But they’ll think I’m too old!

I recently went to one of our clients to do an outplacement talk to team of high-performing customer service-based staff who were coming to the end of the project they were hired for.

The group was quite diverse, with a veritable mix of backgrounds, gender and ages. After giving an array of insider hints, tips & general advice about how to increase your chances of being hired for their next role, I asked the group if they had any questions. Mary (not her real name & a lady who it would be fair to say was in the twilight of her career) was quick to put up her hand.

“Do recruiters & companies look at my age & experience and think that I’m too old?”, she asked.

I would have loved to have said that age does not come into the equation, but it regularly does. A lot of hiring managers in white-collar business might have concerns about someone’s age equating to an inability to learn new things quickly, or a lack of hunger, drive and dynamism. This of course, is all subjective to each stakeholder involved & how they approach the matter.

I’m glad to say in my experience that the age-discrimination ledger is not always skewed in one direction.  I have had clients ask for someone with more ‘life experience’ or ‘maturity’ because that will suit the company culture and/or they simply want a reliable person who isn’t looking to climb the corporate ladder and use this job as a brief stepping stone to something else.

So what do we make of this? At the end of the day, it’s interesting – a younger person wants to put more on his/her resume, whilst an older person is almost always encouraged to put less. Most hiring managers recruiting for lower to mid-tier corporate roles just want to see what you’ve been doing for the last 2-5 years, and that’s where you need to concentrate your efforts on explaining what you’ve been performing and achieving in that time.

In answering Mary’s question, I told her not to be discouraged, and to try her best not to submit into a defeatist mindset (I have had candidates open poorly and somewhat passive-aggressively with “I’ll tell you now that I’m 50-something, should we continue this conversation?”). It doesn’t help.

I told Mary that everyone has something unique to offer, and if you focus on the roles & companies that you’d like to work for, there’s every chance that in the near future there’s an organisation that’s going to want to know more about her. Don’t give up!

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