Ageism in the workplace is a very real problem. Older workers, who make more money and receive more benefits, are often the first to be let go, and older workers are not rehired at the rate of younger workers. Here are a few ideas to help you keep pace and keep your place in the working world:
1. Look modern. Many companies want to present a contemporary, vibrant image. Unfortunately, many older workers can be perceived—fairly or not—as outdated. It’s essential that seasoned workers consciously combat this perception by looking modern. This means updating your physical appearance. You want to look like you belong in the 21st century, not 1974.
Obviously, you want to dress appropriately for your age, but that doesn’t mean you have to wear outdated clothes. The key is to look stylish, polished, and professional. Go to a good store—like Macys or Nordstrom—and ask for help. Update your hair, too. Maybe it’s time to lose the sideburns or get rid of the bun and go for a bob. And don’t forget your shoes, make-up, and jewelry. The point is to update your look so you stand out (and fit in!) in a good way. First impressions are still powerful. Make yours a modern one.
2. Get with it technologically. Make sure you are up-to-date on the latest gadgets, software, and social media. You don’t have to tweet and post every two minutes, or read all your papers on an iPad, but you must have a good working knowledge of what is out there. Ask for help from a young person, and have them give you a run through of the different platforms, sites, and strategies. You don’t have to become a tech junkie, but this is a crucial part of today’s business and social world. Technology and social media are the zeitgeist, and those who ignore them will be left behind.
3. Update your resume. It may have been years since you’ve needed one, so do an Internet search for current styles. And you may need to tweak the copy depending on the job you are applying for. If you appear overqualified, it may hurt your chances of even getting a foot in the door. Be ready to tailor your resume to the job.
4. Brush up on your interview skills. It may have been a while since you’ve interviewed. Chances are, the person interviewing you is young enough to be your child or grandchild. This is weird, I know. But don’t panic. During the interview, it is inappropriate to say, “Yes ma’am” or “No sir” to someone much younger than you. Simply treat them as you would a colleague. Don’t talk down to them or treat them as a youngster. And don’t be obsequious or overly solicitous. Just be respectful.
5. Turn being “overqualified” into perfectly experienced. During or after an interview, you may be told that you are overqualified for the job. This means they think you’ll be bored or disgruntled doing work that is “beneath” you or that you’ll leave the minute a better opportunity comes along.
They might think you’d be a pain, using your experience to try to change the way things are done or complaining that that’s not how you are used to doing things. You can’t blame the employer. Lots of times, this is exactly how overqualified people act. Your job is to convince them otherwise.
If you are told you are overqualified, ask them what they mean by that and why that is a concern. Find out what their fear is and allay it. You have to convince them that you are perfect for the job because of your experience, that this is exactly what you want to do, that you have worked your way to the top and now you simply want to do the part that you loved best.
Here’s an example: Say you owned a store. You closed it, and now you are applying to be the manager at a franchise. The interviewee says you are overqualified and is afraid you’d be bored managing when you used to own. You want to convince them that you will be happy at this level. Tell them you are done climbing the ladder and do not want the pressure of ownership. You want to stay at the managerial level where you are happiest. Make your experience work for you, not against you. Remember, when push comes to shove, employers want the best talent they can buy. Sell yourself as such.