By John O'Connor
For those who are 45 and over (and probably a little younger), I see a lot of self-generated concerns about age discrimination. Let's focus on the perception and misperception of age bias for those who think they are older or feeling that their "older age" is preventing them from getting a job. Does age discrimination or age bias exist? Yes. Job seekers and executives create their own bias too often. They have their own definition of old. In a word, if you are meeting with someone younger than you during your search process, as you often will at the 100K level and above - networking, interviewing, interacting, you may feel or even invent bias or become defensive.
Part of an executive search is to become relevant and competent to any prospective employer. Employers are often represented by third-party recruiters. Often the screeners they may use are younger than you. To bolster your confidence and reduce the perception of age bias and discrimination during your job search you might:
- Look at gaps in employment that need to be explained and handled properly and a well-rendered resume and cover letter. By the way, many people screw up their interviews by not properly accounting for or explaining employment gaps.
- Ensure you are pursuing degrees, training and information that keeps you tied into what employers need now. That also means reading the right and latest information on your own, anticipating "the latest" buzz or information that you would be expected to master at the C-level.
- Reinvent your career by looking at unconventional ways to lend your skills to younger, more dynamically changing companies. Blogging, writing, volunteering and consulting can help when you are between assignments.
- Stop living in the past by constantly making references to what you did. With my executive clients, I hear a lot of talk about what worked six years ago. Remember, employers want to know what you can do for them now, and what you have done productively recently. Talk to networking contacts and potential employers about what you can do, will do and want to do.
Additionally, never forget to network properly. Networking is especially important for older workers because jobs at the senior levels are the least likely to be advertised. It's important to fight the perception that your skills and knowledge might not be on the cutting edge. Stay up to date with technological trends and be sure to demonstrate your savvy when you converse with network contacts. Sadly, many job seekers over x age and who have been looking for more than six months or a year find it very hard to adapt to changes, and they are not open to changing their networking ways.
If you are an older than, say, 40 year old job seeker, and you have not been productive in your search for more than six months, ask yourself why. Get help. If you have the finances, consider hiring a career advisor who will kick you in the butt and who may be younger than you. But whatever you do, stop doing what you have done in the past if the recent past has resulted in few interviews. Make some attitude and tactical changes. If you don't what you are doing might just get you the same results.