Nine tips for combatting ageism at work

There is still work to be done on combatting ageism at work. Now that I am back in full time work and closer in age to 50 than 40, I feel a responsibility to be a spokesperson for the importance of age diversity at work. In the wonderful book “She’s Back” the authors say:

Ageism at work is “Pernicious, rife and wrong”

All the statistics point to a population that is becoming more technically savvy, fitter, and effective in the workforce for longer and longer. Enlightened employers value experience, maturity and reliability. I would add to this list: they can expect FLEXIBILITY from older workers.

Older Workers Are Often Much More Flexible – Very often we, as older employees can be more agile and open-minded in our thinking. Equally, we are arguably more focused on the job at hand than a 28 year old with a burgeoning social life and five housemates to manage! We are less likely to be out every night and more able to save our energy for the day job. I speak generally but if you see yourself in this description, then count these qualities as big selling points in your favour!

Industry is Being Encouraged to Hire Older Workers – In 2016 Aviva executive Andy Briggs was appointed Business Champion for Older Workers to tackle the skills gap and age bias.  He has called on British companies to increase their number of staff aged between 50 and 69 by 12% over the next five years. It is old-fashioned to think we are winding down. In the last five years more than a million people aged 50 and over had joined the workforce and are making a huge difference.

You only need to read this invigorating article by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, to understand how important it is going to be in coming decades, to embrace careers that last 20 years longer. Cox forecasts:

When careers become 50 or 60 years long, (companies) will want to move away from the current, linear model that puts so much emphasis on the 30s and 40s….they will want to manage careers with several talent identification periods, at different ages……rather than the one currently most common.

I Put an Age Ceiling on Myself – I created a world of anxiety by telling myself that I miraculously had to have everything sorted by 50. That I would have found my ultimate vocation, and “know myself”. HAH! At only a few years off that ridiculous ceiling now, I realise the folly of that line of thinking. I was perpetuating age discrimination! How suffocating.

Being Middle Aged in the Workforce has Been a Pleasant Surprise – My experience back in the workforce DEFINITELY supports what we are seeing now. As we live longer and healthier lives, we want to remain productive and contribute to society in a meaningful way. The issue of ageism can be overcome. I vlogged before about how much I love working with a young team. They need you as much as you need them.

How to Combat Ageism at work

If you

  1. can craft your elevator pitch well
  2. have a social media presence (LinkedIn is mandatory)
  3. network effectively, statistically this will be how you’ll find work
  4. be out in the market physically learning the market and jargon
  5. have an up-to-date style
  6. project energy, enthusiasm and vitality (easy for the average baby boomer these days!)

You are well on your way to doing your bit to promote age diversity in job search.

Furthermore, if you

  1. show excitement about working cross-generationally and potentially mentoring
  2. can demonstrate a willingness to learn new ways (VITAL) and listen, listen, listen…I mean ask, don’t tell!

You will have enormous impact in interview.

Finally,

  1. format and tailor your CV to be keyword rich and bespoke for each role that you apply for (3 pages max, focusing mainly on the last fifteen years). Then you will avoid the common pitfalls that more mature candidates fall into.

Age discrimination is real, and there is no way to sugar coat it. If you are realistic in your expectations and willing to be flexible, open to others’ wisdom – even when they are less experienced, you can fly. Stay curious and you will get years of your life back as you embark on your next role.

Laura Izard, Talent Partner at PA Consulting & Blogger https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauraizard/

 

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