Mitigating Age Discrimination in the Workplace

It is almost a given that if you are over 40 years old in today’s workplace, job displacement has played a role in your career.  If you are currently displaced or have been displaced in the past, there is also a strong chance that you will be displaced in the future.  I also say if you are under 30 years old, you might also be currently not working, are working on temporary assignments or went back to school to get a degree because you cannot find work.

Do you know exactly why you are displaced?  Not really.  It could be because you made too much money, or you were low man on the totem pole.  Have you ever considered that you are out of a job because of your age?  Age displacement is happening in a very covert manner in the workplace.  No one tells you that you are too old or too young for the job, but you definitely feel it.  Per EEOC guidelines, it is not a question that can be asked during the interview process, but once you walk in the door, most times your potential employer can guess your age.   And even though it’s illegal, employers do make age a factor in their decision.

So, how does one mitigate this practice to land a job in 2014?  Use some very “old school” methods:

  1. Resume writing
    • Remove outdated skill sets – if you have 10 jobs that you did in the 1970’s, they are dating you.  Delete or summarize them into one category on your resume.
    • Remove your college graduation year.  Many people will start to calculate your age – even incorrectly.
    • If you don’t have enough work experience, enhance your resume with volunteer activities and any clubs to which you belong – show leadership roles.
  2. Dress code
    1. If you are a mature candidate, dress for your age; however, that does not mean you are frumpy or dated.  Inject some new age appropriate styles into your closet.
    2. There are certain styles that you wear to a nightclub; do not wear them to work.  Business attire should be clearly separated in your closet.  Spaghetti strap and low-cut dresses, saggy pants and baseball caps are not to be worn to a place of business.
  3. Get a good haircut – men are using many “female” skills to make themselves look younger.  Hair, beard and mustache coloring are now very common and can take years off a man’s face.  Ladies should definitely consider a hair color and cut that enhances their overall image and adds luster and bounce to their hair.
  4. Speak and write articulately – don’t use slang.  Employers want you to be able to communicate with their customers even if you are not client-facing.  Use spell-check.  If you have never written a memo, or haven’t written one in a long time, consider taking a course to get up to speed.
  5. Digital jobs – these jobs are perceived to be done well by younger people because they feel they were born in this age and are more technologically savvy.  Right or wrong – if you are older, apply for the strategy side of digital since that is where your expertise (meaning your years of experience) plays best.

There is a shift in the paradigm where both senior management and entry level workers are experiencing the same age discrimination.  Because it is difficult to prove, it is best to take proper precautions to ensure that you are considered for the opportunity.  Obviously, there are no guarantees that you will keep your job or will get a new one, but a person is usually better off taking the precautions than not.