves apart in the fierce job market of today. But when it comes to fighting against age discrimination, taking the time to properly focus on your career approach is mission critical. Now that you have the guidance, it’s time to get out there and carve out the niche that only you can. Good luck!