Age discrimination is a delicate subject, but not talking about it won’t solve the problem. One of the lesser-known truths about it is that — yes — there is something you can do about it.
Today the tech and IT worlds are more youth-obsessed than ever, largely because younger workers tend to be cheap, smart, and “fresh.” On the other hand, age discrimination also exists for people perceived as too young to work certain types of jobs. If being too young is problematic and being over 40 merits legal protection against ageism, does that mean there are only 15-odd years to have a career between college and middle age?
Of course not.
Experience matters. Age discrimination is illegal and should absolutely be reported, and there are many unfortunate examples of employees being frozen out of their careers while they are still in their prime. And because it’s so difficult to prove ageism, reporting it won’t always solve the problem. Yet older workers have an edge — years of real-world experience — and nobody can take that away.
So how can you leverage your experience to prove you’re the best one for the job?
First, stay at the top of your game. Settling into your job is never an option, no matter how old you are. Do you read industry publications and regularly brush up on professional skills? If not, start now. Second, focus on your company or potential employer’s pain points. Are you actively working to solve problems? Regardless of age, companies want the person who can exceed their expectations. And finally, take a good look at your company to see how they treat employees your age and older. If you don’t like what you see, plan a career move well ahead of time. Look for small to midsize companies with a good track record of senior-level employees, and tell them exactly how you can contribute to their business.
The final step? Speak up. Use your experience to make the working world a more fair and just place by reporting instances of age discrimination. Focus on being the best employee you possibly can be — not your age — and don’t let other people’s prejudice mar your career.
For more on this subject, check out Retiring from Retirement.