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Webgrrls Wisdom » Re-thinking your job search strategy – because of ageism

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Welcome to Webgrrls Wisdom, a blog to find commentaries about women's careers, business, technology, and the industry.

Re-thinking your job search strategy – because of ageism

written by Maria Botta
Maria Botta
Topics: Blogs, Business, Career, Marketing, Networking
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From birth to age 18, a girl needs good parents. From 18 to 35, she needs good looks. From 35 to 55, she needs a good personality. From 55 on, she needs good cash.
~ Sophie Tucker

How do you handle ageism during career reinvention? I say NO!

As part of my career reinvention I went to Grad school and am now, like many other grads, on the job hunt. 

Recently, I was told by a respected recruiter that I was too “experienced” to present to her clients. While she was very clever and PC, I know that meant code for “too old”. Generally, I would say hey I AM NOT OLD, AND I only need one great opportunity – there is one out there just for me. But I have to admit this time it got to me …….and I am re-thinking….

Ageism is making me re-think my job strategy

At first this really pissed me off – but in retrospect this recruiter did me a favor;

  • This new reality made me re-think my job strategy.
  • Re-evaluate the kind of organization I might join. 
  • Re-adjust some expectations. 
  • Think of alternatives – like starting my own company if I cannot find the right fit.
  • Ask recruiters about their views on age…..and their clients.

Undeniably, ageism is a serious issue facing job seekers today, and although the practice is still illegal, it is nearly impossible to prove in the hiring process, (honestly who has time to file a complaint when you are looking for a job) and it is rampant. In fact complaints of age discrimination with the EEOC have risen dramatically this last quarter, and currently one of BNET’s most popular posts complaints are about age discrimination in hiring practices. This used to be an issue that only affected the 55+ crowd but with the tough job market younger workers 40+ are now equally impacted. In fact, Men typically suffer age discrimination in their mid-50s, while this happens to women almost 10 years before in their 40’s. 

Does this makes sense?

Corporate ageism really doesn’t make sense in the light of:

  • The median age in the US is 35.
  • We are an aging population with most of us right in the middle
  • Most people are much better leaders as we age – no doubt there are a few “Alexander the Greats” out there – but overall we learn and grow and get better.
  • You get more bang for the buck with older employees who have cred, experience and maturity.
  • Why does chronological age matter in the hiring practice? It’s not like I need special equipment or help getting around, in fact I am in good physical shape.

Re-thinking how I look……

Nature gives you the face you have at twenty, but it’s up to you to merit the face you have at 50.
~ Coco Chanel

Ageism is an unfortunate bi-product of the US culture, which venerates the young, while showing disdain for the more “experienced” types like myself.  

People do not generally guess my age, and when they do it’s usually younger – I do not act, look, speak, dress or feel “my age”. I keep current, and with a recent MBA in Global Management from Thunderbrid – my education and leadership skills are top notch and very relevant.  

OK I WILL ADMIT IT, even though I look fine, this has made me reconsider how I look to others, and I am considering cosmetic procedures that will make me look younger (not 20) and fresher (as a single woman this brings up all kinds of insecurities beyond the job search)….I guess the comforting news is that I am not alone, today women account for 91% of ALL cosmetic procedures in the US.

Some ideas…… re-thinking the job search…..

  1. I am going to look for companies that can be “a good fit” for me both in culture, and age attitudes.
  2. Look at companies that currently lack real “senior” management, due to transition as a potential opportunity.
  3. Pitch my expertise and experience, and offer consulting services to younger entrepreneurs/companies who may lack depth in their management team.
  4. Look at companies that service the baby boomer market.
  5. Simplyhired has a great tool Search Jobs at Age 50+ Friendly Companies.
  6. Revise the words on my resume – I had no idea but I was using some outdated phrases like “team player,” “trustworthy,” “problem solver”, “proven”, “relevant” “innovative”, Extensive experience”, these really didn’t work anymore. Focus on actual career accomplishments and milestones.
  7.  Listen to people – recruiters, hiring managers and friends ask for feedback to tweak.
  8. Paper resume, no way! I have one that I use for recruiters who insist, but I created a visual resume – and that has given me an edge Visual Resume http://bit.ly/nCvxJR
  9. Leverage your social media networks – communicate your job search on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter, Webgrrls, and don’t forget to brag about your Klout!
  10. Don’t lie or mislead about your age by omitting information – I had taken out my undergraduate graduation date – a recruiter strongly advised me to add it back.
  11. Keep at it everyday – I set a goal to research, find, and send out my credentials to at least 10 potential employers.
  12.  Network – there can’t be enough said about this.  Today I had a casual conversation with a friend, whom I had forgotten is related to a very powerful guy in the advertising biz – immediately she offered to get my information into his hands directly.
  13. Pay it forward – I often hear of other opportunities that are not a good fit for me, but if I know of someone, I always hook them up.

To stay positive and inspired, here are some fun facts I have found about “older women”.

  • Right before she turned 50, Katie Couric became the first female solo anchor of a US national evening news show.
  • Julia Child published “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” after the age of 50.
  • At 57, Diane Keaton produced “Something’s Gotta Give” where she played the love interest to 39-year-old Keanu Reeves.
  • At 61, actress Susan Sarandon is still the American prototype for the sexy older woman, a title she claimed in her 40s.
  • Bethenny Frankel 40+ sold Skinnygirl drink line for a reported $100 m.
  • Arianna Huffington 60 created and sold the Huffington Post for $315m.

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Did you enjoy this post? Comments (9)


Comment by SPanelo
2011-08-19 10:57:23

I might have missed this in the article… but what is the age range of the author? Trying to get some context. Thanks

Comment by Susanne Schropp
2011-08-19 18:00:26

Great topic and wonderful suggestions. Thank you!

Comment by Maria
2011-08-19 23:42:25

Hi there – I just turned 49 last week :)


Comment by Jesus
2011-08-20 01:35:08

Great post – and trust me the pressure is there for man as much as women

Comment by Melinda fletcher
2011-08-20 10:23:06

Loved this article and could relate on so many levels. Good luck on your search and finding the right fit.

Comment by Maria
2011-08-20 13:21:07

Thanks everyone, I guess the bigger question remains – WHAT ARE WE going to do about it???? Keeping positive is an absolute must, but what else can you do????

Comment by Dan K
2011-08-22 13:23:16

Susan Sarandon is not a good example: she’s clearly had some work done. Better examples of actresses would be Helen Mirren, Charlotte Rampling, and Melissa Leo, older actresses who have not had work done (so far as I can tell) and are still doing the occasional nude scene and still picking up nominations and winning awards.

Comment by Tom Hoover
2012-01-31 12:17:31

Loved your story. Also loved that you went to Thunderbird. Great school.

Comment by gloria anderson
2012-02-02 14:30:18

I can totally relate to the subject matter. And I agree with Maria, the big question is what can we do? In my view the problem is compounded by the overall economic situation. Many workers have been laid off and can’t retire. They are in a limbo of sorts. Considered “too old” by some ad agencies and on the flip side are not “old enough” or aren’t financially able to retire.

Early in my career the goal was to gather as much experience as possible. To be well grounded in your area of expertise. This is not entirely the case in the present.

Good luck with your research.

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