No question, ageism exists. There are millions of terrifically competent people who are over 50, over 60, over 70, who are not working. Some because they have given up, and some because they have been in youth-oriented businesses and getting older impacts them unfairly.
However…in my humble opinion, many of us “older folk” are the problem, not the hiring organization. And I say this as someone who is well north of 50.
Why do I say this? Well, a little background. I am a career coach who works with senior managers and executives who are looking for their next gig. I have been doing this for over thirty years. I have worked with over 1000 clients in the last 16 years. In the last seven years I have been fortunate to have over 185 of my clients land great jobs, and more than half of them were over 50.
Here’s what I have observed that makes me think a part of ageism is created by the candidate. How?
- We dress like someone in a past decade, or worse, we show up for an interview in a suit and tie [or the female equivalent] with a company that stopped wearing suits years ago.
- We tell interviewers we are “not really into that social media stuff.”
- We have not stayed current in our field or we aren’t articulate about trends and challenges in our field.
- We take notes on a yellow legal pad versus an iPad.
- We are not physically fit and sometimes overweight.
- We have so much experience and have interviewed so many times we don’t spend much time preparing for the interview. Fact: Top candidates spend 8-16 hours preparing.
Let me ask, if you were the hiring manager and a 30-year old candidate walked into your office and displayed even half of the six points above, would you be excited about them as a candidate? Certainly not.
My message is, if any of the six points apply to you, then make changes! Fix what’s broken! The good news is they are all easily solvable. However if you disagree, I can recommend a good career coach!