As if searching for jobs weren’t difficult enough in its own right, middle-aged and senior applicants often face an additional challenge during the application process: ageism. Discriminating against older workers has been illegal for over 50 years under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), but many companies still find workarounds to favor younger applicants, whether by targeting advertisements exclusively to millennials and Generation Z or rejecting older candidates on the grounds that they lacked “energy” during an interview. According to a study by the nonprofit Generation, hiring managers were much less likely to rate aged 45+ applicants highly in any category when compared with applicants in the 35 to 44 age bracket. And in 2017, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that similarly qualified job candidates between the ages of 29 and 31 received 35% more callbacks than those aged 64 to 66.
Eliminating ageism completely may be impossible, but there are still effective ways to minimize the risk of being passed over due to one’s age. In the following article, we’ll provide some easy, dependable methods for ensuring you’ll be considered on even ground with younger applicants.
Build a Network
One of the best ways to guard against preemptive negative judgments is to forge strong relationships with others in your field. Attend conferences, speeches, and other industry events where you can meet and connect with like-minded people who might later hire you or recommend you for a job. If your colleagues know you personally, they likely won’t harbor any age-related biases against you.
Cultivate New Skills
All job industries are constantly changing, and the expertise your field requires will shift significantly over the course of a decade or two. It’s therefore vital to stay up-to-date with new software and tech-related skills, whether by enrolling in college classes (many top universities offer executive programs in a variety of fields) or obtaining certificates online.
Optimize your Resume and LinkedIn
The most important professional materials you’ll compose during your job search are your resume (and its associated cover letter) and your LinkedIn profile. You’ll need to format these in a way that minimizes the risk of ageism. One way to do this is to omit the graduation dates for any degrees you obtained, including graduate programs or certificates. Another way is to focus your résumé on your recent experience—roughly speaking, the positions you held within the past 10 to 15 years. Employers are chiefly interested in your recent career anyway, so any older roles can be omitted, except when they’re absolutely essential to your application. In that case, you can list them without dates, under an “additional experience” section.
Remain Active on Social Media
Maintaining an active social media presence is a surefire way to combat perceptions that one is “out of touch.” It’s also an excellent strategy for cultivating professional connections. Write LinkedIn posts highlighting your key career achievements, and tag any colleagues who mentored or assisted you; this will help you build an online presence and cultivate a network you can draw on in the future. You can also create profiles on other social media sites, including Instagram and Twitter, and direct potential employers to those profiles, demonstrating to them that you’re familiar with a range of platforms. Certain social media sites—like YouTube and LinkedIn—also offer free webinars and tutorials, which can help you expand your skillset. And following the social media profiles of industry thought leaders is a great way to stay abreast of new trends in your field.
Once you reach a certain age, you may face various biases when searching for new roles. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to ensure that employers never discriminate against you on the grounds that you’re too old. There are, however, simple steps you can take to minimize that risk and foreground your positive qualities. By following the above advice, you can rest assured you’ll be well positioned when searching for the job you deserve.
For more strategies, visit our resources at How to Overcome Ageism in the Workplace.