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The Grey Ceiling: Suggestions and Strategies

Strategies for Handling Age Discrimination

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Job seekers are reporting age discrimination beginning as early as the mid-thirties. How can this be addressed? What options are there for those of us considered "old" by hiring managers and companies?

The biggest issue, and one which is hard to address, is the perception that older workers are not as capable or as qualified as younger counterparts. This is actually nothing new. Joyce Lain Kennedy, in a recent column, quotes a 1943 "Men's Guide to Hiring Women" which reports that older women who have never contacted the public... are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy"! I remember working for a major greeting card company in the 1970's and having "unofficial" guidelines about not hiring anyone too old (or too young). The ideal card merchandiser was a mom with kids in school who only wanted part-time employment. Hopefully, as the shortage of qualified workers continues to increase, employers will, by necessity if not by choice, become more flexible.

Strategies for Handling Age Discrimination

In the interim, what can those of us, some who are barely considered middle-aged, do to successfully get hired for a job that matches our skills and experience? Joyce Lain Kennedy's Resumes for Dummies provides suggestions:

  • On your resume limit your experience to 15 years for a managerial job, 10 years for a technical job, and 5 years for a high-tech job
  • Leave your other experience off your resume or list it without dates in an Other Experience category
  • Consider using a functional resume rather than a chronological resume

Job Interviews for Dummies, also by Joyce Lain Kennedy, recommends emphasizing the positive when interviewing:

  • Project yourself as cheerful and flexible and back that up with proof of your skills and success
  • Review the benefits of older workers - commitment to a career, hands-on experience, a track record of success, stable, realistic expectations - and think about how they apply to you
  • Use storytelling techniques to back up your claims of these skills

Kennedy's suggestions are seconded by Ray, 58, who has successful job searched three times over the last 10 years. Ray suggests focusing on your skills in your cover letter and mitigating the visibility of age in your cover letter and on your resume. According to Ray, the key is getting the interview. Once the employer is impressed with your ability to solve their problems "they will not care if you have gray hair down to your knees".

On another positive note, Go60.com's discussion of workplace issues for older American says "that even though attitudes in our society remain slanted against older workers, there are profound changes taking place. Societal and cultural attitudes will have to undergo drastic and rapid change to accommodate throngs of active, healthier baby boomers as an economic powerhouse eager and willing to continue productivity".

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