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Over 40? Under 30? How to Fight Age Stereotypes

Older and Younger Worker StereotypesNo hiring manager would dare admit it, but if they were asked to envision the ideal job candidate, they'd probably picture someone in their 30s (old enough to understand the ways of the workplace, but not so old that they're set in their ways).

Hey, we all have preconceived notions about flighty kids or cranky old folks. But the good news for the under-30s and over-40s is that there aren't enough of those so-called ideal candidates to go around.
 
There are also anti-discrimination laws to protect people who've been denied employment based on age, but it can be tough to prove. Besides, it's not that difficult to get around employers' age-based fears and stereotypes in your interviews. 

Let's explore the unfair assumptions people might have about you, and more importantly, what you can do about them:
  
OLDER Worker Stereotypes

  • Poor computer and technology skills
  • Low energy, old-school thinking
  • Unable or unwilling to learn new things
  • Expect high salaries
  • Won't work well with younger colleagues or supervisors

To Fight These Assumptions:

  1. Update your resume, especially by adding a Summary of Qualifications and leaving out irrelevant jobs from 10 to 15 (or more) years ago.
  2. Talk about technology, recent courses you've completed, and your enthusiasm for learning.
  3. Plan some vibrant stories that highlight recent on-the-job accomplishments.
  4. Make it clear that you understand current salary trends and have realistic expectations.
  5. Give examples of times when you've collaborated effectively with age-diverse teams.

YOUNGER Worker Stereotypes

  • Easily bored or distracted
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Need for constant affirmation and praise
  • Likely to be texting or using Facebook or Twitter during work hours
  • Unreliable and unmotivated

To Fight These Assumptions:

  1. Dress and act in a business-appropriate way.
  2. Learn all you can about the organization's mission and goals, and show enthusiasm for helping meet them.
  3. If your work experience is sparse, talk about volunteer work, academics, or athletic achievements to demonstrate things like work ethic, collaboration, and organization.
  4. Pay close attention to what the interviewers ask, and ask questions in return to show you're engaged.
  5. Keep your iPod and cell phone out of eye- and earshot.

We all age at the same rate, and there's little we can do to speed up or slow down the process. But if you know what red flags your age might raise in an employer's mind, you'll be better able to fight them. Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes.

Once you show employers that those unfair stereotypes don't apply to you, they'll replace their initial fears with a new sense of respect for the valuable contributions you can bring to their business.

What other age-related stereotypes do you think job seekers face? Have you faced employment obstacles because of your age? Share your opinions with other readers by posting a comment below.

RELATED LINKS
Is it Age Discrimination, or Are You an Angry Old Fart?
Interviewing Tips: What Hiring Managers Really Want From You
Dumbass Mistakes New Grads Make in Interviews
Bringing Boomers and Millennials Together at Work

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