Age is a State of Mind Print E-mail

We’ve all heard that old saying along with others such as “You are only as old as you feel.” I must say that some days I feel younger than others! Age is a huge factor in job search even though our laws state that it should not be. Sure, age discrimination occurs covertly in the workplace despite all the legislation and court decisions that punishes it. As long as hiring is done by people, preconceptions, biases, and preferences will play a role in the candidate decision. People are fallible, imperfect. Laws and judges can rein in age discrimination from being overt and punish those that cross the line, but it is going to remain a factor until someone figures out how to take the human element out of the hiring process.

Age probably plays just as big a factor in employment when it is in the mind of the job seeker. When a job seeker comes to the job search with a mindset of “I’m too old. No one is going to hire me,” it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy! I’ve seen many job seekers struggle with confidence, attitude, and drive simply because they have already labeled themselves as “un-hire-able”. Attitude plays a huge role in success in any endeavor and job search is no different.

Think of it this way – if you were a sales person selling ice to Saharan nomads, you can talk yourself out of success simply by continually telling yourself “They aren’t going to buy this! How are they going to carry it? How are they going to store it? No one is going to want this!” You are entering the process with a failure mindset. As you think, so shall it be. If you go into the job search thinking you are going to fail, you will.

We recently worked with a wonderful gentleman who was a doctor. He started his career as a medic in the war – World War II! He was over 70 and still wanting to work in the health care industry! That was fantastic! He had a depth of experience that was literally unmatched by any of his competitors. He had been through it, seen it, learned it, wrote papers on it, and taught it. He had pretty much done “it” all - just fill in the blank for "it"!

Wow! What a great candidate! And he had a fantastic attitude in addition to all that experience. He was cheerful, funny, and sharp as a tack. He knew he still had a lot to offer health care and he wasn’t interested in sitting around playing shuffleboard. That wasn’t his mission in life. His mission was to deliver his knowledge, skills, and expertise to those who need it and he was determined to do just that for as long as he was physically and mentally able. I wanted to take his picture and put it on our wall as the poster boy for “You are only as old as you feel!”

Do you feel like you are facing age bias in the hiring process? It’s possible, but first ask yourself – “How old do I feel?” If you think of yourself as “too old” to compete against the other candidates, you are focusing on the negative. Focus on the positive! What can you offer that the younger generation can’t? What do they have that you may be lacking? Can you offer that too? How?

Gone is the “secure” job of 30 years, a pension, and a gold watch at retirement. The demise of General Motors is the headstone on that grave. Instead of careers being a train track – straight and one directional, careers are like ATVs – they are all over the place. People use their talents; leverage their interests; take steps backward or up or sideways; and develop new talents. Those who make progress use the wisdom they’ve gained to deal with the present and what the future deals them. Those who struggle are focused on the past or what “might have been”. So, how old do YOU feel today?