As a post-50 job-seeker, you know all too well that ageism presents some major barriers to your success. Younger hiring managers are far too prone to believing unfortunate stereotypes about your skill sets, fit within the organization and attitude. Yet, by recognizing the negative preconceptions you are likely to face and preparing ways to address these obstacles, you can shift their focus to highlight your strengths. Below are three of your biggest roadblocks and some of the best ways to handle them.
Roadblock #1: Technology
Negative preconception: Your technical skills are deficient and outdated.
What you can do: This is the #1 stereotype held against applicants of a certain age. Unless you take the steps to address and resolve this belief, you will be eliminated on the spot.
- First, you have to be very clear that your skills are up-to-date and valued in today’s marketplace. There is no way around this. You must have the technical skills for the job. For a listing of websites that offer free and low-fee training, check out my recent Huff/Post 50 article entitled, “Why Right Now May Be The Best Time Of The Year To Find A Job.”
- Secondly, be certain you let your interviewer know that you possess the skills required for the position. If you do not openly share this information, they are likely to leap to the assumption that your skill set is outdated. That said, unless your interviewer is woefully inept, this make-or-break stereotype will remain unspoken — rendering it silent but deadly.
- You want, therefore, to practice ways you can proactively bring up any hidden objections during the interview. This is your best way to dispel these types of misconceptions. Saying something like, “I pride myself on keeping my skills cutting-edge and current” or “I’ve become the go-to person for coworkers who need help with the technical aspects of the job” are phrases that will allow you to pave the way to list your technical proficiencies. Follow these statements by citing solid examples of times when your technical expertise solved a problem, expedited a procedure or otherwise made a difference.
- Thirdly, highlight and make special note of your cross-functional skill sets. State something along the lines of, “My combination of skills in both x & y has allowed me to….” You want to show that, not only are you proficient in the skills required for the position, but—moreover—how you can contribute in ways that others cannot. This is one important instance when age and experience will give you a substantial edge over the competition.
Roadblock #2: You Won’t Fit In With The Group
Negative preconception: Hiring you will prove a cultural and personality mismatch. As an older applicant, you are likely to be stuck in your ways and unable to deal with change in a fast-paced environment. Furthermore, you will refuse to take direction—especially from someone younger.
What you can do: Make it very clear that you have reported to younger bosses many times in the past. It has never been a problem nor have you experienced difficulties dealing with a rapidly changing workplace.
- Proactively state that you enjoy working with and learning from people of all ages. You are invigorated by diverse, fast-paced environments and thrive on variety, challenge and change. Prepare examples of times when you came up with innovative solutions and/or resolved unexpected problems. Share instances when your boss was especially complimentary and you were singled out for your contributions.
- Stress your flexibility and adaptability by providing illustrations that demonstrate you are a quick study and enjoy learning new things. Periodically refer to the fact that you like what you do, know you’re good at it, and want to continue to grow your skill set.
- Show energy and enthusiasm for the position, the company and what you know you can contribute. Be sure to make your nonverbal messages and vocal tone upbeat and enthusiastic. A positive, can-do attitude will go a long way to dispel the idea that you are just going through the motions, reluctant to take direction and can’t relate to younger co-workers.
Roadblock #3: You Are Too Expensive
Negative preconception: Your salary requirements far exceed what they are willing to pay.
What you can do: This roadblock is particularly tricky. You don’t want to undersell yourself and leave money on the table. On the other hand, you do not want to price yourself out of the market so that you are eliminated before you have had the chance to demonstrate your added value.
- Your first step is to arm yourself with information. Websites such as Salary.com and Glassdoor.com are good places to start. Using these sites as well as other resources (recruiters, informational interviews, job boards, etc.), determine the going salary range for someone with your skills and background. Then take a good hard look at your income requirements and see how flexible you can be. Remember that many organizations favor “young and cheap” over “mature and experienced,” so recognize that this is a real issue that may hold you back.
- Whatever range you decide, it is generally helpful to delay any discussion of salary until the employer has determined that you are their candidate of choice. (You can often do this by stating that your salary requirements are flexible and that, for now, you want to make certain you would be a good fit for the job.) When they are most interested, you have the strongest bargaining power. Nevertheless, and above all, you want the outcome to be win/win. You will often be negotiating with a future boss, so you want the result to be a positive one for both sides.
Being an older job-seeker isn’t easy. But, by recognizing the barriers you face and spending time on some upfront planning, you will be well prepared to overcome any roadblocks you may encounter. Most of all, come from a position of strength. Age and experience hold great advantages, so be sure to stress these whenever possible. Your confidence, competitive skill set and winning attitude will go a long way to help you conquer the ageism factor and turn you into a candidate who is strong, competent and awfully hard to beat!