One’s age is an interesting factor when it comes to finding employment. It can help you or hurt you; disqualify you or land you in the running. Ironically, it’s something that’s never supposed to be revealed or inquired about in an interview – unless of course age is a legal requirement such as a position serving alcohol.
While age isn’t supposed to be raised verbally, it sure is taken into consideration by the person or people conducting interviews. I mean, it has to be doesn’t it? As soon as you come into visual contact with a representative of the company you are about to interview with, you’re being assessed. That brief look as you move towards each other is taking in all kinds of information; hair colour, skin tone, muscle/fat proportions, walking gait, how hard or easy it seems for you to stand, the speed of your walk, the purity or blotches of your skin, your smile, the health of your teeth, bags or lack thereof under your eyes, thickness or thinning hair, stooping or straight up posture. Whew! That’s a lot to take in over the course of 10 seconds!
Notice how all the above are observations made based completely on non-verbal signals you’ve put out there to the interviewer. Once you open your mouth and speak, more information is available such as the tone, power and volume of your voice, the clarity or not of your words, your vocabulary; your overall energy.
In another 10 seconds, all this information – and more – is sent by you and picked up on by the interviewer. At this point, you’ve now given them enough information – and it’s been about 20 seconds mind – that they’ve formed an opinion of you and compared that to what they’ve settled on as the kind of person they are after. That opening impression if good is something for you to build upon. If that opening impression is a miss, you’ve got the rest of your time together to alter it, and believe me, altering someone’s first impression of you when you only have one meeting with them is much harder than you’d like it to be.
There are many people both young and old who lament the age discrimination. Some who are young feel their age suggests a total lack of work experience, immaturity, little life experience, and a future full of mistakes, errors, poor judgement, lack of responsibility and commitment to a solid work ethic. Older workers worry they are discriminated against because they are judged as set in their ways, slowing down, drawing on health benefits to the extreme, out of date with developments and not interested in any personal development. Oh and let’s not even talk about technology.
The paradox re. age is that younger people sometimes wish they came across as more mature while older workers wish they presented as 10 or 15 years younger. Both groups recognize the advantages of the other. Younger people if we buy in to the stereotypes, are healthier, more energetic, technologically tuned in, are open vessels to teach and they look more vibrant and enthusiastic. Older workers have experience the young lack; both life and work. Older workers also have the benefit of having learned from their mistakes and they make less of them.
Here’s the thing though…we are who we are. If you’re 22, you’re 22. If you’re 56, you’re 56; it’s a given. However, as we all know, there are some 22 year olds who act like their 17 and some who act like they are 28. There are some 56 year olds with the energy and vitality of those in their mid-forties and some 56 year olds who move as if they are picking out their coffins on the weekend. Age alone then, isn’t the definitive factor that we might at first believe it to be. What is essential to recognize what we can control which will in turn help create the first impression we want others to formulate when meeting us.
The clothes we choose to wear send signals. Do the clothes fit properly and are they right for the conversation we are about to have. While it might not be flattering to think about, we have to also take a good look at our bodies because others will. Are you willing to lose or gain weight if you’d appear healthier or your clothes would fit better? Or would maintaining your weight but shifting some fat to muscles create a more vibrant you? If you’re an older fellow with a scruffy beard maybe shaving everyday would immediately take off 5 years? Maybe, maybe not.
This isn’t about pretending to be someone you’re not. This is about projecting a desirable image so that you become attractive to the interviewer – professionally attractive; so they can visualize you as a positive addition to the organization. Lest you think you are somehow selling out to change-up who you are just to impress someone, think again. You’d likely put some effort into your appearance if you knew you were having a date with someone, and if it was at the end of the month, you might do all you could between now and then to come across in the best possible way.
Of course you can ignore all of this advice and just say, “I am who I am and if they don’t like me that’s their problem.” But then again, you’re not investing yourself in this potential relationship now are you?