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Is Over 50 "Over the Hill?"
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Is Over 50 "over the hill?"

Many large companies are reducing their ranks of middle management in this soft economy.  That means more and more 40 and 50-something workers in the job market, sometimes competing against workers young enough to be their children. Does being older place you at a disadvantage in the job market? 

Many middle aged workers think so, and they often get discouraged about the interview process.  Some even choose to drop out of the job market rather than face selling themselves to prospective employers.

Although age is inevitably a part of your “first impression,” it doesn’t have to be a negative factor.  Baby boomers are aging differently than their parents, and it shows.  Advances in medicine and healthier lifestyles (not to mention the accessibility of cosmetic surgery) mean that 50 looks very different than it did in the 1950’s. The maturity and work ethic that older workers bring to the table offset the simple fact of having lived through a few decades.

But there are perceptions about older workers fitting into the culture of a new workplace, especially if they might be working for younger managers. Three common worries of recruiters when hiring an older worker are concerns about energy level and health, flexibility and ability to learn new skills, and concerns about salary expectations.  Here’s how you can counteract those concerns.

Update your image and pump up your energy.  Ask a friend (or a professional) to help you assess your image. If your hairstyle (or color) or wardrobe needs an update, do it.  There’s no need to try to look like a teenager, but you should project a sleek and contemporary image. If in doubt, invest in classic styles that never appear trendy, like the classic navy blue interview suit. Pay attention to your handshake, posture, and eye contact – all indicators of a confident, vibrant, high energy person.

Be ready with examples of your flexible attitude and eagerness to learn.  When was the last time you invested in your education?  Even taking the time to update computer skills at the community college will impress a recruiter with your willingness to learn. Think of examples of times you compromised and collaborated on the job (as opposed to directing subordinates) and be sure you talk about them in the interview.

Match your salary expectations with the job and your relevant experience.  No new employer can afford a “birthday premium,” or paying you just for your years of working history.  Your salary offer will be based on the level of the position you’re applying for and your direct experience relative to the job. If you’re changing industries or titles, be prepared to work your way back up within your new company. This is especially true in occupations where technology is rapidly changing skill expectations and procedures, like bookkeeping, accounting, and administrative support positions.

 

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