Age Bias? Tips for Finding Work Over Age 40

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One of the easiest ways for banks to cut operating expenses is by cutting high-salaried employees and replacing them with cheaper, less experienced personnel. It’s likely happened to tens of thousands of bankers since the financial crisis.

What’s left is a large group of older bankers fighting younger competition – and each other – for a shrinking pool of jobs. It’s an uphill battle for sure. When an older worker is laid off, it takes them two to six months longer to find a new job than younger employees, and they’re much more likely to earn less in their new job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Part of the reason for the difficulty could be due to age discrimination. Roughly two-thirds of Baby Boomer job seekers feel they have been discriminated against due to their age, according to a 2012 study. And ageism is only becoming more prevalent since the financial crisis. Roughly 17,000 age discrimination claims were filed each year between 1997 and 2007. That number has climbed to 24,000 since 2008.

Making matters worse, age discrimination is as difficult a workplace suit as there is to prove. Following a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, plaintiffs need to demonstrate that age was the determining factor – rather than simply a factor – in letting someone go. Since the decision, most lawyers have stopped taking age cases, according to the New York Times. Same song, different tune in London following the introduction of a 2008 law.

At the end of the day, as unfair as it may be, the responsibility falls on the candidate to win over a hiring manager, despite any preconceived or subconscious biases they may have had. We talked to Charles Moldenhauer, founder of New York-based Executive Transitioning, a career coaching firm focusing on C-level executives and senior managers, to get some tips on doing just that.

1) Shaping Up: Start to work on your physical appearance, your knowledge of current technology and your ability to interact with people in the “current” business world.  It is all about what happened today not months ago or years ago. Talking about what happened back then is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Your interpersonal skills tend to evaporate if your conversations are all social and not about business.  Focusing on exercise and a workout almost universally helps keep you sharp looking and sharp thinking.

2) Rediscover Your Core Ability: Ask yourself what are your truly unique abilities.  What is that one activity that you truly enjoy and find easy to do, which has been overshadowed by what you have been doing over the years?  Focus on this instead of a replica of your past job.  Advice encouraging you to go back to school may be completely unwarranted.

3) Going Alone Has Risks: Keep in mind that you may not see how you come across. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Along the way find your blind spots, we all have them, in how we manage work with others or view the market.

4) Dig Up Insights: The best way to get the interview and survive the interview is being up on the company. Dig for what drives the company’s future, not what it did in the past. Determine how you can help move it ahead. Think about being smarter than any other job candidate.

5) Overcome Irrational Fears: If you are successful in a job for years, suddenly changing your career can be overwhelming and is normally accompanied by fears of change and of failure.  You were needed or wanted and now it may seem no one cares. The best way to deal with these irrational fears is to engage in engage in discussion with your network for motivation, action steps and communication.

6) Taking Stock: Maybe it is time to rethink your life. Are you happy? With a good part of your working life completed does it make sense to “battle” or be unhappy for the rest? Is it time to look for a position that isn’t so age sensitive? That might be consulting, teaching, research, recruiting or just a slower moving environment. Study the generational differences and how your generation is different from a Gen X or baby boomers. It will help you see where you could fit, or be a misfit.

7) Explore an Entrepreneurial Itch: Is it time to apply all you have learned to a consulting practice or another business you have a yearning to run? Many people see moving out of their previous path for new ground a logical process. It's often a way to new challenges or independence. Studies show the level of happiness with older business owners is higher than those with jobs in companies.

8) Tune “You” on the Internet: Time to get with it and upgrade your profile, picture and think about responding to group topics. You might start a blog. Being up to date here puts you in the league of current applicants. If you aren’t nimble with your smart phone you don’t have a chance.

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