Some months ago, after I spoke with Romy Newman in anticipation of a previous podcast interview, I signed up for FairyGodBoss.com, a platform she and her partner created, dedicated to helping women support other women in business. Sadly, a good percentage of the postings include women voicing their concerns and complaints about fair treatment by human resources departments, prospective employers and their bosses.
Older Workers Offer Employers a Unique Opportunity
When I developed the Employee Retention Specialist Training years ago, one of the topics I covered was Overlooked Population Segments. At the top of the list was “Older Workers.” It’s all about values. Many Baby Boomers want to keep contributing; if they are not continuing to make a difference, they feel inadequate. Wise employers will capitalize on these willing workers.
Agism is a Serious Problem in the US
These often wise and qualified folks frequently have decades of life and work experience, great wisdom and the willingness to work hard. However, in spite of laws prohibiting discrimination, employers often reject them because of their age and/or appearance. I once met a professor from Wellesley who shared that her research had shown that it was OK to be older, but not to look older.
Gendered Agism is Very Real
According to LinkedIn’s own research from 2019, in LinkedIn recruiter search results, women are 13 percent less likely to be viewed. Add that to agism and the situation for women 50-plus is even worse. Often, although they get paid less than their male counterparts, they are passed over for promotions or do not even get to the second interview. And though women tend to be better educated than men and better leaders, they often lack the capacity for self-promotion and explanation of their extensive track records.
Definitely Not Just a US Phenomenon
Years ago, when I visited Colombia, I was shocked to hear that after 35 or 40, men who had not made it to the levels of leadership were considered to be “past their prime.” And I have heard similar stories about middle-aged workers in other parts of the world. It is sad that employers are so short-sighted.
Employers’ Competitive Advantage
Hiring older workers could be a competitive advantage – especially in today’s job market. When you are looking at recruiting for a position, keep in mind the value of experience and wisdom.
What Applicants and Workers Must Do to Successfully Compete
Though this age and gender bias is alive and well, there are some steps that applicants and employees can do to get the consideration and recognition they deserve:
Be as explicit as possible about your track record. Talk about not only your title, but what you did – and how you did it. Detail all of the actions and activities that contributed to your success. Titles are definitely not enough, nor is simply listing your duties and responsibilities from prior jobs.
Quantify your accomplishments. This advice goes for both internal promotions as well as applying for a new job, the more you can quantify the value that you brought to a previous organization, the better you will be perceived for a new position. That means translating your accomplishments into percentages, dollars saved, sales made or increased for the organization. Even if you are applying for a position with a non-profit or government, hiring managers want to know about the value you will bring to their job.
Know your value. More women suffer from the Imposter Syndrome* than men. Move beyond your fears by asking for support from co-workers and others who know and value your worth.
In your professional summary, focus on key accomplishments, not just keywords. Cite your most impressive career achievements at the top of your resume, so that they are front and center to someone who is considering you for a position.
Spell out the promotions in your work history. Include each and every position you have held with each company. That way, reviewers will be able to see your step-by-step career progression and know that you were worthy of each advancement. Do not overlook this opportunity to demonstrate your confirmed ability to earn multiple promotions.
Use action verbs. When you use action verbs, like “increased,” “decreased,” “capitalized on,”” or “optimized,” you are featuring your capabilities. At the same time, you want to avoid verbs, like “managed,” “had responsibility,” “was assigned to,” or “handled.” That language simply repeats the job description; they do not demonstrate how successful you were.
Gender and age bias are not going away soon. Learning how to work around them will be very valuable to your career pathing.
* The Impostor Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which the individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent fear of being exposed for a “fraud.”