Think You're Too Old? That Employer Might Think So Too

By Kristen Harris

With some of the recent unemployment statistics it’s no surprise age discrimination continues to be a hot topic. Looking for a job is hard enough.  Feeling as if you are being discriminated against for any reason makes it even harder to keep moving forward.   There certainly are documented cases of age discrimination. Yet often job seekers create a trap of their own making when it comes to feeling “too old.”

Regardless of age it is critical for every job seeker to appear up-to-date and current in every facet of personal and professional presentation. You must show the potential employer that your thinking, skills and communication are as fresh as any other employee or candidate. Often the perception of someone being “old” is based on ideas and actions, not physical age.

To determine is age is an issue for you, take an honest look at the areas below.  Make sure you’re current in each and every one, and ask a friend or colleague for their opinion as well. The truth may be a harsh, but it’s better to realize it and make a correction before you miss out on a job that you really wanted.

 ·      Know what skills are required and desirable for the positions you’re seeking. Look at job postings and what is being taught at the college level, then ask your industry connections. Take a thorough assessment of your skills, and get any training you need now. Employers want people who are ready to go on day one, and generally will not provide on the job training.

 ·      In addition to professional skills, make sure you’re up-to-date and knowledgeable about your industry, local companies, current styles or trends, new communication methods and other general information.  If you’ve been resisting going on Facebook or Twitter, now is the time to log on and see what all the fuss is about.

 ·      When preparing your portfolio or other work samples only use recent work that is current in style, taste and quality. Even if your older pieces were great or award-winning, outdated work makes you look out of touch.

 ·      Edit your resume with a critical eye. Work experience from the last ten years is all that is necessary, provided it’s solid and industry-appropriate. Include educational information but you can eliminate your graduation date if it’s over ten years ago. Be sure to include any additional training or continuing education you’ve done to keep your skills current. Most importantly, highlight your skills and successes. Employers hire people for what they can do for them, so show them what you’ve done for others.

 ·      When preparing for an interview, get a new outfit. Even if your “interview suit” from ten years ago is in good shape and still fits, if it looks old and so will you. Freshen up your haircut, and make sure your accessories (jewelry, briefcases, portfolios, etc.) are current. It sounds trivial, but first impressions are made in just a few seconds and nearly impossible to change or overcome.

 ·      Never bring up your age. Don’t mention it, don’t apologize for it, don’t act like you’re concerned about it. If you seem concerned, the employer will be too. 

 ·      Talk about your experience and expertise. Employers are looking for people who can get things done or solve a problem for them. Show them the quality, background and wealth of knowledge they’ll get with you!

When it comes down to it, it’s all about what you can do for that employer and whether you’ll fit well into their company. By eliminating factors that may be distracting, the employer can focus on what a great asset you’ll be to their team.

This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included. ©2010 Kristen Harris, Portfolio Creative, LLC.

Kristen Harris is co-founder and owner of Portfolio Creative, a workforce innovation firm that was named a fastest growing company in the U.S. by Inc. magazine in 2009 and 2010.  Portfolio Creative helps companies streamline and innovate their creative work to save time, energy and money.  www.portfolioiscreative.com.