Battling Age Discrimination (Part Two of a Two-Part Series)
Continuing of Part One.
In Part One of my series on age discrimination in the workplace, I stated that it is "alive and well" in this country. There are several tactics that can be used by those 40 and older to help combat this problem. This is a continuation of strategies that may prove helpful in overcoming age bias.
Older workers have at least one advantage over younger job seekers -- they know more people to help put a career move into action. Do not feel embarrassed or reticent about contacting former employers, friends and alumni associations in your job search. Remember, the purpose of networking is not to "hit up" contacts for jobs, but to create a loop in which the right people, at the right time, with the right opportunity finally converge. Networking also keeps you from spending too much time at home or alone, where you could develop a "bunker mentality" leading to feelings of isolation.
Use Fringe Benefits As a Leverage Tactic
If you have medical and dental benefits from your previous employer, you can use them to your advantage when negotiating a job offer. This can be done in one of two ways. Either make yourself less expensive by offering to keep your old plan, or use your benefits as a bargaining chip to increase your compensation.
Pursue Alternate Routes
Many older professionals find new employment in the much-discussed contingent work force or by launching a business. One popular route has been consulting. "Employers who laid off all their senior people are becoming aware that they made a mistake." Many times these same laid-off employees go back to their previous company as consultants and make equal or better money. Some older executives choose the alternative of accepting lower-level positions in hopes of climbing back up the ladder. If you decide to take a step down the corporate ladder, it may help to change fields. Under-employment in one's own profession is rarely successful. However, if you do something entirely different -- something you have done in the past, or as a hobby -- it is psychologically easier.
Write An ABR Resume
Forget the functional vs. chronological resume debate. The format that has proven extremely effective, especially for experienced job seekers, is the Achievement Based Resume, ABR for short. An ABR resume is effective because it describes your skill sets and experience in tangible, no-nonsense, concise language. Prospective employers will immediately be able to sense the scope and results of your hard-earned experience. Also, remember that your resume is not a tell-all document. If earlier jobs do nothing to enhance you on paper and they go back 15 or more years, you may want to think about omitting them.
Do Not Focus Exclusively On Large Fortune 500 Companies
Experienced job seekers are likely to receive a better return on their job-hunting efforts by looking at companies and organizations with fewer than 500 employees. This type of company size tends to value mature individuals who need little or no training and can hit the ground running. Recent statistics show that over 90% of all companies and organizations in the United States employ fewer than 500 people, and two-thirds of all hiring activity in the last several years occurred in companies with revenues ranging from $10 million to $500 million.
Focus On the Big Six
Age may be relative, but if you continue to find companies reluctant to hire you, try the following:
- Pay particular attention to your appearance.
- During interviews or telephone conversations, always use upbeat, positive language.
- Avoid "history lessons" and always use forward-thinking language.
- Brush up on your computer skills.
- Exude a sense of energy and well-being.
- Focus your search by gravitating toward companies that want a mature professional has who proved himself or herself in the marketplace and can bring a calming presence to the company, perhaps becoming a mentor to others.
Expand Your Tool Kit
Instead of tying your career to any single job or company, develop a portfolio of skills and experience that will qualify you for either a different position with your current employer or a move to another company, in case your job is eliminated. Remember, you have no obligation to an organization that is not wise enough to protect its investment in you. The more skills you have, the less vulnerable you are to layoffs or extended periods of unemployment.
Target Small Growing Companies and Staff Leasing Firms
Larger paychecks and benefit packages make older workers easy targets for budget cutters. That is why many companies that would never consider hiring a pricey full-time employee with benefits, would quickly grab the chance to gain the experience level -- at least on a contractual basis -- of mature, seasoned workers who can bring a calming influence to new, fast-growing companies. If you are lucky, you could parlay this assignment into a full-time position before a small company goes public. You may get several thousand stock options at say, 20 cents a share. When the stock goes public, it could be worth $15 a share. One or two repetitions of this scenario could leave an employee with financial security that a giant corporation could not supply, no matter how healthy its stock.
Focus On What Is Really Important
While thinning hair and incipient paunch are daily reminders of advancing years, people in their 40s and 50s are also starting to come face-to-face with their mortality. By now, most individuals begin to fully realize that when they check out to that "big office in the sky," there will still be e-mail messages in their inbox. With this realization, most individuals' strong work ambitions tend to subside. This can be a blessing in disguise because life can then become easier and more fulfilling as we start focusing more on substance, rather than career success. Usually by this stage of life, many people come to the realization that they should enjoy their achievements -- and work to leave something worthwhile behind.
Do Not Let Fears of Age Bias Hold You Back
Do not become defensive or apologetic about your age. The years in your life are not important -- it's the life in your years. We have been conditioned from birth to view age for its constraints, rather than its possibilities. Age conditioning is reinforced everywhere, from the advertising industry (which glorifies youth) to typical corporate management (which is constantly offering early retirement packages). Sure, age bias is alive and well in the workplace; however, older workers have considerable talents and expertise to offer. Fortunately, there are companies that still value mature, experienced individuals.