Age Discrimination. These are the two most dreaded words for job seekers over 40. I can see the fear and worry about their ages on the faces of my over-40 clientele. Secretly, they are hoping for a magic word or tip that will wipe this worry from their minds. How I wish I could give that to them! Alas, concerns about age and the job search is the subject of many blogs, articles and presentations. In fact, next Tuesday, January 28th, NLU is hosting a “Do Not Miss” event titled ‘Over 40 and Hired’ supporting those who encounter age bias when navigating the job search. Featuring, Karen Jordan Williams, an engaging Human Resources Learning and Development expert, participants will walk away with insights and practical strategies designed for seasoned professionals to overcome this type of challenge.
In addition to this event, I can also share what I learned from my recent experience as someone over 40 on the job hunt. Admittedly, I was several months into my search when the thought hit me out of the blue that I might face age discrimination—and the realization came as quite a shock. Being a determined person, this realization was quickly followed by feeling indignant at the thought of someone rejecting me for a younger candidate when I knew I had so much to offer. Did I face some age discrimination during my job search? Perhaps. If so, I don’t have clear evidence of it. In retrospect, though, I know that factors such as skill set and experience had an almost equal if not lesser priority to the importance of having a clear understanding of my values, temperament, and desired work environment. You know, the ‘Who am I?’ ‘What do I like?’ and ‘Where do I best fit in?’ kind of stuff.
I’m not the first to say it, but it is true – the older one gets the less “flexible” one becomes in terms of temperament, values and personality preferences. Over time, life experiences and the ways we interact with the world have shaped and molded who we’ve become. For some, all that shaping and molding has made it crystal clear what kinds of jobs and work environments they do not want to be a part of. Yes, a paycheck is a necessity for these job seekers. But to accompany the paycheck, older job seekers now find a need to place a greater emphasis on the mission and value of the organization, the goals of the position, aligning with the management style and belief in the product. Being a career coach for over 12 years now, I firmly believe that 90% of all hiring decisions are made based upon on how well the individual fits with the culture and environment of the organization. So, for you job seekers who fall into the 40+ age bracket, if your personality aligns well with the job expectations and the goals of the position, hiring managers will take notice of this during the interview and (hopefully) less notice of your age.
Need to refresh yourself on what your temperament, values, preferences and other personality traits look like? If you are a student or alum, you can access CareerBeam through the student portal where you will find quick and easy assessments for all of these areas.