Some job seekers carry outdated assumptions into their job search. One of these is the fear that age discrimination is so common as to be paralyzing. "No one will want to hire someone older like me" is a common excuse for defeatist procrastination. In practice, organizations throughout the economy are increasingly turning to seasoned workers to address talent gaps. Far from being a limitation, extensive life and work experience can be competitive advantages in a job search when the seeker knows how to position and leverage them.
Every generation complains that the one that follows is lazy, out of touch and pathetic. What most mean is that the younger workers have yet to attain the characteristics that more seasoned talent can offer. Hiring managers can take a chance that a young employee will grow into the job or they can shortcut the process by hiring for maturity in the first place. The older job seeker needs to remind the recruiter or manager of these virtues during the contact and interview stages.
At its core, maturity refers to the ability of people to act correctly and effectively in a myriad of situations. Mature people understand the "big picture" and leverage their life and work experiences to intuit what is important. While some younger people are wise beyond their years, most have not seen enough diverse circumstances to truly qualify as mature.
The older job seeker will model a centeredness and seriousness of purpose that a skilled interviewer will recognize immediately. During interviews, it is wise to offer illustrations of situations where your relative and absolute maturity was instrumental in achieving organizational goals. Experience breeds confidence and maturity in the older candidate.
Older workers rarely expect to be promoted within the first few weeks of taking a new job. They understand the importance of paying dues and building credibility. Mature individuals seek reward after having proven themselves. When reminded, employers love the idea of workers who know the value of their work and are less likely to change jobs for a small raise or title exchange. Experienced people have had bad bosses in the past and they know that a manager who is perceived as unreasonable by the young team members might be no big deal relative to other “true nightmare bosses” of the past. Also, older workers know that an exacting supervisor can be a prime opportunity to grow and improve on the job. By being ready with anecdotes and supporting evidence for their value, these job seekers will shine in comparison to their younger colleagues.
An experienced job seeker can communicate in clear terms that he or she will be at work early and among the last to leave. They understand that personal toughness is a virtue worthy of emulation. The older candidate will have prepared anecdotes and illustrations from his or her career and life to emphasize their reliability under any circumstance.
Efficiency and Focus
Older workers tend to have less drama in their lives. They come to work to work. (What a concept!) While there is sometimes a biased perception that older people lack energy and focus, these concerns can be easily dispensed by the effective use of body language, eye contact, firm handshakes and insightful and observant conversation.
The job market can be intimidating for employees who are in the back half of their working lives. Our popular culture and major media worship youthfulness to the apparent exclusion of the more mature. When one considers what organizations need to succeed, however, employers and candidates alike need to realign their thinking.
With national unemployment at historical lows and yet workforce participation also low, it is time for older workers to rethink their assumptions and come back to work. Companies and will only be able to reach their goals if they think logically and open-mindedly about their talent needs.