You’ve heard them, the endless quips about getting older — “Age is just a number” or “You’re as old as you think you are.” But as we age, we see a shift, particularly at work. Instead of valuing your experience, some employers or colleagues may question your ability to do the job, solely based on your age. This is ageism, an “ism” that isn’t called out enough. So how do you cope? Here are 6 career tips to help you overcome ageism at work.
Why We Need Career Tips to Overcome Ageism
Ageism is a form of discrimination that hits hard.
Meanwhile, choosing to work or not is a personal decision.
Perhaps you need to work a few more years because you’re financially uable to retire. Maybe you thoroughly enjoy your work and can’t imagine stepping back. Whatever your personal case might be, ageism should not influence that decision.
Put plainly, the only thing that should matter in the workplace is your experience and your skillset. How do you show that you have a valuable role to play? Here are 6 steps to help you navigate the work world as an older person.
What You Can Do: Career Tips to Overcome Ageism
1. Change Your Mindset
Sometimes the biggest hurdle to surmount is our own mindset. Think age will be a problem and it becomes easy to will it into existence.
If you’ve found yourself being a little cynical or defeatist about your age — maybe because of comments you’ve heard — take a step back. Remove your age from the equation. List your skills, the experiences you’ve had, and the problems you’ve solved. These are all things working in your favor. Celebrate them.
Take Phil Mickelson, a golfer, who at age 50 won a major, the oldest person to win. Along the way he into opposition and nay-sayers. What advice did he offer? In one interview, he said, “This is just an incredible feeling because I just believed that it was possible but yet everything was saying it wasn’t …. It might take a little extra work, a little bit harder effort to maintain physically or maintain the skills, but gosh, is it worth it in the end.”
That’s right. It will take work. But don’t let a negative mindset deprive you of personal victory.
Whenever I talk about personal branding at 50+, networking is always part of the equation. A good network will not only provide a supportive buffer but will also plug you into everything going on in your industry, including new jobs and opportunities.
First, strengthen the connections you have. Reach out to old contacts and let them know you’ve been thinking about them. Offer an article or suggest a book you’ve read you think they might enjoy. Feed the relationship. Then, look to expand your network. Keep your eye out for new people in your industry with whom you can network. Anyone who has followed me knows that I love LinkedIn for this purpose. It is one of the top networking tools for anyone looking to land a job and build a personal brand.
But in networking, there’s always one question that you have to be prepared to answer: “What do you do?” That’s why it’s important to be ready with an elevator pitch whenever you meet new people. Just this simple 20-30 second introduction can fire up your networking strategy. It can also help you put your best foot forward in a job search and interview.
3. Create a Personal Brand
Personal branding at 50+ gives you a leg up on your competition and it’s an investment that will stay with you long after your job search is over. But what does a personal brand specifically do for you?
For starters, a personal brand distinguishes you from others — people can look up your brand and see examples of your skill and expertise. It’s the difference between a no-name person and someone with a reputation. Wouldn’t you rather get to know and hire the person with substance and bona fides.
A personal brand is a shortcut for people to get to know you. Just as you can be confident buying an established brand like IBM or Apple, so people will be comfortable betting on you if you have a well-developed personal brand.
A person brand also lets people know you are fluent in social media and other tools since you need to be be fluent with technology and some tools to implement your brand.
4. Expect Questions
Specifically, questions surrounding your age. You might be asked for instance how much longer you plan to work. Without getting too personal about your future plans, you can simply say something like, “I enjoy my career, am still learning, and I intend to stay in the workforce as long as I can.”
Even before questions like this come up, you can combat perceptions of ageism by attitude. Show recruiters and potential employers that you are energized about your career and looking forward to spending a lot longer in it.
5. Upskill and Add to Your Resume
Half the battle of job hunting and personal branding at 50+ is your skillset. A lot of recruiters and employers may wonder whether you can keep pace with technology. Show them you can. If there are a few things that you’re not sure about, discover ways to expand your skillset. Take an online course and explore online forums that discuss these skills soyou can be at the top of your game.
Not sure what skills to acquire? Do a quick Google search of skills in your industry. Most likely people have written about it. You can also look up job descriptions, which will have a list of preferred and required skills.
Here’s also a general list of skills that many companies find important:
- Social media
- Microsoft Office Suite / Google Workspace
- Digital marketing
- Data analysis
Even if there are skills that don’t directly apply to your prospective job role, it’s still a good idea to include those. After all, it proves that you’re willing and able to learn new things.
6. Look for the Right Fit
If you take ageism out of the equation, there still will be companies that aren’t the right fit for you. Part of career success for older workers is knowing what kind of company you want to work with and what kind you don’t. Don’t lose sight of that. Be alert to your own red flags during the interview process and be ready to say no. After all, you want to work in a place that will contribute to your having a happy career.
In the end, age really is just a number. Career success for older workers is possible. I hope these career tips to overcome ageism help you to find a job where you are happy and appreciated for everything you bring to the table.