Tag Archives: mature worker

6 reasons why older job candidates shouldn’t discriminate against younger interviewers

Amy, a colleague of mine who looks no older than 30, came to me to tell me of a meeting she just had with a job seeker. In her excited, rapid voice, she told me that an older male treated her as though she were a child. She was outraged and rightfully so.

older-candidate

Amy is well revered by the staff at our career center and respected by the customers with whom she meets. She knows a great deal about the job search and training, so being disrespected by this man rubbed her the wrong way.

We sat and talked about her meeting with him and wondered aloud if this is how he presents himself in interviews to interviewers younger than him. And if he does, what his chance of success in this job market is. Slim to none, we concurred.

Eventually she calmed down.

Her advice to me was to bring up in my Mature Worker workshop this attitude toward younger interviewers . (She told me three times.) I totally agreed with her and immediately made a change to the presentation slide: “Treat younger interviewers the way you would like to be treated.”

We career advisors often come to the defense of older workers who experience age discrimination; but we don’t talk as much about reverse age discrimination, such as what Amy experienced.

We are reluctant to tell people who are unemployed how the interviewer might feel about this type of rude behavior. But this is wrong of us. (Read 10 ways you can kill your job search with a negative attitude.)

This is the message I would impart. Think about if you were younger and on the opposite side of the table interviewing people for a position, where personality fit is as important as technical abilities.

How would you react if an older job candidate looked at you with disdain and without saying it, called you inexperienced and beneath his level? Further, what would you think if you were going to be his immediate supervisor?

Hiring him would not be a marriage made in heaven. You, as the younger hiring manager, would have to prove yourself to the, albeit highly qualified, candidate on a regular basis.

He would question your every decision and tell you how he would do things. Any effort you would make to correct his actions or even reprimand him would be met with resistance. You would feel powerless. You finally reason that hiring him would be crazy.

The large majority of older workers have a great deal of value to offer employers. They’re knowledgeable in their work and possess life experience that younger workers do not. They want to work and are flexible with their schedule. They’re dependable, able to mentor others, and are great role models. These are but a few qualities of the older worker.

But there are a few older workers who think they’re all that or who have a chip on their shoulder. They are convinced that they’ll experience age discrimination at every interview. In other words, they have lost the job before the interview begins.

Susan Jepson, who directed the National Senior Network, wrote an article addressing reverse age discrimination practiced by older workers. She believes that sometimes it’s not intentional. She writes:

Without intending to, or without knowing it, mature workers can come across as arrogant, condescending; that behavior can invite rejection. Examine your beliefs and assumptions and work hard to be open and communicative with your interviewer, without prejudice of any kind.

Susan Jepson is a mature worker, so she speaks objectively.

If you happen to be one who intentionally discriminates against younger interviewers, remember that the person sitting across from you deserves as much respect as you do. Also keep in mind that your livelihood might depend on how much they value you as a potential employee. More specifically, remember:

1. She earned her job. Whether she has less experience on the job than you is irrelevant. Someone in the company determined that she was the most capable to manage a group of people. And yes, they could have been wrong.

2. Her job is to hire the best person. You are the best person, but if you show contempt or even hint to your superiority, she won’t see your talent through the less-than-desirable attitude you demonstrate.

3. She will appreciate your points of view. Once assured you’re not after her job, she may see you as a mentor and role model. Younger colleagues like the approval of older workers. Take it from someone who supervised someone 20 years my senior; her approval meant a lot to me.

4, She might have some growing to do. And if you want to succeed, you’ll realize that people of all ages have some growing to do, including you. You can help her through this process by building her self-esteem and confidence. It’s a wonderful thing to see someone grow under your tutelage.

5. She might fear that you’re after her job. So put her fears to rest by NOT talking about you would eventually want to assume a position like hers, or her position specifically. Rather, assure her that your career goal begins with doing the best possible work at the position in question. Ultimately you want to help the company succeed.

6. Whether you like it or not, she will be your boss. What are your options right now? Enough said.

You may arrive at interviews where age discrimination is blatant due to no fault of yours. This is the time when you are the bigger man/woman and leave with your pride intact, your head held high.


In the end, my colleague, Amy, told her customer that his behavior was unacceptable and it would do him more harm than good. He apologized, admitting his error. We are never too old to learn valuable lessons.

If you enjoy this post, read why younger interviewers shouldn’t discriminate against older workers.

5 strengths of the older worker

The intern

As seen through the eyes of The Intern.

I’ve always been a big fan of Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, so when I was searching for a movie to watch on TV, I settled on “The Intern.” Admittedly I thought this might be lame movie.

I mean I hadn’t heard anything about the movie, not even from my daughter who sees every movie released in theaters. So I thought, what the hell. It’s worth a try.

But I was pleasantly surprised. The premise of the movie is that a very successful clothing Internet business launches an intern program for older workers. De Niro applies, wins the internship, and is assigned to Hathaway, the founder of the company.

At first, it’s not a good match, as Hathaway clearly demonstrates her biases against older workers. And honestly, I’m not sure De Niro is going to work out. I mean the guy confirms every older-worker stereotype.

But there’s so much to learn from De Niro’s character. So much that Hathaway learns from this older intern. So much for us to learn about the value of the older worker.

1. Older Workers Know Etiquette

De Niro overdoes it by going to work at a technology company dressed in a suit and tie. He’s clearly out of place at first, then the employees and audience see the charm in the way he dresses. He adds class to the organization.

Similarly my customers, most of whom are older workers show up for my workshops dressed for the job search. They dress prepared to run into their next employer, whereas their younger counterparts don more comfortable Tee shirts and jeans, unaware they’re always on stage.

2. Older Workers Have Been There, Done That

While it’s unfortunate that De Niro has lost his soul partner, he arrives at the company with valuable life experience that lends well to his wise decisions. He is Hathaway’s support system. In her words, “My best friend.”

I see the same life experiences in my customers; people who have suffered loss or have experienced trauma in their own lives. They’ve learned from this and developed a calmer attitude. Small issues don’t affect them like the issues might have in their younger days.

It goes without saying that older workers also possess more job experience than younger workers. He comes to Hathaway’s company a former VP of sales, which intimidates her. Unfortunately many younger managers feel intimidated and think older workers want their jobs. This not true.

3. Older Workers Communicate Better

Well maybe differently than younger workers.In the movie the majority of  employees we see are Millennials, making me feel quite old. Technology like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook are thrown around as if they’re a natural part of life. It is their way to communicate.

To emphasize a Millennial character’s reliance on technology, De Niro has to teach him that it is NOT acceptable to make up with a woman via texting. It finally dons on the younger worker that he has to “talk” to the woman.

Verbal communication skills are the strength of mature workers, not because they reject texting, email, and social media. Because they understand the value of the human voice and body language, how they are more direct and personal. Business still conducted with face-to-face interaction.

4. Older Workers are Great Mentors

Hathaway’s character is an entrepreneur, independent, and decisive. She has a great sense of how to run her business and is very successful. But when the chips are down and Hathaway needs moral support, De Niro is there to mentor her in a way that only an older, wiser person could.

Older workers are often managers or colleagues who effectively mentor younger employees. They’ve gained years of experience achieving success, as well as making mistakes. Note: one of my customers recently landed a job as a Technology Mentor at a large medical corporation.

5. Older Workers are Vibrant in Their Own Way

At the beginning of the movie and at the end, De Niro is seen performing yoga in a park. It is his way of being vibrant as a 70 year-old man. The way he carries himself throughout the movie shows a determined vibrancy.

I told my workshop attendees that it’s generally unrealistic to believe that a 50 year-old employee could keep up with someone 20 years younger. However, older workers can pace themselves. They may not work as fast as younger workers, but they tend to work smarter and make less mistakes. I’m thinking of the tale of the tortoise and hare.

See the Movie

I question whether the intent of the movie was to demonstrate the value of the older worker, or if it simply made a good story line. As I tend to do in my daily life, I see most things as work related. Nonetheless, this is a movie that has a great message; when the chips are down, the older worker will come through.

Now read a related post, Younger interviewers, 9 reasons why you should not discriminate against older workers.

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Photo: Flickr, Warner Bros. Entertainment

15 reasons why companies should hire mature workers

I woke up this morning with the same neck pain that’s been plaguing me for two weeks. I developed the pain when I was toweling off after a shower and WHAM, it felt like someone stuck a knife in my neck. Sometimes life sucks getting older.

I may be getting older, but I’m not too humble to say I’m good at what I do. I get to work early and often leave late. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m driving my kids around town almost every night, I’d probably take on another job. I like working and know many people my age who do as well.

So I wonder why some companies are downright ignorant and won’t hire mature workers like me. Don’t they realize we have a wealth of experience and a truckload of accomplishments, not to mention life experience that allows us to handle small problems our teenagers can’t? Don’t they know mature workers want to work?

One of my favorite workshops that I lead is called Mature Worker. In this workshop we laugh, kvetch, and sometimes cry about our unemployment status. What we wonder is why employers don’t see the value we bring to the table. Yeah we have experience that younger workers don’t, but we have much more:

  1. We can party. That’s right; we can party with the best of them. We just don’t do it the night before work and especially the night preceding a tradeshow.
  2. We are dependable. Did you ever notice who’s always at work and always on time? That’s us. We don’t have the responsibilities we once had when we attended school events, stayed home during snow days, and tended to our children when they were sick.
  3. We have better taste in music. Lady Gaga? AC/DC, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, and U2 are more our style.
  4. We’ve been there done that. We’ve made our share of mistakes; and unless we’re total morons, we don’t repeat them. This speaks to our life experience.
  5. We have no life. We’ll volunteer to come in to work over the weekend, because no one younger than us will.
  6. We can still talk on the phone. Our interpersonal skills are exceptional, because we aren’t texting all the time like our kids are.
  7. We know technology? Case in point, a 60+ year-old jobseeker told our Mature Worker group that he had saved his former company considerable time when he reduced a process from 60 minutes to 6 minutes by converting a program from Java to C++.
  8. We work smarter, not harder. “Done right the first time” has real meaning with the mature worker. Let others work at break-neck speed and repeat their actions; don’t take our focus and steady work as being slow.
  9. We’re great at customer service. We’ve waited in line at Wal-Mart, McDonalds, and other places where cashiers were distracted by their coworkers of the opposite gender. We realize how important it is to satisfy the customer.
  10. We’re confident in our skills. We know we can lead projects, coordinate teams of 25 people, run a global marketing campaign, etc. Can we still do a bicycle kick? Hell no.
  11. We are composed. Many of us have been through the ringer. We’ve suffered losses. We’ve raised our kids to be responsible individuals. This life experience has prepared us to keep our heads and remain calm.
  12. We can laugh at ourselves. So maybe my memory isn’t what it used to be, but it was funnier than hell when I wore two different shoes to work. No problem, I had an extra pair in my cube.
  13. We cope well. See number 12.
  14. We’re mature. We appreciate a good time or two, but the office is professional. Gone are the days when I would toss the Nerf football around the office or put Vaseline on my colleagues’ telephone receivers or put rubber eyeballs in the water cooler. (That was a good one.)
  15. We’re everywhere. Have you ever noticed that a large majority of CEO’s, presidents, VP’s, and managers are mature workers? You can’t get rid of us…unless you want the ship to sink.

I don’t know when my neck will feel better or when I’ll reduce my walking time, but I know that, like fine wine that ages with time, I’ll only get better at what I do on the job. As time goes on, I’ll impart my wisdom, level-headedness, and sense of humor on those who are less fortunate than mature workers.

Talking about Ageism: Three Pieces of Advice from Matthew Levy

I was searching around LinkedIn for some questions to answer. It’s been awhile and I miss my old routine of answering tons of questions. I came across a great question from Matthew Levy on ageism, but instead of answering his question, I decided to write this blog article in response to a very important topic—ageism and how to break down the barrier of age discrimination.

Let me start by saying that Matthew’s article was very insightful, albeit lengthy even for a verbose writer as myself. He suggests three methods for the 40+ crowd to use in combating possible age discrimination. The first method he talks about is modifying your appearance to make you appear younger. Second, he urges you to dive into social media; and third, he advises a strategic approach to writing a résumé.

Modifying one’s appearance. Matthew writes that one day he advised a gentleman to shave his beard, which according to Matthew, took five years off the man’s appearance.

I also witnessed a man who had shaven his beard and took years off his appearance. For some men it’s hard letting go of a beard he’s had for a good part of his life; but once the job is secured, the beard can return.

Matthew also suggests modifying other aspects of your appearance: eyeglasses; hair color; make-up; clothing, e.g., suits, blouses, skirts, et cetera.

Embracing social media. Using media like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to network puts you in the company of Y-generation jobseekers.

I lead workshops at an urban career center, where I see many mature workers. These folks attend my LinkedIn workshop and are excited at the prospect of getting online, or if already there, enhancing their online footprint.

“If you stay in the dark by resisting change and new technologies, the Millennials (who are interviewing you, recruiting you and referring you) might typecast you as ‘behind the times’ and ‘set in your ways,’” Matthew writes.

How true and scary.

Don’t show too much work history on your résumé. Matthew advises that jobseekers keep their work history within 20 years due to relativity, which is sound advice. But I say keep it within 15 years, as 20 years already dates you at least 43 years-old. The bottom line is why kill your chances of getting to the interview? Once at the interview you can sell yourself, thus negating your age.

Other smart suggestions Matthew offers are to remove graduation dates from your education, applying more up-to-date fonts, eliminating an objective statement and “references available upon request,” and not limiting your résumé to one page. This may seem like simple advice, but appearance in every aspect counts when making a first impression.

Matthew gives older jobseekers some great commonsense advice, but I think encouraging them to join the social media party is the best advice of the three topics.

Incidentally, Matthew asks for other ideas to help older jobseekers in their job search. My piece of advice would be to enter an interview with a positive attitude. Think as though your 20 years younger than you are because what does age matter anyways?