Feature: A Workaround for Age Discrimination
At first glance, the trend seems to be moving in the right direction. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the workforce participation rate of “older workers” is increasing. In 1985, the percentage of workers 55 and older who were unemployed was 4.1%; in 2005, the rate dropped to 3.4%, an improvement of almost 20%.
Despite that good news, however, older workers are still drawing the short stick when it comes to finding a new or better job. Why? Because the percentages are being applied to a much larger population-there are more “older” people in the workforce than ever before. Therefore, while the unemployment rate declined, the number of people looking for work actually went up. In 1985, there were 466,000 workers who were 55 and older and unemployed. In 2005, there were 634,000 unemployed workers in that age group. That’s an increase of almost 40%!
What’s causing this situation? It isn’t a lack of jobs. Ask almost any employer today, and they will tell you they are waging a War for Talent. They cannot find the skilled workers they need to fill their openings. If that’s so and there are 634,000 unemployed workers who are 55 and older, one can only conclude that ageism-discrimination based on the age of a person-is still alive and kicking in the workplace.
Indeed, research shows that bias against candidates because of their age begins as early as the 45 year mark. Sometimes it’s conscious and blatant, and therefore, susceptible to correction through action by the U.S. Government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. More often, however, it’s subconscious and/or subtle and, as a consequence, much harder to identify and eliminate.
How can you protect yourself from ageism? Unfortunately, there’s no foolproof way to eliminate such bias, but the following four steps can provide an important measure of protection.
Step 1. Be at the state-of-the-art in your profession, craft or trade. That state is not the same as having lots of experience or time on-the-job. In today’s increasingly technological workplace, being up-to-date means having both the latest knowledge and skills in your field and the wisdom and insight to apply those skills effectively in the workplace. Whether you have a work record of 3 years or 33 years, whether you are an entry level employee or a senior manager, continuous knowledge acquisition is now a part your job and essential to average, let alone superior, performance.
Step 2. Maximize the employer’s return on its investment in you. Competing for a new position is not an exercise in describing your skills and experience; it’s a contest to convince an employer that you will make a more valuable contribution to its success than other candidates. Figure out what the employer expects from the job and then convince the recruiter and hiring manager that you can and will provide it. The key is not proving that you can do a job, but instead, proving that you can produce the results the employer needs and do so on time, within budget, and to the highest standard of quality.
Step 3. Work beyond your position description. Those who establish a track record of seeing their role larger rather than smaller in an organization-those who are flexible and creative enough to work outside the box of traditional job definitions-give themselves a significant competitive advantage in the job market. Why? Because all organizations today are struggling to control labor costs, so they are looking for employees who are able and willing to contribute more than “their fair share” of the work. If you have pitched in for an absent coworker, volunteered for special projects or mentored less experienced colleagues, make sure those contributions are highlighted on your resume. And if you haven’t done those things, now’s the time to start.
Step 4. Look and be physically fit for your age. When a youthful person is out of shape, they’re simply viewed as lazy; when an older person is unfit, they’re pigeonholed as worn out. That doesn’t mean that you have to compete on the company softball team or pump iron in the gym after work, but it does mean that you have to be healthy enough to meet all performance requirements of your position-whether that involves physical capacity or simply the stamina to show up every day and work late or on weekends to finish a special assignment. It may or may not be right, but physical fitness is a key component of career fitness in the American workplace, and “older workers” don’t get a pass.
It’s not uncommon for those who experience ageism to invest a lot of emotional energy in the frustration and anger it stimulates. Such bias is not supposed to exist, so this reaction is understandable. It also compounds the damage, however, because those emotions will not protect you from future incidents of bias in the job market or the workplace. To do that, invest your energy and your talent elsewhere. Put your heart and your head into steps that will strengthen your appeal to employers. Co-opt ageism by working around it.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. Don’t keep WEDDLE’s to yourself. If you like our newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues about it. They’ll appreciate your thinking of them. And, we will too!
Section Two: Site News You Can Use
CareerBuilder.com published the results of a survey that makes the traditional school-time excuse-the dog ate my homework-seem … well, down right unoriginal. When asked how employees have justified not showing up for work, HR Departments offered the following from the best-of-the-worst rationales they’ve heard:
CareerJournal.com released the results of its survey of what graduating college students are looking for in their first job. As in previous polls, the #1 priority for the Class of 2006 is work-life balance. However, job security is now also a significant consideration. Soon-to-be-graduates show a preference for stable, diversified employers that they believe will live up to their benefits promises. Among those benefits, they value health insurance and retirement plans more than vacations, bonuses and stock options. How can you evaluate an employer to determine whether it’s the right spot for you? In addition to traditional research methods, use a browser (e.g., Google, Yahoo!, MSN) to search for information published about the company and check what’s been posted at the “electronic watercooler” at Vault.com. Take what you find there with a grain of salt, but the commentaries posted by current and former employees will, more than likely, give you a very different picture from all of the happy news you get at the employer’s Web-site.
The Society for Human Resource Management polled its members to determine what competencies their employers want in new hires, but can’t find in today’s job seekers. According to the respondents, the missing traits are professionalism, analytical skills, business knowledge and written and oral communications skills. What should you do with that information? First, treat every interaction with an employer’s representatives-whether it’s an e-mail message from a recruiter, a brief introduction to a company representative at a career fair or a formal interview with a hiring manger-as if it were an important business occasion. It is … which means it’s not the time for casual dress or behavior. Second, if you possess some or all of the skills identified by the HR poll, make sure that you highlight them on your resume and in those interactions. The best way to do that is to identify the skill and then describe how you used it on-the-job to make a meaningful contribution to an organization’s success.
VetJobs.com announced that it has been endorsed by the Vietnam Veterans of America. Vietnam Veterans of America is the only national Vietnam veterans organization that is Congressionally chartered and dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VetJobs.com is the only employment site it has endorsed.
WEDDLE’s is now offering an audio-based seminar to help you find your dream job on the Internet.
Called How to Look for a Job on the Web … and Still Look Like a Winner, the program will be presented by WEDDLE’s Publisher, Peter Weddle, on:
It begins at 11:00 a.m. EST, 8:00 a.m. PST and is one hour long.
What are the benefits of the seminar?
What’s the fee? Just $49 per person! Sure, it’s hard to spend money when you’re looking for a job. But think of this program as an investment … an investment in your future.
Registration is limited, so reserve your seat now. To sign up, please call WEDDLE’s at 203.964.1888.
Section Three: Site Profiles
Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?
1. If you’re an experienced project manager looking for an opportunity with a home construction company in your area, where could you go online to build a strong slate of potential employers?
2. You’re a surgical nurse who’s just relocated to Kansas City, Missouri. Which of the following sites would help you sew up a great job fast?
3. A friend of yours has suggested that you look into working as a claims processor for an insurance company. Which of the following sites would deny you access to top opportunities?
Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Guides and Directories
Association for Compensation, Benefits and Total Rewards
Post full time jobs: Yes
Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – All
Distribution of jobs: International
Number of jobs: Not Reported
Salary levels of jobs: $31-50K/yr, $51-75K/yr
Offer a job agent: No
Resume database: No
How long are resumes stored: N/A
Restrictions on who can post: N/A
Other services for job seekers: Career information, Links to other sites with resources
Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: No
Answers to Site Insite
1. All but BestBuilders.com, the site of a company that connects home buyers with home builders.
2. All but SNurse.com, the site of the Samsung Nursing Academy in Korea.
3. ProcessingPros.com, the site of a graphic/Web design company.