Episode 57: How to fight Ageism in the workplace while navigating your job search

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Ageism in the workplace is not a myth. With less than 12% of DEI initiatives supporting inclusion, experienced workers have to get even more savvy. In this episode I discuss: 

  • Pre-interview practice
  • How to build a growth mindset
  • My #1 strategy for networking
  • Plus top tips for navigating your job search as a seasoned professional

According to AARP recent study, 91% of older workers say they have experienced age discrimination. And nearly two out of three workers age 45 and older say they have experienced age discrimination.

Mentioned on the Show:

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Listen to The Career Refresh Podcast Episode: Self deprecating humor, when to use it or lose it 

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Read the Transcript
Hey friends

This week I want to talk about ageism in the workplace. It sucks. It’s discriminatory and like Racism and Sexism, it’s real. 

Many people think ageism is only when we are thinking of a much older worker, you know someone who looks like Mrs. Doubtfire or is maybe a little short, stooped, maybe even a little fluffy. 

And let’s have an honest conversation. My grandmother is 99. The average man lives to 76 (by the way that’s steven martin in the Hulu show only murders in the building…a woman lives to 80 (that’s Jane Fonda in the Netflix series Frankie and Grace) so at 40 these workers are just hitting midlife and they have lots more working, living, and enjoying life before they stop working. 

And that’s what I am seeing and hearing now. Workers over 40 are beginning to wonder about ageism in their workplace and during their job search. 

According to AARP recent study, 91% of older workers say they have experienced age discrimination. And nearly two out of three workers age 45 and older say they have experienced age discrimination. 

And call back rates were lower for older applicants, with women having even lower call back rates than men according to a study conducted by the SF Federal Reserve bank. 

London Business School study showed that more people under 45 were exhausted (43%) than those over 45 (35%), with the least exhausted group being those over 60.

I’ve recently heard about 30-year-old hiring managers running the interview with a 45+ candidate and never even making eye contact. Never asking a question. And dismissing the candidate after a few minutes with a trash “do you have any questions?” 

Only 12% of DEI initiatives address ageism in the workplace, there are a few ways that experienced employees can take matters into their own hands, and the great resignation or as I like to call it the great reassignment is having a somewhat positive effect on the reduction discrimination for both ageism and people with disabilities but it’s still prevalent. 

So today, I want to talk about the strategies you can deploy to navigate the job search. 

Practice your language. 
1. Don’t emphasize your years of experience, or that you’ve done something or “years”  or mention aging companies. This will only further exacerbate the emphasis on age if the hiring manager has a bias. Instead, lean into your talents, and talk about your strengths. Show your positivity and enthusiasm by stating “this is why I love the work I do.” showcase your energy, not your experience. 

2. Connect with the interviewer and again find ways to connect personally with the interviewer by using current references or finding commonality via their LinkedIn profile. 

3. If questions arise that feel a bit triggering, breathe and ask a question instead of answering “can you say more” or can you share more about what you are hoping to learn so I can address your underlying concern?

4. Don’t use self-deprecating humor ( did an episode on self correlating humor and I will put the link in the show notes) or say things as a joke like pre-internet or we were on dial-up. And don’t use an AOL or Yahoo email. Or one connected to your wifi like Verizon or Optonline. I don’t care that you’ve had it for years. Set up a Gmail or outlook. 
5. Where possible showcase your ability to work cross-functionally and with diverse groups both internally and externally. 

A growth mindset
1. If the person interviewing you is considerably younger then Approach your interviews as consulting conversations, showing curiosity and a learning mindset. Have a list of opened-ended questions so you can identify where and how you can deliver value and increase your confidence. I don’t know you dear listener but I’d offer that humility and a non-hierarchical attitude will go a long way. You Support teams vs lead teams and give credit to your colleagues for the powerful collaborations.

2. Mindset tip
Think about how you will feel the day after you’ve accepted a job offer. Confident. Calm. Knowing. Opportunistic. Excited. Curious. Think about it this way, summer is coming. There is nothing you need to do to make Summer come. You just get to decide how you’re going to spend summer. Thinking about summer and fun? You take action from fun and that will show up in what you do and say. Thinking about how you’re too old to be playing in the sprinkler, fear of covid lock-downs, and NEEDING this to be a better summer than the last two years? That will show up in your actions. The job is coming. You just have to decide how you are going to create it. Create the feeling for yourself NOW and go into the interview with that energy. Then you will be asking and answering questions from a different mindset. One of confidence and ease. It’s Very attractive. That energy will show up in your actions, what you say and do. 

3. A common myth about experienced employees is that your skills are outdated. If you feel that’s true for you, consider checking out courses on platforms like Grow with Google or LinkedIn Learning even many of the Ivy League Schools have free courses. The benefit here is two-fold. First, you can list these courses in your resume and LinkedIn Profile. And second, they offer great networking opportunities. Another way you can refine your skills is to propose a trade exchange (for example, you could offer executive consulting or mentorship in exchange for technical support).

Capitalize on networking
I recommend creating a “networking resume” that links your objective to a compelling career narrative to give out at networking events. It should have an objective, detail the prospective roles you are a fit for and how your career history translates into these roles, list the type of companies you want to work for, and include a clear call to action (such as “I would be appreciative if you could share this with any connections in X companies.”)

While dealing with ageism in the workplace is humiliating and frustrating, it’s important to remember that you are bringing wisdom and experience to an organization. While ageism exists, focusing on what is in your control can divert attention from your age and refocus it on why you are right for the job.

A few years ago I heard about a c suite executive hiring his first boss as his number 2. 30+ years after they started working together they were reunited. They still had a collaborative working relationship and he knew she was bringing hard-to-find wisdom to the table.  

As Brene Brown would say: “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Stand your sacred ground.” Developing a strategy to face these barriers will enhance your confidence and provide you with a powerful action plan. 

Before I go, who’s helping you with your career strategy? 

I’d be honored to help you. Check out the details in the show notes where you can apply for my 1:1 coaching program.

Alright, my friends. I appreciate you. Thanks for joining me this week. Until next time.

Visit JillGriffinCoaching.com for free content and strategies to refresh your career.