AGEISM: Too old to be hired?

Are you an older adult looking for work?

Job searching is a challenge at the best of times. It becomes a major one for older adults.

Some older adults still want to work even when others think they should be retired. The reasons for their doing so vary.

Some people are just too dynamic, too energetic to sit at home. Some people find endless TV watching, reading book after book just not satisfying enough. They have energy and drive which can be tapped by active employment.

Other people need to work as their retirement income is inadequate. They may have a mortgage, rental costs, loans which require regular payments. Some older adults have bought new lifestyles with added expense, cottages, vacation homes, boats, luxury cars, motorcycles and such. Some people may still have expenses incurred from younger days but as of yet still with outstanding balances.

For whatever reason, there are many older adults who want to work, many who are job hunting but in that job search, they run into a huge wall, their age. Ageism is a formidable obstacle to getting employment for older adults.

Ageism is illegal
Despite Canadian laws against age discrimination in hiring, the employment bias continues. Unfortunately, older adults cannot turn back the hands of time. However, there are things they can do inspite of ageism.

Strategies which may help in the battle of employment ageism.

Dress as if you have already been hired
Older candidates searching for work may need to consider ways to deflect from their age or diminish their aged look. Put the ego in a drawer and take out apparel that is age appropriate but as importantly, apparel which is appropriate to the job for which one is applying. The job interview is not the time to assert one’s independence, “I dress as I want” attitude. Stretch pants, sweatpants, polo sweatshirts, hoodies, even jeans, stylishly tattered may be fashionably acceptable but this dress may run against the norms of this potential employer. A bank does not want a fashion bouffant for its wickets. Most office-centered businesses eschew fashionably appropriate jeans or tie-dyed cutoff sweatshirts. The bottom line, dress for the job interview as if you were already working for the company.

Deflect, minimize and diminish the look of age
Wrinkles and the complexion of an older person are unavoidable. Learn ways to diminish those assaults of time but do it with care and moderation. Cosmetics can enhance the look of a person, but they can destroy the intended look when overdone.

Wear gentler, softer colors. Black, shades of grey and muted colors may seem appropriate but overdoing it may defeat the goal of diminishing the accent of age. Some color is important but how much and what is a tough call.

Hairstyle should be appropriate for a person’s age. A cut worn by a person 25 or 35 years younger may feel right but it may not reflect appropriately in the eyes of a potential employer. Examine magazines, search the Internet for examples of stylish cuts not just suitable for the job for which you are interviewing but also ones which are appropriate to your age. This is not the place to assert your independence and right to self-determination.

Accessorize properly
Carry the appropriate purse. A duffle bag may not cut it with some employers. On the contrary, such may be appropriate when applying for work with a company that smiles on such apparel. Shoes should never be overlooked. Sneakers, gym boots again may be inappropriate not just for the interview but may be frowned upon by that potential employer. The shoes should be clean, polished and laces tied. A seemingly trivial thing but often the trivial things can trip one up a job interviewee.

The 3 Rs
Rehearse, research and review. Prepare for the interview by researching the company, reviewing what they do, their successes and where you can fit in in their organization. Search the history of the company and its record in the marketplace. Where has it been successful? Be familiar with the company, what it is about and what it symbolizes. Know the brand!

By the same token, rehearse for the interview. Practice with mock interview sessions. Practice responses to hard questions. You’re an older adult and that works against you. Prepare for questions dealing with an older candidate. Be aware the company is looking to its future with this employee. What crucial short-term gains can you offer? What values do you bring to the table which a younger candidate cannot? Can the company profit from these values quickly and constructively?

Emphasize the positive, enhance oneself
Older adults have experience developed skills, proven track records, a history of success and demonstrated reliability and job records. Emphasized your positive years of work. This is a real commodity, a real value to a potential employer. Rehearse responses to be able to demonstrate and verbalize these values. They need to be displayed. But in doing so, be cautious about too much repetition. Say it once, maybe twice and then move to other matters as the interview process unfolds.

A mock interview practice session can help one develop more confidence, more comfort and more self-assurance with different facets about one’s self which are not normally vocalized.

Outside evaluation
An objective outsider, preferably someone familiar with you, your job applications and your work history can be a great assistant in preparing for a successful interview. This is a dress rehearsal where the toughest questions need to be asked and addressed. It is important to demonstrate self-awareness about one’s age but not to see it negatively.

Job interviews are stressful and challenging. These are unavoidable anxieties associated with the experience. However, these anxieties can be diminished by changing one’s outlook, one’s attitude. Think positive; think constructively. Think as if you have already been given the job. Envisioning the positive can make it happen.

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