Age Discrimination: When Attitude Is Everything

Last week I read Ina Jaffe's article and this powerful article, which was hard to believe, revealed to me how age discrimination is real. For example, there is a collective lawsuit against the company which hired 1,000 people of which only 19 were older than 40. Also, research shows that résumés which include older birth data get fewer responses.

Since I am a 27-year-old guy and have never faced such a problem, this type of injustice scared me and made me sad at the same time. Age discrimination is hard to prove and not easy to win. In fact, the problem is getting more serious with every year.

Last week when I regularly interviewed employers, I started to ask them additional questions about "older candidates" to understand what their views actually are. I also called a few of my parents' unemployed friends and conducted complex research.

In fact, the positive result can be summed up in three simple words only: attitude is everything.

Of course, age discrimination is real. However, the basics of recruiting are not about a candidate's appearance, but about choosing one professional instead of another. I know that I am only 27 and have not had to deal with age discrimination yet, but as the topic is something that is close to my heart I would like to share my findings.

When the 20-something energetic candidate is interviewed, he/she tries to prove that s/he has better skills than others. However, when a 50-year-old is interviewed, s/he is not competing with younger candidates, but instead with a common and malicious opinion that an old shoe is slow, outdated, hard to communicate with and unwilling to adapt to the changes.   

Last week when I interviewed recruiters, Rima, the head of a department store, told me about a 60-year-old lady who was running through her outlet like a sparkle. She worked fast, laughed loudly and even managed clients on rush hours. Rima would love to recruit more of these young grandmas and was asking why 19-year-old retail assistants were not more like her.

I know it's hard and sometimes depressing being unemployed and I truly wish you the best, but I can't stress it enough how important it is to stay mentally and physically healthy.

Recruiters love the experience and understand that you have developed a huge list of skills, but remain very skeptical. However, once you prove you are adaptable and have a young mind, you will overcome all the obstacles caused by common opinion.

So here is a short list of what you can do (in my oppinion) to become more interesting, charming, influential and young while remaining the same experienced professional you currently are.

Surround yourself with young people. Taking a class at the college or a class with younger people will ensure that you are surrounded by young minds. Audrey K Chun, an associate professor, says "There's also that energy that comes from being with people who are younger to motivate you to push yourself."

Stay physically and mentally fit. Regular exercise and good eating habits can do unbelievable things not only for the body but also the attitude. Research completed by NHS choices reveals that risks of too little exercise can be as deadly as smoking. Ironically, I feel more energetic after work when I had a hard two-hour boxing session than when I rest my head on a pillow. Exercise increases an energy that leads to increased speed.

Sport will help you to get you a job faster, because all you need is a good attitude. When you feel good, you look good too.

Gain skills. Most people develop a very short list of skills and never train other important skills such as communication, digital literacy, organization, or sales. That is typical not only for "older people", but for youngsters too. Most of the Y and Z generation are addicted to computers, games, social media, and many more digital inventions which can easily develop lazy habits, bad work ethics and decrease one's ability to focus. Most 50-year-olds are not facing tech dangers. However, an ignorance of tech shows a person is less curious and doesn't learn new things.

The easiest way to gain new skills is to start practical activities by following YouTube and googling advice. Gaining new skills will let you stay sharp and adaptive.

Technologies. Savvy Senior columnist Jim Miller says employees can avoid age discrimination by making efforts to stay up to date with technology. It is OK if a ten-year-old child can code and use a computer faster than you, but it's disastrous if you avoid tech simply because "you don’t understand". If you use Facebook, know that it is already old and standard technology.

So download all the new programs which are on your child's phone and ask him to teach you to use technologies once at Sundays. :) Touch and scroll around on your mobile till you get how apps work. Believe it, some twenty-year-old friends couldn't get how to enter Snapchat's filter mode, so they googled the answer (tip: touch your face). So, you are not the only one who doesn't get it.

So why you don't feel good to use technologies? Yes, they are tricky but also so fresh. So new.

Both the world and workplace are digitizing and it is not enough to know phrases such as virtual reality or blockchain. People must read about it and master the basics to understand where the world moves.    

I try to read Hacker News for at least 10 minutes every day, even when I don't understand what developers (tech engineers) are talking about. But word after word, day after day, I think I start to get it.

Don't ignore technologies, because you are ignoring progress. Instead, impress recruiters by automated tools you have read about recently on Product Hunt

Demonstrate your knowledge. Don't just absorb knowledge, share it publicly too. Open your account and respond to questions on Quora, Reddit, forums, and write articles on LinkedIn. Nothing is more professional than sharing your expertise with a community. Publically advertise your experience to employers who usually google every candidate before an interview.

Get comfortable with social media. Using pages like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and LinkedIn shows that you are sociable and up to date. From all these pages, LinkedIn is the most important. Take your time to upload thoughtful content daily or weekly to your social account. This shows you are an active and interesting person.

After all, social media is the first place checked by recruiters. So, take the time to refresh your résumé and delete entries that are 15 years old. 

Volunteer. Joining the community won't give you a job, but it will let you stay active and build an attitude.

Get an internship. That sounds a bit strange, but according to a Reuters article by Alexandra Alper, it is increasingly becoming an option for mature workers. An internship sounds young, lets your skills stay sharp, fills the résumé gap while being unemployed and opens doors for a job after a successful performance.

Resume

There are other reasons why recruiters choose younger employees for example the salary demand tied to experience. Employers know they can pay a young employee less (even when overloading the candidate with work) and also a job usually doesn't need 10+ years of experience.

Also, older employees are not willing to work weekends and spend their whole life at work. Youngsters don't have a family to support or a house to maintain and are not valuing the work-life balance as the baby boomer generation.

In a great article written by career expert, Dean Karrel, he mentioned a situation when an unemployed person collapsed when a talk shifted to technologies and social media. "Their demeanor changes, body language gets defensive, and it's like the air and energy are being slowly sucked out of the room."

Even if you have a tremendous set of skills and attributes to offer the organization, it may not guarantee you the job. How you speak has more power to influence their decision than what you speak about.

So, if you want to get a job with a decent salary and without sacrificing your personal life, attitude is everything. Gain skills, get comfortable with technologies, surround yourself with younger people, start to exercise and do everything you can to stay mentally and physically young.

After all, only curious and adaptive souls impress recruiters who see candidates every single day.

Views: 430

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on September 25, 2017 at 3:17pm

How can you presume to know/advise about such things when you haven't experienced them first hand?

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