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Ageism: How To Avoid Being Labeled Too Old For A Job

Updated on October 1, 2010

Ageism. Let's face it; it's a real problem that plagues older people in all parts of society. It's particularly a problem for those people who are out and about in the work force, trying to find a new job - or clinging on to the job that they've had for years in the face of a company's strong suggestions that they take an early retirement. America is a country obsessed with youth and there are many myths about older people that make companies find working with them to be less than desirable. But of course, you and I know that those myths are exactly that ... untrue stereotypes that need to be broken down in order to give people who aren't from the Gen X generation a chance at getting and keeping good jobs.

Let's take a look at some of the ageism myths that cause older folks to be overlooked for jobs and promotions and learn about how to use your knowledge of those myths to avoid being labeled "too old" for a job.

Myth #1 - Older people aren't up-to-date with important technology. Technology is changing so rapidly these days that you have to practically be on the cutting edge of computer research to know all of the latest things. That said, there's no reason that older people can't know just as much about the latest in technology as younger folks. It's all coming out so quickly that we're all pretty much in the same boat with it as long as we choose to stay on top of it.

How To Avoid Being Labeled "Too Old" in relation to technology: Fight against this myth by staying on top of the new world of technology. Take classes in emerging computer programs, set up your own personal website and use it to try out new software and Web 2.0 tools. And then make sure that your resume and your interview conversation reflects this experience.

Myth #2 - Older people aren't perceived well by the general public; they give a bad image to the company. Some hiring managers play the card that they would certainly hire older people but that their clients and customers aren't going to accept advice from an older person. This is particularly true in fields where "style" is considered imminent such as PR and fashion design. However, older folks who present themselves well certainly gain as much respect - if not more - than their younger counterparts among the general population. That they don't is just a myth.

How To Avoid Being Labeled "Too Old" in relation to style: Fight against this myth by presenting yourself well, staying modern in your appearance (modern for your age, of course; there is some businesswear that just isn't cut for those of us who aren't 22) and be articulate in your conversation. Present yourself with confidence; if you come off as secure then those hiring you will be less likely to accept the truth of this myth.

Myth #3 - Older employees cost a company too much. Oftentimes, companies want to cut employees who have been around a long time because of the cost of their salaries. However, when a company factors in other costs that may be less likely amongst older employees - the cost of training, maternity and emergency leaves, turnover replacement costs - it's found to be a myth that older employees are any more expensive than the average employee holding their same positions.

How To Avoid Being Labeled "Too Old" in relation to your cost to the company: This is one that has to be dealt with one-to-one on the human level. If your company is trying to oust you for this reason, then you should sit down with your boss and have a heart-to heart.

Note that if you find yourself to be a victim of ageism, there are plenty of things that you can do to change your image and alter your situation so that you aren't labeled "too old" for the job. However, if those things fail, you might want to consider legal recourse. This not only helps you but is also a benefit to those other people who are victims of ageism in their careers.


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    X^MRC 7 years ago

    From X^MRC.

    Ageism is a major problem in the UK. CV's get thrown away because you are older than 45 years. I have spoken to several very close friends who are UK Recruiters and they have said that because of my age, they, and mostly employers will not even consider my application. I'm 51 now, and fit enough to beat most 30 year olds in a 100 yard sprint. So what! It doesn't matter. As my past has been in the communications industry, I am limited to what is available to me. My only choices are working for the council. My marriage has now busted, which means I have to leave the home and my two children. Yes, I'm bitter about it, yet it doesn't matter what I do, I can't even get to first interview stage. I'm so positive by nature, yet this is now wearing thin. One of the many problems here is that we now live in a culture of the 'Alan Sugar' Apprentice bully management by fear syndrome. You guys in the US have Donald Trump to also guide people into a backstabbing, 'me myself and I' culture to tread on other peoples prospects.

    It's true to say that standards have dropped in UK management, and that individual longevity in businesses has shortened by a third, due to lack of management expertise and what used to be 'Investor in People' standards. You may wonder why I'm writing this, but let me tell you; I have never missed a target in my entire sales career, frequently winning awards as top salesman. I went on to NEVER ever missing a target in my managerial and senior management career. Yet this means nothing. Not a jot! I even joined a recruitment site for over 45's. That went bust, because they couldn't place enough people to survive.

    Some young people may say, 'shut it old timer, you're just whinging'. I suppose I am, but remember this; You will be me one day, and I hope you think of this comment when you are rejected 100% of the time because you are too old. I just hope for your sake you don't lose your wife and kids too.

  • SarahEllen profile image

    SarahEllen 9 years ago

    Hi I've been struggling to find a job for months now. I'm a qualified fitness instructor but I have just been looking for some part-time work in a clothes shop or similar environment. I applied for a job recently and was told by those interviewing that there was 20 vacancies going because most of the staff were young students returning to University. However I have been turned down flat because they claim I do not have 'enough experience', incidentally I have over 5 years altogether previous work experience in retail. I felt happy with my interview and was convinced that since there were 20 vacancies going i would have been offered something, I really have no idea where I've gone wrong.

  • franciaonline profile image

    franciaonline 9 years ago from Philippines

    Hi Kathryn Vercillo,

    Wow, what a proactive and level-headed article tackling ageism!

    Thank you for sharing this enlightening piece.