The pandemic made our lives more difficult than they already were, and those who had a hard time finding a job before, are now facing even more challenges. Meanwhile time goes by, and while we surely don’t get younger, prejudices surely don’t get weaker. One of the hardest to break down while searching for a job is ageism, and anyone over 35 knows exactly what I’m talking about.
There are, and there will be always employers who are perfectly aware of their own prejudices and even believe they are right. They will easily bypass any anti-discrimination law under the sun, but we don’t need to care about them. We won’t change their mind anyway, and trying would only lead to a waste of our most precious asset: time.
On the other hand, some people simply are in a kind of gray area, because their prejudice acts on an unconscious level. They are the very ones we can convince focusing on our good qualities, rather than on a number that says so little about us. I’m not talking about hiding our age, of course, or even worse lying. We just need to make sure age is the last thing a potential employer notices about us.
In order to find a solution I tried to study the mechanisms of this phenomenon, so I turned to an HR expert and learned many things, including some helpful tricks.
- Keep up to date: we all had to work very hard to finish our studies. Twenty years ago. Then what? It is essential to show that we have not lost the desire to learn over the years, and that our knowledge isn’t obsolete. In this regard there are two types of people: those who enrol in a new course every year, spend a fortune and would like if people noticed it, and those who have stopped studying altogether, for whatever reason. Those people are at the two ends of the scale, which is never a good place to be. If you belong to the first category, remember that unnecessarily lengthening your CV doesn’t increase your chances, on the contrary, so focus only the most relevant and recent courses. If you belong to the second group it‘s time to fix it. You don’t necessarily have to enrol in a two-year Master’s degree and take out a mortgage to pay for it. There are tons of short, online courses to download and attend at your own pace, they are affordable and generally only issue a certificate of participation, but they’ll still prove that you are not lazy.
- Enhances your gap year(s): at the age of 50, for example, but even earlier, it’s likely that life has thrown us a couple of curve balls. Maybe our career has been stagnant for months, if not years, and we need to explain why in a concise, convincing and honest way. Maybe you or someone you love got ill, maybe the family got bigger, maybe recession hit. Let’s simply admit it, lies are much easier to detect than people usually like to think, and if we boast a sabbatical trekking in Argentina, the interviewer will not appreciate it. If, on the other hand, the sabbatical truly happened, and it was voluntary, we have to demonstrate that we used that time in a constructive way for personal or professional growth. A volunteer experience, maybe? University? Some other thing that gave us valuable skills?
- Be social: whether we like it or not, to exist somewhere on line is essential, let’s face it. Whoever evaluates our application will immediately look for us on LinkedIn, or on Twitter, or somewhere else. We need at least one account, a simple profile with a few info relevant to the position sought can be set up in a few minutes, and is already enough to dispel the myth of the over forty-year-old who doesn’t know how to use social media. Pay attention to the profile picture, though. Choose an updated, serious, but not pretentious pic, where your face is visible. Better still if the photo says something about you, so feel free to use your living room as a background, or your balcony, or even the sea, if snorkeling is an integral part of who you are. A blog is a good idea as well, just as long as you can update it with some consistency.
- Be Tech-savvy: at least a bit. Here is another ageist prejudice for us: Zoom, mailing lists, and other similar tools are for the twenty-year-olds. This is not the case, and it cannot be, not after a year that forced us to work remotely. It is now expected that people is able to make a video call, so we should find a way to insert this skill in our CV without fear of stating the obvious. And if we don’t have this skill yet it’s time to acquire it. There are free tutorials all over YouTube, or on the tool’s of choice sites, that explain in a very simple way how to use everything, at least at a basic level.
- Show your enthusiasm: whoever says that enthusiasm is a prerogative of youth is an adult with a very sad life. The willingness to grow and learn, the excitement that comes with new challenges and achievements are not features that disappear with the passage of time. So how can we convey the message? Making the most of our cover letter, for an instance. Of course a cover letter needs to be professional, but it still can be used to let the reader know how thrilled you’d be to work for the company, how good you’re at working for a common goal, and how humble you are despite being so skilled.
- The eye also wants its part: there are small details that can give the impression, on an unconscious level, that we are old. One of these is the CV format. It may seem a minor detail, but it is not. Our CV is the first thing a recruiter see of us. Not only does it have to be filled out with the utmost care, error-free, and cleaned of irrelevant details (no one will ever read an 8-page CV!), it has to look cool as well, in step with the times. Google is full of templates, just remember to keep it simple. The same goes for the email address. No vintage providers, pick one that doesn’t look like a leftover from the 90s!