Ask Matt: Overcoming Ageism in the Workplace

  • Article by: MATT KRUMRIE , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: April 5, 2011 - 9:51 AM

Many experienced professionals feel their age is hurting them in their job search. Tips on how to overcome those stereotypes.

Dear Matt: I feel my age is hurting me in the job search. I'm in my 50s and sending in my résumé to employers. I'm getting some interviews, but no job offers. Is ageism an issue in today's workplace?

Matt: I've had discussions with a number of workers in their 50s and even some in their 60s. The one thing I've noticed is that the first thing they tell me is their age - not their skills, achievements or the strengths they can bring to a company. After being rejected time after time, it's natural to think age is playing a role. But when applying for jobs, interviewing, networking or talking about your job search, focus on what you bring to a company, not your age.

Also ask yourself if you are really applying for the right job. Or are you sending in résumés to any job that might be a fit? Maybe you are you overqualified in some cases?

"Be realistic," said Kent Johnson, managing director of Manpower Professional and someone with more than 20 years of experience placing a range of professionals. "If a job opening is looking for someone with three-plus years of experience and you have 30+ years, you're in for an uphill climb given the state of today's candidate pool."

Johnson recommends contacting smaller companies that would prefer a more experienced worker who has a greater range of talents and could possibly handle multiple roles. This could cut down on the need for the company to hire/train additional employees, or perhaps cut/reduce the need for the company to use outside vendors and contractors who charge hefty fees for their services.

During the interview, Johnson recommended these tips:

  • Don't try and overpower your interviewer. You need to show your interviewer how you'd fit into the team and not that you're gunning for their job.
  • Be respectful and gracious. You may have years of experience over the person interviewing you, but they're the one with the job.
  • Don't try and control the interview. Moderate answers go further than lengthy anecdotes and bloated responses.

At this point in your career, hopefully you have something younger professionals don't - a large network of contacts that you can use to seek out those hidden employment opportunities, or who can get you in direct contact with the people and companies that are hiring. Through direct contact you can sell your skills and attributes - and wow them with what you can bring to the company.

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