Tomorrow I’m 60. Yahoo! Yippee!


Way back in 1959 on June 13th at 2:30 a.m., I entered this world, born into a middle class family in Etobicoke, Ontario – then a suburb of Toronto, Ontario in Canada. Tomorrow will mark a full 60 year anniversary of that event, and I’m obviously not hiding it.

I’ve yet to have one of, “those birthdays”. You know, the one that you absolutely live for such as when you can finally get your driver’s licence, drink alcohol or legally buy cigarettes. Nor have I yet to have the birthday that shatters your self-image, like dreading turning 30, hitting the big 4-0, or turning half a century old! To me, every birthday has been something to look forward to. This past year, it occurred to me that I could say I am 59 years old and born in 59. Well, tomorrow I can no longer make that claim – ever.

I don’t feel 60. Wait a minute; I don’t know what 60 is supposed to feel like, so I can’t say that. What I can say is that I don’t see turning 60 as a bad thing; and a bad thing is what I hear a lot of others say as they blow out all those candles with both a paid up insurance policy and fire extinguisher near at hand. I think I’ve always felt younger than the number itself suggests from a stereotyped point of view. I’ll see that as a good thing.

So it was funny to me yesterday when a colleague at work popped her head in to ask me a question about one of our co-workers who also shares June 13 as her own birthday. I volunteered in our conversation that I was in fact turning 60 and she immediately tilted her head slightly, looked sympathetic and said in a sweet voice that would give you a cavity just listening to her, “Oh! I’m sorry!” and she meant it too. She’s less than half my age at a guess.

My reaction was to laugh and say how I relished the opportunity to celebrate another birthday. After all, those who don’t want to celebrate their birthdays eventually get their wish…think about that one.

No seriously, I see a benefit to be had in turning 60. As an Employment Counsellor, a lot of people I partner with and support see their advancing years as a negative. I wish I had a buck for every man and woman who has said to me, “Well my age is a problem. I’m 46 and no offence but that’s old.” Well if 46 is old, I’m fossilized!

One of the things I’m grateful for (and there are many) is my general health at 60. I have an excellent record of attendance – missing less than 3 days a year for about 8 of the last 9 years. I’ve got drive, creativity, energy to burn throughout the work day and still feel totally invested in the people I work with. I love the role I’ve got at present and I know I make a difference which gives the work I do so much meaning.

I see turning 60 as a good thing for those older folks I come into contact with. Maybe I’m some kind of inspiration to some, perhaps they even view their age as a strength and an asset as I do after we spend some time together. You see by now, I’ve got this rich history of a life lived including work spanning Retail, Manufacturing, Social Services and Recreation sectors. I’ve experience as an entrepreneur, Executive Director, front-line and middle management employee. I’ve worked with two large municipalities and the Province of Ontario in unionized settings, plus worked in Not-For-Profit and private profit businesses. It takes time to accumulate all these experiences, and I draw on each and every one of them often in the course of my work. It’s this diversity of experience that helps me relate with people and be relatable to people.

I guess I don’t fit the idea of a worker slowing down, putting in time until retirement, coasting through the day, being a passenger more than a driver of change and innovation. Geez I must be annoying for some who’d like me to pull out a white flag and say, “I’m old and I feel my age is a problem too.” Well I don’t.

I have come to believe that what’s going in your head (what you believe and how you see yourself) is your biggest asset or liability when it comes to interacting with your world. See age as your problem and you’ll move, act and use words that affirm you see age as your problem. So the world will acknowledge how you feel and agree. Don’t be surprised then when others confirm it. On the other hand, see your years as an asset to be revered and proud of and you’ll move, act and use words that show gratitude and pride  and the world WILL acknowledge how you feel and agree.

It starts therefore in your head. If I see my age as a problem to be hid, I’ll get sympathy, pity and commiseration. I don’t want that! I want people to be happy for me, maybe even re-evaluate how they see aging; well a tad anyhow.

Having been diagnosed as having Type 2 Diabetes 3 years ago, there won’t be cake. Whatever! But presents? Oh yes, there should be presents! Yes, I’m still that little kid who loves presents. Best wishes will do as well; or donating to a charity. Now that’s cool.

60 is ‘gonna be great!

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Time; How Much Have You Got?


“I’ll get around to that one day.”

“I can do it tomorrow”.

“That’s important sure, but I’ve got lots of time.”

So how much time do you have and how can you be so sure? Honestly, you don’t know how much time you’ve got; none of us do. Generally speaking, when we’re young we don’t even think about how much time we’ve got, we just enjoy the here and now. As we move into our teens we start looking a few years ahead – milestones like getting a driver’s licence, graduating from high school, our first jobs, plans for the upcoming weekends have us looking ahead, but not too far down the road. Soon we look into the future and see the day we’ll move out, maybe plan a wedding date, think about having children, a better job, etc.

Fast-forward a bit and we’re suddenly much more appreciative of the concept of time; but we still believe we have lots left. For the first time we start seriously regretting some of our previous choices. Sure we might have regretted things in our childhood, but it’s hard thinking of any major decisions we made that had long-lasting implications. Ah, but as a teenager or young adult, we’d go back if we could and take back some of the things we said, actions we took, hurt we caused.

Some of those regrets might even be preventing us from doing things we’d like today. Dropping out of high school or taking college-level courses instead of university prep courses . Who would have thought we’d change our minds and actually want to go to University? Didn’t see that coming!

In the latter stages of our lives, we’ll hopefully look back and not have too many regrets; if we don’t, we’ll have lived a life worth living we assume. Maybe we’ll have made a difference in the world, had a big extended family, seen the world, lived in the dream condo or home we pictured as a young adult. Who knows? Depends what we consider important enough. One thing seems pretty clear now: the older we became, the more we appreciated the saying, “Time flies.” Where did it go?

Of course you’ll have noticed I skipped over the 30 – 75 or so time period. Rather a large part of one’s life to skip! You might figure that 45 year period or so is enough time to make some readjustments, mend some mistakes, figure a few things out that we thought we had right. Maybe we have that time and maybe – just maybe we don’t. What if life expires at 33? 53? 96? 25? Time is one thing we haven’t solved – how much of it is ours to spend.

How we perceive time decides whether we see ourselves as having a lot or a little. I could show you two people – each 32 years old, and one would tell you she’s too old to head on back to school; that time has robbed her of that choice. The other would say she’s going back to school because it’s the rest of her life in front of her and that’s a lot of life to live. How can they both see things so differently? Perception.

How we perceive Time (the big one with a capital, ‘T’) becomes our reality. We might figure – YOU might figure to be more accurate – that time is one thing you’ve got a lot of. Because you can’t know with any certainty how much you’ve got, why worry about it? Just enjoy things in the here and now. What’s so wrong with figuring it will all end in our 80’s or 90’s so there’s no rush to choose a career, save for the future, start a retirement savings plan or fix that relationship. As Mick and the boys sang, “Time is on my side.”

Hmm… imagine you’re in a gift store and you spot some hourglasses. The sand is yellow, green, blue, etc. and catches your eye. Each holds a finite amount of sand, and there’s a multitude to choose from; 1 minute, 3 minute, 10 minute timers. You choose one you like and whatever one you chose, you get no more or less than the contained amount. Life is like that – except we are given the timer without knowing how much sand we’ve got in our hourglass. When it runs out, it runs out. The only thing wrong with the analogy? You can flip the hourglass over again and again and it goes on and on. When your life timer runs down, there is no flip.

Imaging we have a lot of time left to live can be wonderful as we plan for the future. It can motivate us to get going and start working to achieve our long-term goals. However, think back to school where the teacher gave you some essay to write and you figured you had weeks to get it done. You put it off for precisely that reason didn’t you? Then as it dawned on you that the deadline was looming, you got down to work – you had to – and you pulled it off. Sometimes therefore, believing we have a lot of time left can hinder and not help us get going.

Whether you feel any urgency to get going on your goals is entirely your business. Put off getting started at your own choosing but realize time might rob you of that chance – or rather, you might rob yourself.

 

Inclusivity


The practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of minority groups. Source: Oxford dictionary.

Who doesn’t like to feel included? Whether we’re talking about children having fun on a playground, being invited to a high school party or being successfully hired, we all like to feel both included and welcomed.

Many organizations have looked at themselves with an objective eye and found a discrepancy in their hiring preferences; preferences which have over time favoured some people over others.  That this should occur should not perhaps be inherently surprising in itself; like attracts like in a broad sense. In any particular country, you may find those whom hire, tend to select candidates who speak a similar language, share common beliefs, have a common educational background, perhaps even share a skin tone. However, as population demographics change, one would expect that an organization would gradually reflect the communities around them through their hiring practices.

Historically, an available pool of candidates vying for work tended to be homogenized; of a similar or uniform composition. An interviewer might peer out to see all 6 candidates in a reception area to be of the same skin colour, gender and to the eye all appeared to be physically fit. This may have been the norm in days past – and may still be the norm depending upon where in the world you’re living – but times change, demographics change.  Now an interview might look out to find 6 candidates with very little in common upon first glance.

Some companies have consciously gone about making adjustments to their hiring practices. They have developed policies which have created more diversity in the workplace so that the organizations better reflect those in the communities they serve. In short, they want to look representative of those who consume their services. They’d like you to walk in and find people from various racial backgrounds and cultures, who speak more than a single language, who have physical, gender and age differences.

Yes great strides have been consciously taken in many workplaces to better visually represent the full spectrum of the general population. However, we’re a long way from achieving that goal of full inclusivity. Biases and preferences still exist, and sometimes those biases go so far as to be prejudices. Unfortunately prejudice does rear its head; that conscious decision to exclude segments of a population, leaving those in some groups marginalized and excluded.

Keep in mind as you read that some companies have made great strides; that they have consciously taken steps to be more inclusive is indeed commendable. I don’t believe there should be an award for doing so, but it is worthy of a, ‘good for you’ when an organization breaks with traditional practices and evolves to better diversify its workforce.

I said earlier that when an interviewer looks into reception, they tend to see more diversification in the interviewees; a good thing. However, we have not yet evolved sufficiently to always include what we can’t see; mental health and income as two examples. There exists unfortunately a preference (if you want to emphasize a positive) or a prejudice (if you want to emphasize a negative) against hiring people who receive welfare or social assistance. Some jurisdictions have even changed the wording of such benefits to fend off such discrimination or bias.

To be fair, organizations don’t typically have written polices that discriminate against the poor. Yet every so often I see an employment application that requires an applicant to provide the source of their current income or their combined family income level. When you’re out of work and living in poverty, you tend to feel the hurt and pain of providing such information, and you can’t help but wonder how that information is going to help them decide whether you’re the right candidate.

The thing about poverty is that it isn’t always visible – similar to mental health. Poverty might just limit the ability of a person to impress however. A job interview held over lunch or dinner might severely restrict the financial ability of a candidate to compete, as might their lack of transportation funds nullify their ability to get to all the interviews they’d otherwise choose to attend.

Poverty can also force a person to make tough choices between paying rent and eating versus getting teeth taken care of, staying well-dressed if their wardrobe needs updating etc. Poverty itself might be invisible, but it can explain why a candidate might not quite fit in. Hire them and give them the income that comes with the job however and you would see an improvement in those areas now that they can address things their lack of income prevented them from doing so.

Inclusivity is gaining momentum and I applaud it. This accounts for more women in the workforce, older workers having legitimate shots at getting hired, gives hope to the people who want to financially support themselves and not sit on the sidelines as “disabled”. It allows people with gender differences to stand and compete based solely on their ability to do the work at hand.

If your job has you in the position of hiring, be honest with yourself and look at your hiring biases, preferences and practices. If you look at your workforce and it’s not representative of the larger community, perhaps it’s time to change.

Let’s Address This, “I’m Too Old” Business


When it comes to finding work, do you feel you’re too old? If you instinctively answered, ‘yes’, I’d have to agree with you. Why do I say this without even knowing your age? Simply put, if YOU believe it, I’ll agree with you; you’re too old.

It starts with your attitude and what you believe – for what you believe dictates not just your chronological age, but will affect your posture, how you move, act and react. It only stands to reason that others will react to you largely on how you present yourself and interact with them. No of course you can’t alter your age, but what you can control – and you have 100% control make no mistake – is how you feel. How you feel and the decisions you’ve made and continue to make as you move forward dictate how you present yourself. Oh yes, these are within your control.

It’s ironic really that many of the people I work with to find employment present their advancing years as their foremost problem. Yet when I don’t sympathize with them and agree there’s nothing that can be done to combat this age discrimination by employers, they seem disappointed. It’s like they want to me just say, “Yes, that’s a shame but it is what it is.” If that was my only response, not only would I be a poor Employment Counsellor and Coach, I might as well be saying, “Give up now. Buy some overalls and a rocking chair and pull out the harmonica!” (Not intended to offend younger people who enjoy overalls, harmonicas and time spent rocking away.)

Whether you’re in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s, what’s really important is the attention you’ve paid to your presentation. I’m willing to bet you’ve come across people who look older than their real years. Smoking, excessive time in the sun drying the skin, weight issues, lack of proper diet and exercise; ever thought to yourself, “Wow! He’s/She’s younger than I am but they look so much older!”

Okay so you didn’t make your appearance a priority – and you probably knew it at the time too. You overindulged, did your thing, you let people think what they wanted and didn’t worry about your lifestyle. If other people had a problem with that – well it was their issue not yours. Except now, it is your issue. You won’t like it, but if you want to do something about your appearance, you will – if it’s important to you enough now. Start small sure; but make a start. Eat better, walk or exercise a bit, eat less and eat more of the good stuff. What goes in – goes on.

However, let’s assume you’re in pretty good shape and you look good. I mean you’re not going to grace any glam magazine covers, but how many of us do? First of all good for you. How’s your wardrobe? I mean do your clothes fit properly and are they today’s styles or are they throwbacks to years gone by? What you wear and how you wear it says a lot about you.

Next let’s address your movement. If you’re not a people watcher, take up the hobby as a research project. Watch people walk. Some have energy in their strides as they walk with purpose. Others saunter along, almost aimlessly; shuffling their feet and it’s hard to tell where they are going, if indeed they have any destination in mind beyond a leisurely stroll; a walkabout.

Freeze for a moment and don’t move – whether you’re sitting or standing. Now pay attention to your shoulders. Can you pull them back and pull in your stomach at the same time? If you can, you’re natural pose is hunching forward and the appearance isn’t flattering. If you want to make a good first impression, get those shoulders back, bring the stomach muscles in a bit and increase your pace a little as you walk. When you sit, don’t slouch, keep the shoulders back and avoid stooping forward. Looking bent over makes you look older.

It’s not actually about aging you know; it’s about what aging infers. Getting on in years infers you’re less flexible, less willing to try new things and learn new ways. It’s seen as slowing down, challenging yourself less, taking more time off, not caring to immerse yourself to the extent a younger person will. It’s about falling behind. It infers you’re not into technology, avoid new trends, becoming a follower instead of a trendsetter, and it’s about health concerns and thinking more about retirement than investment.

You can’t control what others think. You CAN control how you present yourself however, and how you present yourself INFLUENCES how others perceive you. Do you take pride in your appearance? Is their energy in your handshake? Are your teeth in good shape? Do you smile or instinctively wear what others would see as a frown?

Control the things within your control. If there are things beyond what you can control with respect to your appearance that’s one thing. But don’t lump things you can control in with them just so you can rationalize not doing anything to improve them. Yes, you know what I’m talking about.

Sorry if you didn’t get the sympathy you’d hoped for. Might sound harsh, but that’s not intended. Straight talk is often what’s needed. To answer your question, I’m 59. Ah but mentally, I’m a spry 38ish!

Debriefing 3 Interviews With 3 Outcomes


At 54 she’s got a lot of experience to offer; both Life and employment. It’s become extremely frustrating however over the last year to keep up the positive self-esteem. Oh for a while the image projecting out can be convincing, but the exhausted life savings, the move from living on her own to moving back in with her daughter, the sting of having to apply for assistance to provide money to live on; it’s just all been too, too much.

She and I have worked together, along with 10 other job seekers, since April 23rd, right from 9:00a.m. sharp each day through to 2:30p.m. We’ve covered resumes, cover letters, thank you notes and rejection letters; we’ve had mock interviews, talked about using the STAR interview format, looked at specific hard to answer questions that might arise – why we’ve even talked about how to predict with great accuracy the questions that will be poised.

Throughout the time together, I’ve asked her and everyone else to be positive; sure go ahead and have your moments of disappointment and acknowledge your frustration, but come back to the positive person you are more often than not, and come back as soon as possible. Yesterday at the close of the day, this was a big challenge for her; it wasn’t as easy to do as it had been earlier.

Now it started well enough this week; I mean after only working together for 5 days, she’d landed 3 interviews spanning Monday and Tuesday of this week. The first one was admittedly for a volunteer administrative role and the last 2 for paid employment, both in dental offices.

When everyone was gone at day’s end, she lingered and told me the outcomes of each, feeling so let down and disappointed, angry and frustrated as she spoke. The volunteer role she’d applied for wanted her in fact; they could make use of her every Tuesday for 8 hours.

The first of the employment interviews lasted all of 10 minutes; interviewed by a very young, bubbly woman who seemed to have clones of herself working around her. While she asked questions related to the job that were relevant, it seemed no matter the answers provided, at 54 the applicant just wasn’t a good fit. That wasn’t said outright I learned, but it was strongly inferred as, what else might, ‘not a good fit’ refer to?

The 3rd interview? Well imagine this situation wasn’t hers but yours. You’ve just had a 10 minute interview and you’re surprised and disappointed. You pull yourself together as best you can and after driving to the next appointment with your best face on, this interview is over after just 3 minutes! The Dentist determined her expected wages started at $22 p/hr and he was only able to start at $18. Game over; job lost. She was in a word, overqualified. He told her that even if she took the $18, he’d expect she’d keep looking and leave him soon and he wanted a long-term employee. She was honest in return and said that yes, she’d take the job if offered but keep looking.

If you read my blogs on a regular basis, you’ll hear me often say that you should get yourself connected with a supportive professional, and this is a good example of why. 3 bad experiences actually have positives to be drawn, and these can often be seen by having 3rd person objectivity.

First of all, the volunteer job is 2018 experience, a possible reference, provides purpose and relevant, current training in the environment she’s seeking. By telling the organization she accepts, but will continue to job search and if/when full-time employment is offered she’ll leave, she’s got a lot to gain while giving of herself and benefitting the organization. Win-win.

The issue of age at the 2nd interview? Not easily overcome I grant, but she needs a strategy to deal with this in an interview, and ironically, Age is the topic for today’s class; be someone too young to be taken seriously or too old to be of value; (not how I see it but how people themselves interpret these issues).

The 3rd job? Turns out there was more. The Dentist was impressed with her background and ability to not just work out front at Reception but also her qualifications to take x-rays and work in the back assisting in procedures; something he finds hard to find on a fill-in basis. So he suggested she think about self-employment; contracting herself out to offices. He had 3 offices in 3 cities and could use her on that basis in all 3.

Word gets around within an industry. Do well, and this Dentist would surely pass on his find to other Dentists; why he even asked her if she’d be willing to have him teach her in one area she knows she needs some brief upgrading. To get to the farthest of the 3 offices he runs, he offered to pay her more too.

After our talk, she left feeling better – much better – yesterday afternoon and in a few hours, we’ll be discussing the issue of age and how to address it; which she’ll find helpful too.

You see there are positives to be drawn from every experience; things to learn, to frame differently and to derive benefits from. Not every interview has to end with the job offer you’d hoped for at the outset in order for it to be a positive outcome. Is she employable? ABSOLUTELY!

 

Think What Your Email Address Says About You


When applying for jobs, many people take great care to hide their age on their resumes, and for good reason. They’ll go out of their way to omit jobs pre-2000, decline to add the year they graduated from high school, College or even University if it’s going to make it easier for an employer to figure out how old they are by doing some simple addition. All that effort is lost however if their email addresses contain the year they were born.

I see this time and time again in my position as an Employment Counsellor. Just yesterday, I spoke at the tail-end of a workshop on interview skills about this. When I asked what her email address was, she told me her first and last name plus the number 60. “Are you 57 years old by any chance?” I asked her. To this she looked at me somewhat surprised and confirmed I was correct. “How did you guess that?” she asked. “You told me yourself by including your birth year in your email”, I replied, and then the light of realization switched on.

The thing is a lot of people include their age in their emails. They’ll either put the year of their birth or their actual age. Having several times watched people attempt to create their email using their name only, I know that computers will often suggest various email addresses which are available, and they almost always include a number. Don’t allow a computer to randomly suggest an email address for you that you’re then going to let represent you! That kind of random generation might be okay for your phone number, but not your email.

Unfortunately giving your age away isn’t the only problem I find in emails. There’s the inappropriate sexy ones, the childish ones, the nonsense ones, and downright insulting ones. None of these I’ll give examples of, so just use your imagination. It never ceases to make me wonder how serious a person is about their job search when they preface telling me what their email is with the statement, “I know it’s not very professional; I should change it probably, but I’ve had it for a long time.”

Okay so enough with making the case for what not to have, here’s suggestions for what it could or should be.

My first suggestion is to begin with either the word, “contact” or “call” followed by your first name and last. In my case it would be, contactkellymitchell@ or callkellymitchell@. If your full name is too long or is already taken, try a period between your first and last name, or your first initial and last name such as callkelly.mitchell@ or contactk.mitchell@

As the person at the receiving end silently reads your email address at the top of the résumé, they cannot help read the words, “contact” or “call”, and aren’t these the very actions you want them to take? You want to be called or contacted by the employer with the offer of an interview. Your suggesting the action to them just by reading your email address alone. Not too many have caught on to this strategy yet so get yours while the getting is good.

Another strategy I suggest is reserved exclusively for those people who are committed to looking for one career. So take me for example. I want to brand myself on those I meet as Kelly Mitchell Employment Counsellor. So my email address is employmentcounsellorkelly@gmail.com Yes it’s a little long, but easily remembered. The email address includes my job title and my name; the two are now linked together creating the lasting connection.

If a PSW, you could opt for PSWjillwhyte@ or j.whyteyourpsw@ Get the idea? The only drawback with this email address comes if you should then start applying for jobs that are similar in nature but use different titles. A Personal Support Worker might apply for jobs as a Health Care Aide, Personal Care Provider etc. and the like, and while having PSW in the email wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate, there are cases where you might want to switch things up entirely and look outside your typical field and your email wouldn’t work. So a PSW now applying for a job as an Office Receptionist might hurt rather than help her chances by using PSW as part of an email address.

The first suggestion I made, using the words, “contact” or “call” don’t present this problem. You could use these indefinitely and for a variety of employment applications across any sectors. So my overall suggestion is when applying for employment, turn exclusively to using an email that either prompts action on the part of the receiver or brands yourself with your occupation.

Continue to use your existing emails for friends and family; your social address. Create and use a professional email reserved only for employment applications, running your business, or professional networking. By keeping the two mutually exclusive and not using your job hunting email for anything but looking for work, you’ll also avoid cluttering up your inbox with spam and junk mail. This means you’ll likely never miss seeing some important reply from an employer and mistaking it for your horoscope, dating website or those large sums of money just waiting for you to claim from some lawyer representing a person in another country!

 

Dealing With Age Prejudices And Preferences


Is your age negatively affecting your ability to get a job? Whether you’re a young-looking 25 or a spry 60-year-old, you’re experiencing age discrimination and don’t know how to position yourself as a serious job applicant in the eyes of the interviewer(s). They take one look at you when you show up and appear to dismiss you before you’ve even had a chance to make your case.

This is a – wait for it – ‘growing’ problem (groan) in society for two reasons: we have a large number of older workers who unlike generations of the past are healthier and wanting or needing to work longer. Secondly, some young people are maturing much faster at earlier ages, and when they just happen to look 18 instead of 25, they are dismissed as also having the habits and behaviours of 18 year olds; generally inappropriate to being taking seriously for real work.

This is a major hurdle to overcome because in both ends of the age spectrum, what we’re really talking about is overcoming the age biases, preferences and prejudices decision-makers hold who can advance or terminate your chance at employment. So the real challenge is what can one do to persuade the interviewer or company representative that you should be a) taken seriously as a job applicant and b) judged for your skills, experience and abilities not your age.

Okay so let’s start with one truism; interviewers are just like everybody else when it comes to sizing up people when they first meet, which is why the first impression is of critical importance. Whether it’s meeting your daughter’s boyfriend for the first time, your blind date, your new boss or co-worker or even your child’s daycare provider, we all form initial impressions; and these first impressions are where we start our interaction with a person. These first impressions we make are in part based on our past experiences with other people who look similar to the person before us.

It’s like we’ve got this massive library in our brains of people we’ve dealt with in the past. When we see someone for the first time, our brains work incredibly fast, accessing memory files of other people we’ve dealt with that have brown hair and eyes that were 18 years old, were about the same height and had that same cute or dopey look. We recall the intelligence level, our experience for good or bad with those previous people, and then unfairly perhaps, we transfer the sum attributes of those past people to the person standing before us – all in 3 or 4 seconds. Is that fair? Maybe, maybe not; but it’s also a survival mechanism that helps us determine how to react to this new person. This is why we instantly get a good or bad ‘vibe’ about someone, and we trust our instincts if they suggest we either get away quickly or can get to know the person better.

So when someone meets us who is in a position to hire, they too access their memory files, and base their first impression on how we look and behave. When we engage in both non-verbal and verbal communication, the person we are meeting adds this new information to their first impression, and this either confirms their initial impression or gives them reason to adjust their initial view of us. This is why someone feeling dismissed too early often asks for a chance to prove themselves; they’re really asking for a chance to change the persons first impression by giving them new information to process that will change the person’s point of view. In other words, what you’re attempting to do is get past a person’s biases, preferences and biases.

It is essential for a job applicant; young or old, to get a look at the workforce you want to become part of. Size up how they dress for starters. Does your choice of clothing date you as matronly and remind them of their grandmothers or is does your taste in clothes make you appear more a teenager than a mid-20’s professional? Do an assessment of your hairstyle; makeup for the ladies, facial hair for the men. Check your posture both as you sit and walk. Are you sluggish, walk slightly bent over, or appear to be disguising a limp due to age? Any of these will give the interviewer more information to add to their assessment of you for good or ill.

Another thing you simply have to do is anticipate this age liability and prepare your defence. Whether openly discussed or not, you and I both know their eyes and ears are taking in information which the brain will use to evaluate your potential as an employee.

Whether you’re young or old, consider the pros and cons of your age as age relates to the job you want. You may want to go on the offensive – especially if you feel yourself being dismissed without a legitimate shot at this job – and lay out your argument for being taken seriously.

So a young person might want to point out their maturity, stability, skill with technology and respect for the wisdom of older co-workers they can learn from. An older applicant might stress their good health, energy, life and work experience, and open attitude for learning new technology.

Seek out specific advice with respect to your situation; time well spent!