If you’re a sports fan, you’ve often heard this phrase: “he provides a veteran presence in the clubhouse.” For the uninitiated, this refers to an older player whose contributions go beyond their play on the field. Often their experience outweighs their performance. How does this translate into the “real” world? When we begin our career path, we do everything we can to show how much experience we have. We stretch internships to the limit and spotlight our extracurricular activities to show how amazing we are. All to get our foot in the door. Experience can be a double-edged sword. As we mature, it can be a red flag to employers. While age discrimination is illegal, anyone above the age of 50 who has looked for employment has likely felt its effects. I certainly dealt with that when I was looking to change careers at the age of 55. What are the contrary forces of experience? A few thoughts:
  • In reference to the above “veteran’s presence”, having a diverse mix of ages provides an organization with perspective. Since most managers and leaders tend to be older, they can benefit from the perspective of younger team members. A 45-year-old manager views the world differently than a 27-year-old employee. They both can learn from each other.
  • When constructing your resume, do you show a variety of experience, or are you a job hopper? An employer wants to hire stability. Can they count on you for that?
  • If you are an older job seeker, are you digitally savvy? There are digital immigrants and digital natives. If you are in the former group, you will need to demonstrate both your digital dexterity and your willingness to adapt to change.
  • As you gain experience, do you continue to strive to learn? We live in a constantly evolving world. Think of the recent rise of Artificial Intelligence. Are you scared of change, or does it motivate you? Think of ways of demonstrating that to a potential employer.
  • Often employers shy away from hiring older candidates because they think they are too expensive. Experience has value and should be compensated accordingly. However, companies will sometimes sacrifice the good of the organization for the bottom line.
  • Unfortunately, the biggest challenge an older job candidate faces is their resume. If you have job experience that dates to the 80s (or earlier), an employer may decide you are too old for the job – even if you are the most qualified candidate. Consider not dating your experience or education. Then the employer can judge you based on what you have accomplished. You can always discuss the “when” of your resume in the initial interview.
At Goodwill of Greater Washington, we hire all ages. We believe different perspectives strengthen us. While age can be a factor in our hiring decisions, it is not THE factor. If you are interested in a career with us, click here to see our current openings.