In the television comedy "Younger," the 40-something heroine, Liza Miller, tries to land herself a position in publishing but finds she can’t get hired –– until she remakes herself as a fresh-faced 26-year-old. Hijinx ensue, Miller slays at her job and eventually works her way up the ladder. All it took was a youthful wardrobe and a heap of lies.
Although her story is fiction, the reality doesn’t feel too far off. Many older job seekers have felt ageism at some point in their careers. An AARP survey found that 64 percent of workers ages 45 to 74 had seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace; the majority say it typically starts in your 50s.
While we’d all love to work in a world where stereotypes don’t exist, you’ll likely face some age bias if you’re looking for a new job — particularly if you’re applying in fields that skew young. Here are some ways to help break those stereotypes.
1. MAKE SURE YOUR LINKEDIN PRESENCE IS UP TO PAR
Nothing screams “out of touch” more than a blank LinkedIn page, except maybe no LinkedIn page. A robust LinkedIn profile is a must — but that’s just the start. “If you only have 22 connections, it will be painfully obvious you don't spend much time on the platform,” says job search coach Kelly Donovan.
So start expanding your online network. Complete your profile, engage with related industry groups, follow influencers, post related content you find interesting, and get and give endorsements.
Also a good idea: Customize your LinkedIn URL and hyperlink to it in your resume and email signature block, suggests career coach Susan Peppercorn of Positive Workplace Partners.
2. FOCUS YOUR RESUME ON RECENT EXPERIENCE
By now, less is more. Remove dates from your academic profile; the name of your school and course of study will suffice, says Lauren McAdams, hiring manager and career consultant at Resume Companion.
And pare back your job history. You’re too experienced for hiring managers to care about your junior-level jobs. “List only the past decade or so of relevant work experience, regardless of how impressive your earlier employment may look,” she says. If you want to mention specific experience from prior positions, add it to your skillset section.
Finally, make sure your resume design is up to date, with a clean, modern font and layout that’s easy to read on a computer screen. Avoid outdated elements; the “objective” section, for example, is largely a thing of the past. Make sure to update which technologies you’re familiar with, whether it’s new corporate messaging platforms or industry-specific applications.
If you think you need to brush up on the latest technology, take advantage of online training through platforms like LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, recommends Donovan. And replace the Hotmail or AOL address you used in the days of dial-up with a fresh Gmail handle.
3. RESIST GETTING NOSTALGIC
When it’s time for the interview, watch for any resentment in your language about how things were better “back in the day” — especially when it comes to new tech and mobile devices, notes Donna Shannon, president and CEO of Personal Touch Career Services. “Show how you can embrace technology and the positive benefits you see from it, even if you secretly think everyone should spend less time on their phone.”
And resist stereotyping Millennials or other generations. You don’t want to give the impression that there could be culture clashes if you were brought onboard.
4. LOOK THE PART
No one’s asking you to look younger (who wants to relive their angsty 20s anyway?), but your image will be part of your first impression, so do an audit of your work attire and see if it needs an update. “You don’t want to be too trendy, but ‘80s and ‘90s shoulder pads should go,” Shannon says. Consider a session with a style consultant or a personal shopper, who should be able to recommend some good basics that can update your wardrobe, as well as what to wear to a corporate interview versus one that’s more business casual, like at a startup.
If your profile photo on LinkedIn or other public social media sites is less than flattering, update it with a more professional one.
5. TAP YOUR NETWORK
One job-seeking adage has stood the test of time: It’s still who you know. That’s where your experience gives you the leg up. “For mature workers, there is no better substitute for getting in the door than using your network,” Peppercorn stresses, estimating that the chances of hearing back from an online application are about 30 percent. “Ask contacts in your target companies to refer you to the hiring manager so you can bypass the online black hole,” she suggests. There’s nothing better than having someone reputable be able to vouch for you, no matter your age.