A few days ago, I ran into someone (55+) who related his experience with age discrimination in hiring. When interviewing for a job with a small business, they told him point blank that despite his excellent qualifications, they probably couldn’t hire him because his health insurance would cost the company too much. So they went ahead and hired a less-experienced, younger applicant.
Unfortunately more and more older workers will face obstacles like these in getting jobs: the percentage of workers 65 and older in the U.S. workforce is projected to double in the next decade – from 3.6% to 6.1%.
In my previous career as an employment discrimination lawyer, I became familiar with the challenges older workers face. I recently wrote about layoffs and the older worker. Here are 3 more career choice tips for older workers:
1. Look at ALL your career options.
To narrow down your choice among careers matching your personality, consider your unique talents and challenges. If you find a career that really interests you but it has some requirements (physical or academic) you’re not sure you can or want to meet, do at least a couple of information interviews before you cross it off your list.
I find that career information, online or in print, does not always reflect reality. For example, experience may substitute for a graduate degree. There may also be a job title in the same career field with different minimum requirements, ones you can meet. Once you gather your information, follow this science-based process to making a good decision. Our ebook, “What Job is Best For Me?” contains helpful exercises for decision-making.
2. Look for career fields or employers that are friendly to older workers.
In addition to informational interviews, check other resources for career information specifically about older workers. JIST publishes some excellent books, many of which you can find at your public library. One of my favorites is Michael Farr’s and Laurence Shatkin’s “Best Jobs for the 21st Century.” Among many other resources, the book contains helpful lists of top jobs broken down by age. So you can see career paths that have more people your age – and perhaps more friendly to older workers. Also check AARP’s list of friendly employers on their AARP National Employer Team.
Networking is the best way to avoid being a target for discrimination. Having a personal connection with someone in the industry who can vouch for you or promote your talents behind the scenes will do more to get you started in a career than anything else. These connections will promote your strengths over negative stereotypes and biases. And the less you see yourself as a target and more of a player, the better chance you’ll have as presenting yourself as a confident, qualified, and pleasant person to work with.
Age confers many benefits our society is very slow to acknowledge: experience, wisdom, and skills acquired over a lifetime of learning. Looking at the big picture, doing your research, and networking are the best ways to showcase them.