Are You Too Old?

Welcome to megadisrupter’s first Q&A Friday! The first featured question comes from Sherri S., and covers a topic that we hear quite often from those who are laid off after a long stint with one company in a single job function. Here it is:

I was laid off ten months ago and am very discouraged because of my age – I’m 52. I had the same role for 21 years in customer care, and so far it seems like I am being rejected in my job search because I’m too old to learn something new. I think there is a large amount of age discrimination in the hiring market. How do I overcome this?

Good news: true age discrimination in the job market is not very common. If it were as pervasive as it feels to you, there would be nothing you could do because you can’t control the preconceived biases of others. However, there is a very common bias that hiring managers do have which you must overcome: they are biased against old ways of thinking.

It is easy to confuse the two types of bias because the age group that suffers the most from both is 45 and older. When a hiring manager or recruiter sees a resume with one job on it for the past 20 years that ended in a layoff, he suspects immediately that the skill set of the candidate is obsolete. This is because the context usually does indicate obsolescence. The big question on his mind is why wasn’t this person able to adapt?

Because the large majority of people laid off after 20+ years are in their late forties or fifties, two incorrect and harmful thought processes form in candidates’ minds:

  • Employers are age discriminators, and
  • I need to seek opportunities that are accommodating  to older people

This is a terrible trap that you cannot allow yourself to fall into. While employers won’t discriminate against you for your age, they will definitely discriminate against an outdated mindset. These are your next three steps:

  1. Cleanse your mental palate: do what it takes clear out any negative feelings you have from your rejections so far. Make the phrase “my age is not a factor” your new mantra and repeat it frequently. You need to have a positive demeanor when interviewing, so get rid of negative energy.
  2. Perform a self-evaluation: evaluate who you are, what you’re good at and what job roles your strengths translate to. Your old job role is likely gone from the market, so you need to figure out what jobs your skills and qualities translate to in the current environment. Read more on how to do this here.
  3. Be selective: Choose between five and ten opportunities that match your evaluation well. This will cut down significantly on all the rejection, and you will really love the job once you are in it. Read this article on targeting to get started.

Being laid off in your forties or fifties is tough, but remember that you have the skills and experience needed to pull through. If you plan on retiring at 65 or later like most people do, you’ve got at least ten years left to find a fulfilling role and achieve some really great, disruptive things. What feels like a limp to the finish line now can still turn out to be the best part of your career, so be tenacious and go for it!

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