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Job Magician I'm too Old:  
Dealing with Age on a Job Search
 


How do you deal with being too old? 

You don’t.

If you raise it, it becomes an issue. 

If you leave dates and the early part of your career off your resume, you’ve just brought attention to your age. (You’re clearly trying to hide something by doing this - either your age or a choppy job record - so you’ve automatically made your age an issue.)  If you say something that is designed to make your age look like an asset, like “I bring lots of experience that a 38-year-old won’t have”, or worse, “I’m in great shape – my doctor told me I have the body of a 45-year-old …”, you’ve just made your age an issue. Don’t do any apologizing.



If you feel you must, mention some physically active hobbies and drop the inactive ones from your resume.  But mostly, you should concentrate on what you’ve done and what you can do for a company during your interview, just like any other candidate.

Not that age discrimination doesn’t exist - it does. But it is becoming significantly less of an issue as our population ages.  I do only a handful of searches a year, and in the last two years a 57-year-old and a 59-year-old beat out younger candidates and got the job.  On one of my partner’s searches to find someone to run a 30-attorney law firm, the client hired a 69-year-old woman who displayed some real spunk.  She stayed for 10 years. 

As you move into the more senior positions, being age 38 or 43 can be perceived as being too young - the candidate is viewed as not having enough experience.  Few companies will balk at a 50-year-old candidate for a senior position today, and some consider that the ideal age. Some people feel that people over 50 bring more stability, and are far less likely to turn over than are younger candidates.

One job hunter told me that rather than fear his age, he decided to go out and find someone who wanted a 55-year-old. He landed a position as the managing diector of a professional service firm with literally the best reputation in his industry in the world right in the midst of the stock market crash of October, 2008, just as every other firm in that industry crashed and burned.

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Some people simply won’t hire you if you’re older; but think about this: if someone is going to be so short-sighted that they won’t hire you because you’re 57, you probably don’t want to work for them anyway.

You can help yourself, however, by not looking or acting old. If you have a trademark beard or moustache that has grayed before your hair has, shave it off.  If you’re grossly overweight and look 70, people are going to be far less likely to hire you than if you look trim and energetic (remember, the fear is that the older you get, the less energy you’ll have).  Losing weight and exercising so you look fit is something you have complete control over, unlike the vagaries of searching for a job (I lost 35 pounds in a 3-month period when I decided it was finally time to do so, and after I did so, people mentioned that I looked significantly younger).

As long as you're still willing to put in a 55-hour week, you're not too old.

PS:  Don't think that you can successfully hide your age from anyone regardless of how hard you try to cover it up in your resume - it's publicly available for free on the web. A few months ago, just before I turned 50, the AARP sent me a mailing inviting me to join.  I wondered how they could possibly know that I was 49.9 years old. I'm still not sure how they knew to that level of precision, but a friend recently showed me a web site called www.whitepages.com that gives out all kinds of what I previously thought was private information if you dig around on it long enough. On it, you'll find your age, places you've lived, and many of your relatives' names (great fuel for identity thieves - check your listing there before giving the answers to your secret questions on your credit cards).



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