Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Facing Age Discrimination As Young As 40

Age discrimination has crept into the lives of working professionals as young as 40.

By Abby M. Locke

Forty years old doesn't sound very old. And it isn't. But if you've passed that milestone, you may already be feeling the effects of age discrimination.

There was a time when age discrimination conjured visual images of men and women aged 60 and older. But the increasing pace of technological change, globalization and economic instability means age discrimination has crept into the lives of working professionals as young as 40.

Here's what they're facing: A recent study released by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College indicated that many companies have reservations about hiring older workers based on preconceived notions — namely, that they have reduced energy and higher salary expectations and are unwilling to learn new technology.

So if you are over 40, how can you retire preconceived notions that you're too old for the job? Overcoming the barriers of age discrimination takes persistence, dedication, a positive attitude and a few proven techniques for your job search.

Technique No. 1: Unearth your personal brand

If you have not conducted a job search in more than 10 years, you may be unprepared for the intensity of competition top positions demand. You will need to find ways to differentiate yourself from other job seekers.

One of the best places to get started is with personal branding. Through self-evaluation and external feedback, you will identify your unique strengths, personal attributes and the authentic value you offer to potential employers. Here are five questions to get you thinking about your value proposition:

  1. What aspects of your work and life do you enjoy the most?
  2. What is your area of expertise and/or special skill?
  3. What aspects of your background, education or experience differentiate you from your peers?
  4. How do you want to be perceived?
  5. How do peers, colleagues and managers perceive you and your strengths?

Technique No. 2: Develop an "age-friendly" resume

Your resume is one of the primary tools potential employers will use to evaluate your qualifications. While you need to emphasize the breadth of your experience, you want to avoid including information that "ages" you. Here are a few techniques that will help you "de-age" your executive resume.

  • Encapsulate your early experience or positions in a summary paragraph without dates
  • Remove the dates from the education section
  • Restrict the number of years experience in your profile summary to "15-plus" or "15+".
  • Bring older achievements to the first page of your resume under a section called "Career Milestones" or "Career Achievements"
  • Include volunteer, community outreach and extracurricular activities subtly to diminish concerns about your vitality and energy level.
  • Highlight computer and technical training to demonstrate that you are on par with current technology and certifications.

Technique No. 3: Prep and practice for interviews

No matter your age, practice, practice, practice! To prepare, you might want to do the following.

  • Conduct extensive research on the company through the Internet, and Google the names of the person(s) who will be interviewing you. Learn as much as possible about current industry trends and other events that impact the company.
  • Prepare for the big day through mock interviews and practice questions. Develop success stories around your career accomplishments, and refer to them during your interview.

Technique No. 4: Upgrade your look

Your professional attire and physical appearance will make an impression with your interviewer as much as your resume, so lose the frump factor to win the job. Do everything you can to put your best foot forward. Seek advice from family, friends and even an image consultant to ensure that your business suit, hairstyle and accessories really compliment you.

Technique No. 5: Enroll in support networks

Besides traditional networking events, there are several organizations that provide emotional assistance and support for professionals over 40 who are seeking new employment. Check out Forty Plus, the Five O'Clock Club or Jobs4.0.

Abby M. Locke is a certified executive resume writer and personal brand coach who supports senior-level finance, accounting and technology professionals in career transition. Her resume samples have been published in Nail the Resume! Great Tips for Creating Dynamic Resumes and Same-Day Resumes.

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