The Elephant in the Room—Age Discrimination in Your Job Search
I speak regularly with executives in career transition who are deeply concerned about age discrimination among hiring authorities. If you believe this may impact you, please read on.
Whether you are 40 or 65 or older and you feel that this is an issue, it will be an issue. I believe that age discrimination is largely a “perception” issue.
If you are qualified, experienced and confident—this is what others will see in you. When we show up for a meeting or job interview in outdated clothing and accessories, this demonstrates a sense of unawareness of current trends.
You do not need to be a fashion setter. A bit of research and a nominal budget can furnish you with a good haircut and clothing that will not become a head-scratching distraction to the hiring authority.
If your hiring authority is too preoccupied with your 80s haircut or your early 90s suit, they will not be able to concentrate on what you bring to the table. Your value proposition is completely diluted. This is not a recipe for success in any corporate office.
Somehow we, as job seekers, attribute poor job search results on a myriad of issues that are out of control and if you understand the Johari Window, you will know that there may be a blind spot when it comes to how others perceive you.
It can be as fundamental as wearing outdated clothing. That poor impression happens in a nanosecond. The interviewer or hiring authority loses confidence in you.
You have likely invested heavily in pristine career marketing documents and you are perfectly qualified for the position on paper and everything is set. You are anticipating a positive meeting and joining a new firm—maybe for the first time in many years.
The meeting is okay, but it felt uncomfortable, although you just can’t quite put your finger on it. Something went wrong—but what?
From the employer’s perspective, you represent the organization and if you are so self-unaware that you would exhibit such a faux pas, how will you be perceived by the client?
If you bring a strong value proposition to the employer, your age should be irrelevant. In fact, it can be an advantage for you and the firm. After 25+ years of designing and manufacturing coagulation kits for hospital labs around the world, this firm needs a senior relationship manager to consult on medical device contracts for major companies in the biomedical engineering industry.
A 50+ executive is poised for success with experience, confidence, a recent haircut and new suit. His age should be irrelevant—unless he shows up for the interview with his yellow legal pad.
For more information about fashion for baby boomers, see http://jobsearch.about.com/od/resourcesforseni/a/jobsearchfashion.htm.
At the risk of appearing overly simple—and perhaps it is—I see easy solutions to perception issues for the 40+ executive.
- What does your language sound like? Yes, I am thinking of your vocabulary. You will date yourself if you use words such as “Rolodex”, “faxing” and “my PC.”
- Wearing older clothing will date you and your interviewer will immediately lose confidence. You will want to stand out for the right reasons and standing out because your dress or suit was tailored in the early 1990s is not the reason you are shooting for.
- If you attend meetings and job interviews with a yellow legal pad, you run the risk of looking dated. Travelling to meetings with a PDA (if you don’t know what this, it’s time to get some training) or other mobile device will demonstrate your tech savviness.
- Neutral is 100% okay. Your qualifications are your accessories. If no one notices your outfit or your hair style, that’s a good thing
Let’s face it. Organizations are looking for executives like you who can deliver results and help them meet their plan. They are not concerned about your age—unless you make a conscious or unconscious decision to stand out for the wrong reasons and show them that your age is an issue.
Ensure that your suit, your haircut, your footwear and accessories are as polished as your resume. Those details will matter much more than your birth certificate.
If you are being repeatedly invited to job interviews without getting the job offer, consider doing a style audit. There are trained professional personal shoppers and wardrobe consultants who will be able to help you outshine your competition with modest and stylish solutions that will help you stand out for the right reasons.
Invest in interview strategy coaching. It can have a huge ROI when you land the job of your dreams by being fully prepared for critical career conversations that will set the stage for a lifestyle that impacts you and your family.
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