I just turned 40 last week. I don't feel I'm any older, but I've noticed some white hairs creeping in here and there, my wrinkles are getting a little deeper on my face, I started making some grunts when I get up from the chair, and I started falling asleep watching television. I've taken it all in good stride. No mid-life crisis for me! Even when my brother texted me to tell me, "Welcome to the downhill side of mortality," I think there's a lot to be said in the old adage that you're only as old as you feel. It's a mindset. You either see the middle part of your life as the start of the ascension down or view it as the time of your life when you're most at peace with yourself.
Unfortunately, with age comes some challenges in a person's career. Those over fifty often find it takes them longer than others to get a new job. Part of that may be due to the jobs they are seeking, but there's also the challenge of overcoming false assumptions of Recruiters and Hiring Managers. Here's the good news, regardless of your age, there's a way to get past this and into a satisfying career. Today, we're going to help you with this beyond the standard, "Don't put dates past 10 years on your resume," type of advice. We're going to walk through how to talk about it with the people you meet while networking and interviewing. We're going to show you how you can get them excited about you because of your experience and everything else you bring to the table. Sound good?
The Challenge: False Assumptions
This all falls under the umbrella of "you're overqualified for the job." I always thought this was one of the lamest reasons not to hire someone. There's several false assumptions people make about age when considering hiring you, such as:
- You will have too high of a salary requirement for the job.
- You will be looking for something better right away / you won't be a long-term hire.
- You might bring a lot of baggage from past employers / bad habits.
- You'll be bored in the job if it's a lower level than your experience before.
- You won't fit in with a younger team.
- You're getting close to retirement.
As false as it may be, this is the impression many have as soon as you step through the office door and meet you for the first time. Your challenge is to shatter those false assumptions and persuade them that you don't fit in this box and that they will be lucky to have you on their team. It's a tall order, but it can be done!
Overcoming the Challenge
Do any of you remember the second presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale? Leading up to the election, there had been talk about how old Reagan was (he was 73 at the time) and concerns about whether or not he'd be fit to be the leader of the free world. When he was asked about his age by the moderator, Reagan had one of the best lines of the campaign. "I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." It was brilliant in that it sucked the wind right out of the argument in less than 10 seconds. They didn't call him "The Great Communicator" for nothing.
Just like Reagan, your task is to discredit these false assumptions at some point in the conversation by bringing them out on the table in a positive (or in Reagan's case, humorous) way. Don't ever insinuate that the employer is going to possibly discriminate against you based on age. Instead, make a true statement along the lines of "Your company is great! Some employers have concerns about hiring a more experienced employee for a role like this. But after doing my research on your company, I know you're different. You value diversity."
Going about the conversation this way is called pacing and leading from the high ground. You are putting the employer in a positive light in contrast to other employers. You're also getting the other person on your side rather than being defensive. Additionally, you've just wiped away the whole age issue for them. When you've painted them as being open-minded, they can't back away from it without looking bad.
Now comes the fun part of telling them how you don't fit the stereotype of being "overqualified." You're giving them all the good reasons to rationalize your hire in spite of your age. Throughout the conversation, use long-term language and talk about the future you see for yourself with their company. If you are interested in a job that may be at a lower pay level, let them know that you've either done this in the past or are willing to now, for the right opportunity with a great company like theirs. Explain how you're not bringing baggage and bad habits by telling him or her that you are going to be bring them great experience, high performance, mentoring less experienced team members, etc. that will all add value to the organization. Speak to the fact that no job is too small and that everything is important in the big picture. Your going to enhance the team!
If they don't start to get enthusiastic about you at this point, I don't know what will.
Didn't Get the Job Because of Your Age? Why Would You Want to Work There Anyway???
You can never tell why you didn't get a job. It could be because of your age or it could be for some entirely other reason. However, if you got the vibe that they weren't interested in you because of your age during your networking conversation or interview, consider it their loss, not yours. In the end, you don't want to work in an environment where age is an issue anyway.
Sure, you can be disappointed. We'll even allow you to be mad about it for a day. But never look back. Don't take it personally. Move on to better opportunities with a more open-minded company!
About RockIt Career Consultation Services
At RockIt Career Consultation Services, our mission is to help you discover your true strengths and use these strengths to set your course to something more rewarding and exciting in your career.
We will guide you on what job or career best suits you and then help you market yourself through your resume, your networking strategies, your interview skills, and your negotiation to ensure that you are doing something you love and are maximizing your earning potential. Throughout, we will be there to keep you motivated and determined.
We'd love to help you launch your career and encourage you to learn more about the services we can provide you on your path to a more prosperous future. With our help, you will become the applicant every company wants to hire!