By Faye Katz
I see it all the time. Individuals who dedicate the prime years of their lives to progressing their career, replaced with younger, cheaper and more tech-savvy versions of themselves. Often the experienced employees are let go with only a couple of years to retirement remaining.
Highly educated and successful all their lives, these individuals are left with obsolete past achievements, competing with applicants half their age to work in their chosen field. Their accomplishments, so valued in the past, now seem outdated on their resumes.
While none of us can turn back the clock, here are some things you can do to help overcome ageism in the workplace.
- Adjust your attitude. After you come to terms with this new reality of age being an issue, validate the fact that it is painful. Take the time to mourn and accept the situation. Having a chip on your shoulder will effectively turn off anyone you meet, so it’s important to remove all traces of bitterness, negativity, or attitude before you can be successful in your job search.
- Take an honest look at your work history. Is it possible that something other than age is at play here? Think about your work habits such as productivity, organizational skills, punctuality and team work. Create an action plan to address any issues that need attention before you allow yourself to blame ageism for your lack of employment.
- Upgrade your skills. Research job ads online and see what employers in your industry are listing as minimum requirements. Is there specific software that has become ubiquitous in your industry? What about certifications or degrees? It may be worth the investment to learn new skills to remain competitive.
- Get creative with the numbers. A standard chronological resume showcases your career progression from the time you graduated until the present. How can you accurately display your career while conveniently omitting the number of years worked? This can be successfully accomplished with numerous strategies including listing only 10-15 years of work history, focusing on skills or highlighting accomplishments.
- Remember that when one door closes, another opens. Although no one wants to concede defeat, if you are hitting a wall that you believe is due primarily to ageism, maybe it is time to consider an alternate career path. There are companies and industries that value the experience, expertise and knowledge a mature candidate can bring to the table. There really is no replacement for life experience. Seek out transferable skills from your previous career and try to identify different industries or positions that require the same expertise.
Blaming ageism for lack of employment will not help you get your next job, it will just hold you back. Positive thinking, working on your resume, acquiring new skills and being open to new opportunities are well within your control and will bring you closer to finding meaningful employment.
Recalling the Serenity Prayer by American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr can be helpful; Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
The JCS Career Center offers comprehensive employment assistance that helps job seekers of all abilities and skill levels find and maintain employment. Services include career coaching, career assessments, resume and cover letter services, interview preparation, job readiness training, vocational rehabilitation and job placement assistance. For more information, call 410-466-9200 or visit jcsbaltimore.org.
Faye Katz is a resume writer for the JCS Career Center.