Palubiak says a candidate who gets an interview is close to getting the job; at that juncture, it’s primarily language that becomes the barrier—not age. “Rather than saying, ‘I was the number one sales rep in my division,’ say ‘The company encountered serious competitive challenges in my division. Through my actions, ultimately the company was able to…’ and then show the contribution you made.”
It may also help to simply swim in the same water as those under 40. On Facebook, impressions of older people among those in their 20s are very negative, according to a new study, “Facebook as a Site for Negative Age Stereotypes,” authored by Becca Levy, director of the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Yale School of Public Health, as well as researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, Hunter College and the Hopkins School. Levy’s research, which was published online in the journal The Gerentologist, found negative stereotypes of older people were rampant. “One of the conclusions we had from the research was that social networking could be a way to break down intergenerational barriers and a great resource for older adults,” she says, making connections that could help with their job search and illustrating publicly that they are comfortable with technology younger people use.
Present Well, in Real Life, on the Phone and Virtually
Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert, says midlife job seekers often think they need to look younger, when what they really need is to look relevant. “Get your hair cut so the style is modern, wear something that makes you feel confident. You want to convey vibrancy, passion and energy,” she says. That goes for the photo on your LinkedIn profile too.
See also: Capitalize on Your Eclectic Experience
Companies often do a screening interview by phone before deciding to meet a candidate. Stand up and use a headset during that call, suggests Dana Manciagli, a career consultant and author of Cut the Crap, Get a Job. Manciagli says when you stand up, you dial up your voice and energy level. On the phone, age bias occurs when a candidate sounds feeble. “Even if it’s a 22-year-old screening you, it’s an interview,” she says. “Stand up, gesture with your arms and be energetic.”
Show a Solution
Remember that behind every job description lies a problem. As a candidate your questions should come early—rather than at the end of the interview as is traditional—to unearth the problems a company is trying to overcome. “Too often older candidates are preoccupied with trying to sell themselves, rather than trying to understand the issues facing the company,” says Palubiak. By offering ways you can contribute, you become a problem solver, she says, and that’s when age doesn’t matter.
Another strategy older job candidates often stress their expertise in a variety of areas. “It’s far better to stick to what your specialization really is,” says Palubiak. “It’s counter-intuitive, but trying to be everything to everybody dilutes your value in the market.”
Never Sell Yourself Short
Williams says midlife job seekers on LinkedIn often under-chronicle their experience, playing it down to avoid being dismissed as overqualified or too old. “A lot of employers have young employees and need older workers for their experience and ability to mentor, so don’t think there aren’t opportunities,” she says. “There’s ageism, yes, but don’t dig into that self-fulfilling prophecy that it means there’s nothing out there. As a 50-plus, promote your experience, your great organizational and leadership skills, and that you have a breadth of experience in your industry that will benefit a company.”
See also: 3 Key Questions Job Seekers Forget
She also suggests addressing the elephant in the virtual room—that you are a midlife worker—rather than dancing around it, by doctoring your photo and leaving dates and experience off your profile. Williams suggests stating in the summary section that in addition to your long history in the industry you have “an abundance of energy you want to share,” she says. “Make it clear you want to spend the rest of your career contributing to a company you feel passionate about.”
Eilene Zimmerman writes extensively about the workplace, entrepreneurship, technology and small businesses, for the New York Times, CNNMoney, Crain’s New York Business, and Fortune Small Business.
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