Female applicants of maturity are hit with a double whammy. Both age and gender play a role (and not a positive one) in your chances for getting hired. Although boomers are the generation who burst through the barriers formerly excluding women from professions that represent authority, money or prestige, we are once again finding ourselves the victims of prejudice.
Nevertheless, much of this discrimination can be mitigated depending upon how you present yourself to prospective employers. Whether you like it or not, you need to consider yourself a product to be sold in the marketplace. Employers—the potential buyers of YOU—are looking for someone who can and will solve their problems, represent the organization well, and brings with her a proven track record (i.e., word-of-mouth recommendations).
Here are 3 ways you can reduce the stigma of being both older and female:
Watch Your Words
In order to convince employers you have the skills and confidence to be the problem solver they are looking to find, you need to present yourself from a position of strength. The words you use—both verbally and in written format—have to project your value as a strong and confident candidate. This stance, however, can sometimes be difficult for those of us who grew up prior to the women’s movement. Girls of the 1950s and early 60s were reared to be deferential, self-effacing and sweet—not exactly attributes sought out by hiring managers and recruiters.
Therefore, you need to make certain to use words that highlight your accomplishments and stress the results you are capable of achieving. Such words include: Exceeded, Expanded, Effected, Increased, Decreased, Maximized, Minimized, Doubled, Tripled, Reduced and Saved. Then follow these accomplishment words with percentages or other numerical markers of your success.
You also want to underscore your leadership abilities and demonstrated initiative using words like: Developed, Drove, Effected, Eliminated, Implemented, Launched, Turned Around, Managed, Produced and Spearheaded.
As much as possible, try to eliminate using weak words and phrases including: Just, I believe, I feel, I hope, I was wondering, My opinion, Sort of, as well as the use of filler words such as Um and Uh when you are interviewing.
Mind Your Nonverbal Messages
Hiring managers want to employ attractive, can-do workers who will add positive energy and value to their team. They also want people who will make their organization look good. Unfortunately, these desirable attributes are in stark contrast to most of the negative stereotypes regarding older applicants.
Even so, many age-related preconceptions can be dispelled through the cues you give off by your nonverbal messages. The perception that older applicants lack energy and enthusiasm are two of the main ones.
- Project energy and confidence through your posture, handshake, eye contact, vocal tone, and your smile.
- Present a youthful appearance. Be certain your outfit is stylish, your glasses are contemporary, and, if necessary, whiten your teeth. If gray hair is not your friend, consider coloring it.
- Show your fit for the position by dressing in a manner that is similar to the current employees. Since you are applying for the position, however, you want to show extra care by taking your clothing up a notch or two.
Remember that your ultimate goal is to display a combination of professionalism and personal warmth. Employers want employees who represent them well but also someone who will make a pleasant addition to their team.
Gather Your Glow
In job search terms, the “halo effect” is created when an applicant comes with several recommendations from either trusted colleagues or valued employees. And, as a woman of maturity, such references are even more critical to your success. Age and gender conspire to make it less likely that you will be able to compete on your resume alone. But, if your application is accompanied by a number of positive referrals, you will generally obtain either a phone screen or a face-to-face interview.
Whenever you spot an interesting opportunity, therefore, the first question you should ask yourself is, “Who do I know who might work there?” or “Who do I know who might have ties to someone who works there?”
Social media, especially sites like LinkedIn, can build connections and open doors. Yet, this is an instance when old school tactics reign supreme. It takes a real relationship to build the rapport necessary for a glowing recommendation. So use social media as a tool to arrange a face-to-face meeting. You may well be recommended by a friend of a friend of a friend (down the line contact), but, whenever possible, you want to build a personal relationship. Nothing beats an enthusiastic nod to get you through the door.