If you’ve ever heard young workers complain about ageism in the workplace, you may have rolled your eyes and thought to yourself that ageism really only comes into play for older workers. The reality of the situation is that ageism can be an issue for both younger workers under 25 and older workers over 50. If you’ve been a part of the workforce for years and you’re starting to have problems staying competitive and finding a job, you’re not alone. AARP reports that 64% of workers experience some kind of age discrimination, whether that means job ads that not-so-subtly discourage older workers, or inappropriate comments—ageism can come in many forms, and none of them are pleasant.
1. Gain tech skills
One of the biggest criticisms and stigmas facing older workers is the idea that people over 40 don’t understand technology. While this may be a gross generalization, it’s a persistent idea that has kept many older workers out of the tech industry. If you want to move forward in your career, you need to embrace technology and brush up on skills you may be missing. The good news? There are countless online courses that can help you learn these tech skills. And if you do choose an online program, don't forget to make sure you transfer any of your college credits to save yourself some time and money in the long run.
2. Be adaptable
In many companies, roles are less clearly-defined than they once were. In order to stay competitive in this kind of environment, you need to be able to pivot quickly and dip your toes into a variety of skills. Adaptability is a crucial skill for successful leadership and management, with one survey citing is as the top leadership skill (60% of respondents) overall. It’s not just important in a management role, however—hiring managers want to minimize the number of people they have on staff, and they prefer to hire agile and adaptable employees who can pitch in wherever they’re needed.
3. Cultivate an open and humble attitude
Even though having years of experience in the working world has taught you a lot and given you valuable experiences to draw from, it’s important to remember that everyone can always learn and improve. The workplace is changing, and you may still have a lot to learn about the modern office.
4. Be willing to work in a multigenerational office
In today’s world, seniority is no longer as important as it once was. You may have bosses and peers who are significantly younger than you. If you approach this multigenerational workplace with an open and humble attitude, you’ll fare much better in the interview process as well as the office culture itself. Accept the fact that you may have a mentor who is younger than you. They may have a lot to teach you—just as you might have a few things to teach them.
5. Stay healthy and pay attention to your image
Even if you’re working in an office, staying healthy and fit is important if you’re trying to stay competitive in the workplace. 4 out of 5 people over 50 have one or more chronic conditions, which can affect performance and attendance at work. Eating a healthy diet and maintaining a regular exercise routine will help you stay healthy, fit, and ready to work. Don’t forget to evaluate your appearance and make changes to your wardrobe and hair if necessary. It’s not really fair that we get judged on how we dress and present ourselves, but that’s reality and you need to be aware of it in order to be competitive.
6. Be proactive
Networking may seem like an activity for the young, but don’t discount the power of connections—some reports show that a whopping 85% of jobs are the result of networking. Be proactive, and try to meet as many people as possible through networking events and the like. Aside from in-person networking, try bolstering your digital presence—make sure your LinkedIn is appealing and up-to-date, and give your resume a makeover if it’s still listing your career objective and references. You can even try consulting to get your foot in the door!
7. Leverage your best assets
As an older worker, you have so much to offer an employer. Your years of experience speak for themselves, but you’ve probably also gained problem-solving skills, enhanced your ability to communicate, and explored numerous perspectives. You likely have a good work ethic, and you might be more willing to stay with a company long-term than a young worker who needs to build skills. High turnover is a huge problem for employers, and highlighting your desire to find a long-term fit can help you find the right position. Think about what makes you unique and valuable to prospective employers. Leverage your best assets and you’re well on your way to breaking stigmas and finding yourself a satisfying career.