“Well, my age is a barrier that’s for sure. I mean, come on, I’m 48 and employer’s look at a guy like me and they want to go with someone younger.”
“Well, I’m not as young as I used to be. Employer’s look at me and just see an older person. They want someone younger, prettier. Oh I’ve got curves, but their in the wrong places.”
Age. Is it working for you or against you? Age is a curious thing to me. I mean on the one hand we’re aging every second of every day, and chronologically we can’t do anything about it if we wanted to stop it or reverse it. On the other hand, our thoughts are well within our power to control. What we think, how we choose to think definitely is. As our thoughts guide and steer our actions, we can opt to behave anyway we so choose – and make no mistake it is a conscious choice.
The two opening quotes are from real people; the first a 48-year-old man and the second a 50-year-old woman. The two statements both make comments about what employer’s are looking for when they hire, but as an Employment Counsellor working with them, the two statements say more to me about how the person see’s themselves than anything else.
I recall with great fondness and admiration a woman by the name of Anne. When we met, Anne was 64. I knew her age and had her résumé in hand before I met her. My instinctive reaction was to make some assumptions about her. Hmm… 64. Her best years were likely behind her and I wondered about the kind of work she’d be after and what kind of physical shape she was in which would affect her performance.
When I met Anne I was so impressed. Here was a woman who obviously took great care to look healthy and vibrant. Her hair was neat, styled beautifully, and her makeup was applied with care and expertise. She obviously cared about her appearance. There were no furrowed browns, her mouth wasn’t set in a grimace, she didn’t shuffle with her shoulders bowed forward in submission to the years passing. She walked with purpose, shoulders back, her smile was electric and her eyes warm and full of life.
Now before you think she doesn’t have her share of problems, let me assure you not only does she have her share, she’s got enough for a few people. An abusive ex-husband, lost property, bankruptcy, adult children who mistreat and abuse her, a huge slide in social standing, health scares; yep, she’s got lot’s of reasons to feel sorry for herself and then choose to let that sorrow turn to bitterness.
Anne however believes in the positive. While there are many things in life she cannot control, her personal appearance and her attitude are two things she feels she not only can, but must hold on to. Age is something Anne is proud of at 64. “Why would I choose to worry about something that I cannot change?” she often said. Anne not only got a job when I was partnering to help her, she got multiple offers. Would you believe 5? It’s true.
So how does she do it? First of all, she’s reprogrammed her thinking. I cannot state how critical it is to believe you’ve got what it takes to succeed, for when the opinions of others threatens your self-confidence, your self-perception is the anchor that keeps you grounded. If you choose to see yourself solely as others see you, then you’re dependent upon others for your self-worth. If they like you, you’ll like yourself. If they tell you you’re too old, too weak, too frail etc., you’re self-worth plummets.
As you read this, check your posture. Are your shoulders hunched over? Are the muscles in your face tense? If you smile – go ahead and try it now – do you feel a release in tension? That tension you’re holding as in your natural facial expression might be coming off to others as grim, overly serious; negative in general. Anne smiles constantly. She lights up others when she approaches them. I’ve noticed that as she speaks with people around her, they too start to smile when they face her.
If you’re older and looking for work, take some care with your appearance, the energy in your voice, the fit of the clothes you wear; take care of your health, to the extent you can, walk with purpose and smile. As for your words, listen and curb any tendencies towards the negative. Choose to look for and comment on the positives.
There are always going to be people competing with you for employment; many of them younger as you grow older. The one person you cannot allow to beat you however, is yourself. If you allow yourself to take the easy cop-out; I’m too old – well, perhaps you are. But chronologically speaking, there are older people than you who will win those same jobs because they show a vitality and positivity that gets rewarded. They don’t in short, beat themselves before even trying.
This change in attitude is not something that can be instilled within you unless you yourself invite it in and then make the conscious decision to own it. Take pride in your experience, your knowledge, your age!