Mike Cassidy writes in Mercury News (http://www.mercurynews.com/mike-cassidy/ci_16156728) that “Age discrimination is the dark underside to Silicon Valley’s youth culture” (Thanks to Len Fardella @PetersNewJobs for the pointer to this article).
The Real Issue is NOT AGE – It’s About Their Assumptions
One day everything changes…It may be random. It’s usually impersonal. It may be politics, perhaps levels above you. Being laid off, and experiencing challenges in getting rehired, are rarely about your age. The big issue is more often the assumptions that go with your obvious age, commonly phrased as: “Old dogs are set in their ways / can’t learn new tricks”.
Creating a Different Image
How do we go about crafting a different image, the one we want a potential employer to see? Let’s take two basic scenarios:
1. You have been already dumped (at 50+) and are looking for work.
2. You have not been dumped – yet
Scenario 1: You Have Been Dumped
The employer’s fear is, you have been doing one thing, one way, in one company culture for too long. You either will not – or actually cannot – change how you do things.
This assumption is challenging to disprove, unless you can claim at least one of
Three Mitigating Factors.
1. You’ve advanced in your role to a managerial level.
2. You’ve specialized in a very hot niche that stayed hot, and you are still current in it.
3. You’ve moved around among companies every few years.
If you have even one of these factors in your favour, and add a good achievement-based resumé, and persist in intelligent research and networking, you will find work. Potential employers need to see, concretely, that you can advance in understanding and responsibility, and be flexible and adaptable to new ideas, methodologies, and venues.
If it’s hard to show this in your work history, add volunteer experience that demonstrates flexibility, responsibility, or other qualities your potential employer will value. Recent continuing education or professional development can also speak for you – and it’s never too late to take a short course/refresher in something in demand in your field and get the piece of paper.
Consider volunteering, making presentations, publishing, or other activity that keeps you active or gets you known. Get that into your resumé, your LinkedIn profile, and your website.
You can’t always change perceptions. Part of intelligent research and networking is being willing to look at workplaces or modes of work you would not have considered before. Plenty of startups begin as the product of experienced collaborators. Contracting can be a good way to continue doing the thing you do best for the client that needs it, and moving on to the next client when you are done. These are both ways to take the choosing of work into your own hands.
Remember to go after work that you believe you would like, because your bias will show, and you want it to work in your favour.
Scenario 2: You Haven’t Been Dumped – Yet
The truism holds: It’s easier to find work when you are working. Here are some strategies that make good career sense:
1. Track your all your projects, recording scope details such as customer, teammates, partners, dollars. What was the purpose? What was achieved? How did this benefit your employer? Who was in a position to know your work?
2. Have an active career plan, a plan to move ahead, a plan for the next thing. Don’t stay in an area that feels stale to you.
3. Keep active in social, business, and professional networks. Take advantage of opportunities to speak or help out with events.
4. Take courses to stay fresh in your field (and remember that not all continuing ed credits are created equal).
5. Understand the new work paradigms. Do good work for the person that hired you. Be ethical and true to your ideals. And don’t give your heart and soul away to any earthly employer.