How To Overcome Age Based Discrimination In Employment

Part 19 of 26 in the Series: Why Can't I Find A Job?

older workers good for business

older workers good for business


If you’re over 40 and you’re changing careers or looking for work, you’re probably concerned about how age discrimination affects your career.

In conversations with older workers, the common question I’m hearing is “how will age based discrimination affect my chances of keeping a job or getting hired or transitioning to a new career?”

Some say that age is the determining factor in not getting a job and that’s even when one demonstrates the required skills!

So, is age discrimination really that common in hiring? And what can you do … if you find yourself a target?

Does Age-based Discrimination Really Exist?

If you’re being discriminated against because of age, then these suggestions may come in handy:

  1. Discrimination is more common than you think: People make snap judgments all the time and so they discriminate based on imperfect or biased information.

    As humans, we all have opinions, ideas, judgments about everything. We categorize people or situations so that we can deal with the amount of information we process.

    So, most people have some form of bias or the other and some more clearly than others!

    So discrimination in subtle and not-so-subtle ways is a fact of life. It’s apparent in some families in the way a parent favors a kid more and in the workplace when employees are favored for reasons other than their performance!

    So, it’s time wise up because discrimination is a fact of life!

  2. Play the cards you’re dealt with: Facing handicaps, obstacles and adversities is a testimony to the strength of the human spirit!

    The story of Hellen Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) is remarkable for how she overcomes numerous obstacles including being deaf and blind, to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree!

    The point is … no one gets handed a break in life. We all have challenges and we all have to deal with them period!

    I agree that the reality of age discrimination is unpleasant and unfair. But, sorry age based discrimination is not that important!

    It’s really not the cards that you’re dealt with but how you play them that matters!

  3. Everyone has an excuse … what’s yours? Are you being discriminated against because of age … then find a way to overcome that obstacle!

    Everyone has obstacles that they can point to for not achieving their goals including employment discrimination in many forms (age, gender, race, education, alma mater, etc)!

    Smart kids enjoy being top of their class until they encounter after-school bullying or discrimination because of their booksmarts!

    If discrimination exists for kids who’re doing right, then why’re adults caught by surprise or unprepared for discrimination in the workpplace?

    So, don’t let age discrimination become an excuse for not getting a job or learning a new skill or achieving your career goals!

A Better Way To Handle Age Based Discrimination

Age based discrimination is really not cool. But in my book, it’s better to win than to be a victim.

What matters is not whether age based discrimination exists … but how to achieve your career goals regardless!

  1. Become a Top Performer! I believe that an effective defense against age based discrimination is to insure your career by becoming a top performer.

    Become a Leader in your industry or your workplace and start solving tough problems … and very soon you’ll have all the young ones taking notes at your seminars!

  2. What Did Stephen Covey Say?

    In “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey mentions that proactive people do not worry or focus on factors or things over which they have little or no control … instead they focus on their “Sphere Of Influence” … those factors or circumstances over which they exercise control!

    So, the deal is “why focus on your age?”, when you can do nothing about it, focus on things like your skills, your learning, your attitude over which you have complete control!

  3. Yes, You Deserve Better. Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton in their groundbreaking book “Now, Discover Your Strengths” mention how some people focus on their weaknesses instead of their strengths.

    According to their research, we’re more powerful than we are … but we often live below our true capabilities by not improving our strengths.

    So, if you find yourself worrying about your age … it’s a sign that you haven’t discovered or developed your true strengths!

    Why not discover “what you’re really good at” or “what you’re born to do” … your “true callings in life” and then focus on developing it?

    That way, you will be in charge of your career and no-one will be able to keep you from gettting what you deserve.!




18 Discussions for “How To Overcome Age Based Discrimination In Employment”

  1. Thomas (Cambria, California)

    I am starting my Information Technology career @ age 39 and I am coming into it knowing only basi cpu skills!

    Is it worth it for a person who knows only basic cpu. I’m ready to sign up @ a school but I am having doubts

    • You have to overcoming your lack of technical skills some day. If you don’t start now, then when will be a better time?

      These days strong computer / pc skills is part of every job requirement, so if you don’t face it down and overcome your lack of technical skills, you will find yourself more and more marginalized!

      The best defense against aging is an offensive strategy. You really can’t defend or do anything about getting older because every one on the face of this earth is getting older … day by day and minute by minute.

      So, do what you must do before you lose more than you can afford to lose … get that technical training!

  2. Khuthala

    First time on this site ! I’m hooked !

    I must be double discriminated I’m Black Female and 43 ! If people do not want my skills that’s their problem .

    I also want to move to Project Management, now that my last daughter is going to university next year and I can take on new challenges,

    I do have an annual fundraising event that that is my initiative – I manage from beginning to end

    I would love to volunteer my IT project management skills , in exchange for
    references.

    Me IT coach , can you look at my CV and review it for me ?

  3. Chas

    You address age discrimination and then in your sidebar “Spotlight” all the pictures except one look like twenty-somethings.

    Obviously no big picture thinkers on your staff.

  4. Bion

    I believe that age discrimination has been around for a long time.

    When the bottom line controls the company, age means that you are expensive.

    So why hire 1 person who costs a tidy sum when you can hire 3 or 4 young people for the same cost who will work 14 hour days and do what you want.

    The older person will make less mistakes but most managers don’t care when you have the younger workers working 60+ hours/week

    • You made an interesting point. What you’ve done is that you’ are placing yourself in the shoes of hiring managers and coming up with reasons, objections or concerns for employers.

      This is the point which your response brings out. Employers or hiring managers have reasons or concerns that drive them to discriminate.

      If you ever had to cold call to sell your business, you realize a few things;

      1.) Many potential clients will say NO to your proposal when you contact them for the first time.

      2.) You can’t take NO personal. The person that says NO has concerns which need to be addressed. If you take the time to identify those concerns, then you can overcome them. If you don’t identify those concerns and overcome them (aka objections), you will not sell any idea or product.

      3.) The more potential clients you call on … the greater your chance of success.

      The Same Technique Can Be Applied To Workers Facing Employment Discrimination Because They’re Really Just Selling Their Skills To Employers.

      1. Identify the specific reasons why employers are worried about your age and the develop specific conversations that address those issues.

      You identified the fact that older workers may cost more than younger workers. That objection may be addressed by saying:

      a.) I’m willing to work for a rate … name a rate that’s as low as that of a younger hire OR

      b.) I can get more work done than other people because I have a lot of experience in this area. If you hire me, you’re effectively hiring my experience, expertise, domain knowledge, contacts in the industry … etc

      So, you see, if you can actually anticipate objections and then steer the conversations in a way that positions you in a good light.

      I gave some of these guidelines here: http://www.it-career-coach.net/2009/06/22/it-is-never-too-late-to-become-a-computer-programmer/

  5. William

    Contrary to what HR reps, corporate attorneys, and public relations, spin-spewing, corporate window dressers would have you believe, ageism and age-based discrimination are alive and well in corporate America.

    Frankly, they’re flourishing like weeds in a well-fertilized field – or should I say boardroom?

    Sadly, I’ve heard recruiters, personal coaches, and trainers encourage attendees in networking and job search meetings to color one’s hair, wear contacts, and whiten one’s teeth for an interview.

    Not to say that doing so is necessarily bad: just consider the covert, deceptive messages and intentions behind the recommendations.

    • I’ve worked with many employees and consultants that were older workers … the key thing is to ask yourself, “what image do you present to employers at the interview”.

      I once hired a young guy (early tweenies), whose presentation (dressing, facial hair, etc.) was really bad. He asked me if he could wear his torn jeans to work.

      I said definitely not … I suggested that he buy himself a new pair of jeans if he wants to work in my office.

      The point is, if an older / younger worker dresses well, speaks well and presents a good image, chances are that the interviewers will look beyond their age ( too old or too young) and evaluate them based on their skill sets.

      If a worker has a poor image (like the young guy, I described), then chances are that interviewers will form an unfavorable impression of the person and close their minds to the rest of the person’s good points.

      I suggest Malcolm Gladwell’s Book titled “Blink”. It describes how people form impressions of others in the blink of an eye.

      That is the same reason why people hire image consultants … to figure out how to cast themselves in the best light.

      It may be better to look for ways to cast oneself in the best possible light before an interview

  6. Sharon

    Age discrimination is huge.

    Its worse if you’re female. If you’re young, then you’ll get pregnant. If you’re older, then you have all kinds of health problems.

    Company policy doesn’t mean anything. No one will back it up. You have to test the manager interviewing you and hope for the best.

    Right now, having the proper “buzz” terms in your resume and appearing to be under 40 and healthy are your best chances of getting a job offer.

  7. Neil

    After my first job I was always the “old” guy (at 37) so I guess I can’t relate.

  8. Frank

    Would you really want to work for managers so stupid they reject talent because of its age?

    That’s identical, isn’t it, to rejecting qualified workers because they’re housed in female bodies or covered by black skin.

    The most rudimentary sense of morality should cause you to run, not walk, away from such a company.

  9. Lawrence

    I hear people, employers, even HR people talking about this subject a lot.

    It’s ironic, how the majority of the people I represent are in their 40s, 50s, some in their 60s, and one I’m presently representing who is 73, whom I’ve pulled out of retirement 4 times to transition companies / plants,since he reitred at the age of 59 as CEO for a public traded company.

    Here’s a real key issue many of you need to focus on after you remove those Amish Horse Blinders.

    Who carries stronger work ethics?

    Whose more likely to remain on a job vs. bouncing from company-to-company every 3-5 years?

    Younger people try building their career paths. Need to change for more money. Wife elects to remain at home to raise children, and a host of other reasons.

    50 and above, mortgages paid off, most children in college, or already graduated,. What reason do they have to bounce from job-to-job for kore money, etc.

    What are companies truly concerned about, longevity, work ethics, quality of performances, punctuality, (normally found in “Boomers”), or is their preference to continue going through younger employees, keep the revolving door in motion and pay out fortunes to re-hire, re-train, and continue losing those employees to other companies – especially competitors who now, don’t have to invest a dime into their new employee?

    I don’t care how old a person is. My concern is, how current they are in technologies.

    When’s the last time they stepped foot into a classroom, seminars, lectures to remain current/competitive. The people who invest in themselves, (no matter what age), are the people I represent as a Recruiter.

    Someone doing the same job for 20 years and now wanting a company to invest in their training for employment opportunities without taking the initiative on their own, are going to struggle finding gainfull employment, no matter if they’re 35-40 or 60-70 years old.

    I just had to pull two HR/LR Directors out of retirement last quarter of 2008.

    Both overseeing multiple plants in different states, with real union issues.

    Don’t even think people in their 30s could handle this type of feast when we’ve got an Administration all of our Mid-Western and New England states’ employers are fearing will sign the Employee Free Choice Act into law.

    Don’t even think someone in their 30s is going to literally transition a corporation and re-build, implement, and cross-train employees to become part of its future growth.

    Corporate America needs to operate the same as Learning Hospitals. Senior Physicians continue training new Interns, BUT at the same time, also learn about new techniques, break throughs from other colleagues, and their Interns.

    This process continues until they’ve retired.

    Without the 40, 50 and 60 year olds in our companies, our younger people are on their own trying to re-invent the wheel.

    However, without the 20-40 year olds bringing new ideas from previous employment, campus studies, there is also a loss. Companies always notice that gap and need someone to bring those different generation together to work in harmony.

    That’s where true professional HR people, with 100% support from the CEO and down come in.

    I have always been able to assess which companies truly support and realize the importance in top HR professionals, and which think of them as tokens, with problems retaining good, key employees – no matter what age.

    Companies have to assess a candidate’s assets, the return they can get from the new employee’s talent contribution – no matter what age they are.

    It’s no different than considering an Afro-American over a Latino – if you remove the blinders and assess them for their abilities they can bring to your organization.

    Most companies have gotten past that barrier, so why is a person’s birth age more important to employers, vs. they level of their knowledge, and work technologies?

  10. People usually assume that age discrimination can’t or won’t happen to them because they feel secure in their position until they find themselves looking for a job.

    One’s forced to deal with “age discrimination” when one or a friend is unable to get a job despite being qualified fbecause of age.

    The question is: “how do you plan on dealing with age discrimination … if you encounter it?”

  11. “I tend to think that it does happen more than we want to believe.

    My experience has been that I need to steer conversation away from retirment plans and be very careful how I respond to questions on my future”

  12. Bernd commented:

    “I personally don’t think age discrimination is that common.

    It basically comes down to if you’re a fit for the job or not. And of course experience as well as agility counts.

    You can’t use it as an excuse if you’re not getting a job out of college if you’re applying for an Enterprise Architect; the same time you shouldn’t blame age discrimination if you’re trying to get hired in a Web2.0 company and feel tempted to ask your children why they “Twitter” so much.”

  13. I moved from Accounting to IT in the mid 90s went back to school and studied computer science and became Microsoft, Novell and Comptia certified.

    Since the dotcom bust I have only worked temporarly in IT and mostly in IT sales.

    Finance is a much less age discriminatory environment my IT skillss are appreciated while my Finance background and age are seen as liabilities in IT.

    I am a member of IEEE Computer Society in which a recent article explained the demand for electrical engineers and computer scientists to work as financial analysts (financial engineers)

    my reaction is GOOD Riddance IT

    hello Finance!

  14. I really love that the article places the blame of age descrimination on the people being descriminated against. So its a fact of life and you should stop whinning about it?

    How about we do something about descrimination, in any form, and try not to shift the blame on victims?

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