Tackling that age-old question in our modern marketplace
When it comes to age, I'm a firm proponent of "Don't ask. Don't tell."
Recently a journalist who was interviewing me asked me my age. I get it. I used to be a newspaper reporter and I know it's traditional to write, "So-and-so, age blah-blah, did fill-in-the-blank." But I also know it's not a hard and fast rule.
There are plenty of stories these days that don't include a person's age. Therefore, I politely said to the reporter, "I prefer not to give the number as it's not germane to the story."
She accepted that and the story was printed no problem.
Likewise, if you're in the jobs market and are of a certain age, you may find yourself struggling to overcome other people's preconceived notions around your particular number.
Unless you're a 102-year-old who swam the English Channel or a 12-year-old who graduated from university, age shouldn't be the leading factor.
1 Stop referencing your age
At an event, a very lovely female participant came up to me and complimented my shoes. Then she lamented,"When I was your age, I could wear heels. But it's been forever."
Another time, I heard a man say to colleagues at a project meeting, "Give that task to Peter. I'm too old."
How often do you reference your age? How often do you draw unnecessary attention to the distance between your age and that of your audience?
At first glance this might seem aimed at older folks. But the same goes for younger folks too. The whole, "Oh, I wasn't even born back then" crowd.
It's fine to talk about age with your best friend, but if you want to stay vigorous or be taken seriously in the workplace, then cease your own ageism. You might be your worst enemy.
Interviewers aren't allowed to ask you your age. So, don't out yourself. Sure, put your universities and degrees on your CV. Just don't put the dates.
2 Mine your contacts
A reader from western Ireland wrote to me saying he's a 64-year-old former sales professional frustrated because he hasn't found work in four years.
He's convinced his age is part of the reason his CVs are not getting traction. He says he's sent out more than 200 of them over the years but landed nothing.
But he also tells me that in four years he has probably only reached out to "two or three" of his former contacts. So, I am working with him to strengthen his strategy.
Think about the wide-range of people you have met over the years. Talk to them. Ask them for people you can call. Cold resumes don't result in jobs nearly as much as warm referrals do.
3 Mix it up
In addition to tapping into your friends and contacts from throughout your career, you can also network with people younger than you. Is there a business incubator you can join? Is there a project they're working on that could benefit from your experience?
You might want to think less about a full-time job and more about piecing together consulting work.
4 Power up your profile
You don't have to have a zillion followers, but, you should immediately set up a LinkedIn profile and a Twitter account. We can chat Facebook and Instagram and whatever else later. For now, let's focus on these two.
First, I recommend Canva.com to create a polished header for your pages. Then you should spend some time crafting words about you and your experience that are strong, punchy and engaging.
Also be sure to Google professionals you admire to see what they're doing. Don't completely plagiarise, but do borrow ideas, formatting and/or a few keywords from others. Don't be afraid to be creative. You can always adjust your copy.
But if you write the same old, same old, you'll sound the same as everyone else and, well, "old".
In short, if you're not online, you're not relevant.
5 Shape up
If you're not eating right and exercising regularly, do not blame your age alone for gaining weight. Your physical health is connected to your mental health.
This is a scientific fact and it's also the perception of many potential employers.
The more fit you are physically, the more you will be perceived as someone who is fit for the job.
Same goes for your wardrobe and grooming. Wear something sharp and current. And for heaven's sake, if you have hair growing out of your ears, get rid it!
We can be put in a box once our number becomes the lead of our story. Like, "She looks great for 45…." Or "He appears much younger than 50…." Whose opinions are these? Why can't it just be, "You're doing great", period? It can.
A 65-year-old client of mine, who is right on top of each of my suggestions, told me this week that a friend of his remarked, "I have never seen you have so much energy!"
That's a great report. And it can be yours too. Your experience combined with applying these strategies actively will make it so.
How is your age helping you in your career? Holding you back? Write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie
Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon
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