There are hundreds of free online offerings for job seekers 50+, but many of them perpetuate workplace myths. One career coach posted a Youtube video claiming that karma is why workers over age 50 are overlooked in the recruiting process. She explained it was payback for calling Millennials lazy and not hiring them during the 2007 recession. Other career offerings for 50+ suggest age bias isn’t the problem at all; it’s the applicant – even when they are doing everything right.
Fortunately, not all complimentary coaching webinars are tainted with misinformation or conflicts of interest. Given the competitiveness of a COVID-19 economy, it’s critical to level the playing field so all qualified job applicants have a fair chance for employment.
Which is why Christy Watz of Christy Watz Coaching, and Laura Leach, founder and president of Meredith Consulting, decided to address the elephant in the room – workplace age bias is real. But instead of victimizing applicants hurt by the oversight, their idea was to ensure experienced talent shines.
“I recently met a group of people laid off from a large corporation in St. Louis – some notified by mail while working remotely,” Watz explained. “They meet weekly to share job leads and provide support in the job search as the economy continues to struggle.”
What Watz realized later was that everyone in the group was over the age of 50. All had been long-term employees, some having spent 30 years with the company.
Then the lightbulb went off; most of her coaching clients were also over the age of 50.
That’s when she knew it was time to step up and help. Watz turned to Leach, who she had met through a business coach and certification program. As a woman in her forties navigating the tech industry, Leach knew firsthand that age bias was real.
Together they designed a webinar with career experts to provide the very best job search tips in the face of ageist stereotypes, myths and bias. One of the most important messages to the participants – don’t self-sabotage.
“We want to make sure applicants are not fueling the fire inadvertently,” explained Watz. “It’s easy to unintentionally include or leave out information that sets off a bias flag and removes them from consideration.”
Since it’s impossible to eliminate age bias, the webinar focused on how to lessen the impact of ageism in the job search and stand out in the competition.
“A picture on your LinkedIn page makes you 36 times more likely to receive a message,” explained Leach. “Frame the photo from the chest up and make sure it represents how you look today,” she stressed, adding that looking directly into the camera and smiling with your eyes makes you look trustworthy and approachable.
Leach also suggests a solid colored background and avoiding direct or fluorescent light, which can make you squint or appear too harsh.
“When describing your experience, use relevant language to describe skills and do not include older technologies which might age you out of the picture. Instead of saying you were responsible, write what you accomplished and what you are most proud of while in previous roles,” she added, suggesting applicants capture how people felt about working with them when referencing employment going back more than ten years.
When it comes to education and certification, Leach advises applicants to remove all dates unless, for example, one is a new MBA graduate.
One of the most underutilized areas on LinkedIn is the use of recommendations, according to Leach. “I’ve seen people with 20 and 30 years of experience, but not a single person to testify for their skills and abilities.”
Not only should you ask for recommendations, but it’s also important to give them. That’s how to show up on other people’s pages.
Ron Visconti, the founder of Phase2Careers, a nonprofit organization assisting workers over 40, says the resume must quickly demonstrate relevance in today’s job market. Not only is the content important – what you say and how you say it – but formatting is key.
Because of COVID and the necessity for remote work, Visconti encourages applicants to highlight their capability to work remotely by referencing home office set up and competency with current technology platforms. For a deep dive, read his key tips for how applicants with years of experience can make their resumes work for them instead of against them.
In today’s remote environment, most interviews are conducted by videoconference, adding layers of vulnerability and anxiety to an already stressful situation. Executive presence coach Natalie Venturi talks about five areas critical to enhancing on-camera presence.
“The job search can leave us feeling very vulnerable, and when you add ageism to the mix, it can make us feel like the cards are stacked against us,” she said.
To help overcome feelings of vulnerability and create an empowering presence, Venturi recommends a simple visualization exercise. “Think about a time when you felt on top of the world; when you knew what you were doing and felt unstoppable. Bring that moment forward and feel it in your body. That’s when you become grounded and self-empowered.”
One place where ageism is alive and well is in our minds. Often, without awareness, we are ageist against ourselves through inner dialog. Nancy Branka, the founder of StartUp Decoder, an online community for mid- and late-career workers in tech, knows how disempowering the voice in our heads can be.
“We all have a narrative in our brain, and it impacts the energy in your job search,” said Branka. “You can’t control what the person thinks about you, but you can control your thoughts.”
“We all have ageist thoughts. The best advice is to recognize them,” she said.
Do you worry that your teammates will think you are too old? Do you consider employees at the beginning of their careers kids? In both cases, that thinking represents internalized ageism.
Creating a more age-equitable workplace begins with how we think about age. It means deleting the age bias in our minds and reprogramming our thinking to embrace age inclusion and equity.
“The good news is that if you can become aware of your ageist beliefs, then you can control them,” said Branka. “And once you own your power, thoughts, wisdom and experience, you can project your competence with confidence.”
Are you interested in future complimentary webinars geared at the 50+ audience? Check out Leach’s events page to register.
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