Age discrimination is illegal (as long as it’s against workers aged 40 and over). However, unless the hiring manager is a real dummy, he or she is not going to say, “We’re not hiring you, because we’re going with someone younger who’ll accept worse conditions for less pay.” Ditto your ageist boss, passing you over for the best projects. The fact is, there are a lot of ways a halfway crafty person can discriminate based on age, and get away with it.
It’s not fair, but that’s reality. The good news is that there are things you can do to combat ageism, besides taking identifying dates off your resume.
1. Become a subject-matter expert.
“Of all the tools available to beat ageism, there is none more powerful than subject matter expertise,” writes Carol Fishman Cohen at Forbes. “I consider it the antidote to ageism. When you’re a subject matter expert, your expertise is the focus, not your age.”
Cohen’s piece offers some good tips on how to do that, but the bottom line is that you’ll want to learn to talk up what you already know. The fact is, you haven’t just been twiddling your thumbs since the beginning of your career. You’ve been learning and gaining perspective, both of which are valuable to your employer. Add in a thorough knowledge of the recent happenings in your industry, and you’re unbeatable. The kids at the table can’t even come close.
2. Keep learning, and make obvious your curiosity and open mind.
One of the stereotypes about older workers is that they’re closed off to new technology and theory. Prove this one wrong by continuing to learn — and again, making sure everyone sees you doing it.
Today’s workers have to keep learning at every point in their career in order to stay relevant. It’ll help you beat back those robots that are coming for our jobs. Plus, it’ll keep you from living up to the stereotype and getting set in your ways, which will make you a better teammate and leader.
3. Focus on what you can do, not where you worked.
Trimming back your resume to more recent roles might help, but only so much. Besides, your goal isn’t to conceal your experience, but to showcase it in the right way. To that end, focus your job application and pitch to hiring managers around your ability to solve their problems, using your up-to-date skills. Show that you’re not resting on your laurels, but are squarely focused on the future … hopefully, as a part of their organization.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you experienced age discrimination at work? We want to hear from you. Tell us how you handled it by sharing your story in the comments or joining the conversation on Twitter.