Older…hmm… how old is old? Actually, it’s not necessary for us to agree on a shared definition of ‘older’ when it comes to looking for work. Hey, if YOU feel you’re old, it’s become your truth; your reality. In other words, if you think you’re old, you’ll easily find a lot of people to agree with you. It’s simple enough; if you feel old, you act old and when you act old, people perceive you as old.
I believe it isn’t the actual number of years those candles represent that defines us. Surely you’ve met people who look and act years beyond their chronological age and likewise you’ve met people with a ton of energy and vitality who look and act much younger than they actually are.
So when someone tells me that their age is a barrier to finding work, I know what they really mean is they believe employers are branding them too old to work. However, I feel these same job seekers are really betraying their own perception of their status as ‘old’. And guess what? When that self-perception is deep-rooted in a person’s psyche, it’s the single biggest obstacle to that individuals job search success. I know this to be factual. You see, I’ve had personal experience of working closely with a great number of people over the years, many of whom have felt too old. But of that number, there are those who have reprogrammed how they view themselves, and gone on to productively work for years.
Now think about why it is that some employers might view someone’s age as a barrier to hiring. Well, there’s retirement and leaving the organization. However isn’t it equally true that someone in their 20’s, 30’s or 40’s might equally leave? The reasons are different but the result the same. Moving to a new community, deciding to stay home and start a family, taking a higher paying job elsewhere, changing their line of work altogether. There’s a myriad of reasons. People at all ages leave organizations with equal frequency and predictability.
Employers also see older people as having higher absenteeism for medical issues. They’ve bought into the fallacy that older bodies start breaking down and are in the repair shop longer than younger models when they do. To combat and counter this myth, supply the employer with evidence of your reliability with documentation of your attendance record, either through awards and commendations or written testimonials on your public profiles to back you up. Oh and stop talking about your ailments; old people do that.
Older folks aren’t into technology and will kick and scream in the face of innovation and change is another assumption an employer might have. Well, what are you doing to defy this? If you don’t have a social media platform of your own, it seems to me you’re feeding right into that belief. Sit down, create yourself an online presence, do some online learning and put this on your resume with ONLINE LEARNING in caps. Here I am by the way with a personal blog, a LinkedIn presence, in a new job learning several new computer software programs and this past June I celebrated my 61st birthday.
Did you notice I said I ‘celebrated’ my birthday? I do every year. My age has become my asset and not a weakness. I’m not 39 or 49 every year, nor am I “none of your business”. I’m 61 and further, I’m now in my 62nd year! Yippee! How I see my age is that it’s a tremendous asset to bring to my workplace as I inspire older job seekers to achieve their own success. Initially older job seekers want me to commiserate with them, hunch my shoulders forward, hunch slightly and say, “I hear you.” Rubbish. I won’t do that.
Which brings me to appearance. Look in the mirror and see yourself as others see you. Baggy, ill-fitting clothes aren’t reserved only for the likes of some youth. If your pants are too tight or too loose, if you consistently miss one of the belt loops and never notice, if you’re still putting a pocket protector in your shirt pocket, it’s like you’re going out of your way to confirm their view as aged and outdated. Get in shape and get in fashion. Simple things. I’m not advocating putting on 30 pounds or dropping 40 pounds to regain your youthful physique. Just pay attention and don’t let yourself go, then expect others to see you as vibrant and having the necessary stamina to work long shifts with energy.
Look, I’ve witnessed people who felt their age a problem transform themselves and in so doing, change how others perceive them. Where it started for them and where it starts for you, is between the ears. What you believe is what you become.
There’s no magic pill. It starts with your thinking. Make some changes. Shoulders back, head up, a brisk pace to your walk, an authentic smile. Enthusiasm for who you are and believing that all your rich and diverse life experiences – work and personal – are your greatest strength. These you lay before an employer, and if you do it well, you change their perception of your value to them.
But remember, if say you’re old, well… they’ll agree.