It’s never too late to start a new job. It’s estimated that, on average, a typical American worker now has more than ten jobs over the course of their lifetime. But unfortunately, whether you’re inspired to enter a new field or want a new job after you retire, one of the biggest obstacles to re-entering the workforce can be ageism.
This type of discrimination involves treating an applicant less favorably because of their age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people aged 40 or older. Yet, in reality, applicant age often affects employment opportunities because many recruiters and hiring managers still struggle with unconscious biases related to older workers.
Ageism in the modern workforce
Older people face stereotypes about their competency or intentions when entering the workforce. According to a recent AARP study, 90% of people pre-maturely pressured into retirement never make as much money again if they re-enter the workforce.
The same study found that 3 out of 5 older workers have experienced or seen age discrimination in the workplace. In addition, almost 25% of team members age 45 and older have heard negative comments about their age from coworkers or supervisors. And the large majority of these older workers anticipate age discrimination being a hurdle in finding a new job.
Effects of ageism go beyond money. For example, studies show that patronizing language or speaking loudly at older adults can adversely affect them psychologically or even make them less confident in their abilities.
So how do you confront ageism in the workplace, mainly when it occurs implicitly rather than out in the open? Here are ten tools for combating ageism while looking for work after retirement.
1. Highlight your past experience
One of the biggest strengths of older applicants is the more significant number of working years they bring to the table. Therefore, when considering a potential job, think about the ideas you can give to a possible employer that utilizes your experience and addresses their problems.
Many things in the workplace can only be learned through experience. Highlighting the work you’ve done in the past is one of the best ways to play to your strengths. Instead of feeling insecure about the amount of time you’ve worked or how long it’s been since you worked last, be proud of your past accomplishments and put the skills they demonstrate on display.
2. Stay up-to-date on the world of work
When it comes to the modern workplace, things innovate rapidly and frequently. Industry trends, new technologies, and best practices all change rapidly. So staying knowledgeable on what’s relevant in the workplace is crucial when applying for a new job.
Technology, in particular, tends to change quickly. So go out of your way to learn the newest and latest relevant technologies, and you’ll set yourself up for success. Not only does this prepare you to do an exceptional job, but it shows potential employers that you’re passionate and interested in your field.
Regardless of when you were last officially employed, you want to demonstrate that you’re prepared to jump into the modern office. It’s one of the best ways to combat presumptions about older applicants and instill confidence in a potential employer.
3. Present your work history as a cohesive career story
Present your work history as a cohesive story no matter where or when you’ve worked. It demonstrates why you make sense for a position. Take the time to review your experience and think critically about the skills you’ve acquired over time. How does this position fit your history and skills? You want to show the potential employer when you apply or interview. Framing the position as a natural progression for your career should make your application much more robust.
4. Stay encouraged
Confidence can be contagious; the more sure you are of yourself, the more confident a potential employer may feel about you. Keep in mind that while some people believe outdated or inaccurate stereotypes, data indicate that older workers are more productive, educated, and loyal than younger workers. Experienced, knowledgeable professionals who do the hiring should know this.
Regardless of past experiences or insecurities, don’t get discouraged. Ageism is illegal and is increasingly frowned upon. Instead, maintain a good attitude throughout the job search and keep your head held high, regardless of obstacles you encounter.
5. Keep your resume updated and be intentional with your cover letter
A resume or cover letter is the first thing a potential employer will see from you. Take the time to update your resume and be intentional with the cover letter. It could make or break a job opportunity.
Highlight your strengths, and don’t hesitate to show how they will benefit the company you’re applying to — the more relevant experience you can mention, the better. Your resume represents you on paper so make sure it’s something you’re proud of. When writing a cover letter, consider how your unique career story makes you suitable for the job and do your best to express an eagerness toward the work.
Connecting with other professionals at events in your area is a wonderful way to both find job opportunities and meet people doing similar work. You never know when a contact will meet someone looking for workers or need work done themselves.
Focus on building lasting relationships — particularly (if possible) with people more experienced than you. Additionally, networking is an effective way to learn what’s relevant in the field you’re trying to enter. Finally, it can help you build confidence as you continue to meet people and present yourself as a competent worker.
7. Don’t give up
No matter your age, finding work in the modern job market is no easy task. Remind yourself it’s a process, and your first interview most likely won’t be your last. There are many reasons why someone won’t get hired for a job.
Even if you feel self-conscious about your age or experience, do your best to portray confidence in yourself. Then, persist through any rejection and trust that the right job will come along for you, so long as you don’t stop looking for it.
8. Be proactive
The best way for you to find a job is to be proactive while looking for one. A large part of successfully finding work has to do with your initiative. Don’t wait for someone to contact you.
Reach out to people who may have a possible opportunity for you and be adamant about following up. Don’t hesitate to pursue more than one opportunity at once and cast your net as wide as possible. If you go out there and search for what you want, you can eventually find it.
9. Interview prep
While it may feel silly, practice answering interview questions, which helps build confidence in articulating your strengths and goals. Going over common questions is an excellent place to start during a job search, especially if it’s been some time since your last interview.
Exploring potential questions can help you clarify where you may need more work and effort. Don’t hesitate to ask a friend to role-play an interview with you or answer questions looking in the mirror. The more prepared you can be, the better.
[Related: 3 Job Interview Tactics Phony Candidates Can’t Handle]
Take the steps
Returning to the everyday work world during retirement is a challenging venture in the modern workplace. Though age discrimination may not always be easy to spot, it is a reality for most older people seeking employment. However, while it may feel like the odds are stacked against you, there are steps you can take and tools you can use to confront ageism-related obstacles.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re a competent and capable worker with a lot to offer. The way you see yourself influences how potential employers assess you. The more positivity and initiative you bring to the table, the better.
Continue to pursue your goals, regardless of what others think you are capable of. Forget about what anyone else thinks if you need to. You’re looking for work again to help improve yourself, not impress others. Trust your experience and capabilities; don’t be afraid to get out there. Your perfect job is waiting.