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7 ways to overcome ageism in the workforce?

One of the hardest-hit groups in the labour market throughout the COVID-19 pandemic could be those aged 55 and older.

The conclusion of a 2011 Statistics Canada study concerning the last three recessions found that in a severe economic downturn, a higher proportion of older Canadians with greater seniority were laid off compared to their younger counterparts. An employer cannot fire/lay off an older worker because of their age. That would make the termination discriminatory and a violation of the employee’s human rights under the Human Rights Code.

Millions of working Canadians have seen their employment impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Canadian employers were actively recruiting for an estimated 815,800 positions in June 2021 but yet tenure career professionals are having a hard time landing interviews and job offers.

Are there myths for older career professionals?

  • Older workers are counting the days until retirement

  • Older workers don’t have up-to-date skills

  • Older workers dislike reporting to younger managers

  • Older workers are not coachable and high maintenance

  • Older workers are not quick learners, they are slow at learning new things.

  • Older workers are not flexible with a quick change

  • Older workers have a challenging time with change management

  • Older workers will only accept high salaries

  • Older workers always negotiate more than the company's budget for being overqualified

Is ageism based on the type of Role, Gender, and Industry?

For women, ageism goes a little deeper. For instance, look at the fashion and make-up industries, flyers have a younger generation, it is hard to see women and men with silver hair. Are we used to seeing the younger generation in certain industries?

Ageism in Trade Skills?

Trade skills have biases, older men/women may not be the preferred candidate based on the nature of the work/physical strength.

Ageism in the corporate world?

Call center workers & customer service professionals have been recruiting the younger generation. The hustle culture and speed of delivery within the customer service industry have made consumers entitled. When we stand in line to pay bills, we expect fast service and tend to judge older workers more often. Ask yourself if you have rolled your eyes at a slow-paced worker. I felt ageism in my late 30s after the layoff. I worked in a fast-paced environment and speed was the top priority when there is a line-up of customers. After having a career break bouncing back to the workforce was lots of learning to fit in. Learning how to work around the current resume standard was the key to mitigating the risk of being overqualified. There is an assumption about older workers not learning new things based on the current trends,

Most job descriptions these days in certain industries are filled with a word such as “Dynamic” “Flexible 24/7” Fast-paced" "Able to handle multiple tasks” “Tech-savvy” "Hit the ground running" “Require shift work” “Able to work under pressure” Quick-learner" “ Proficiency with office software” "Fresh ideas" "Work under pressure" "Energetic" " Multitasking" "On-call" "After-hour work" "Travel required" "Recent graduates" "Maximum experience up to 5 years". Employers are assuming tenure professionals are not coachable, and ready to retire. Pick the right type of role, scan the job description and see if the job is targeted to specific types of career professionals. If you are a tenure career professional, it is easy to avoid the roles which are targeted at the youth.

Employers are not going to pay higher than their budget just because you have 30 years of experience. This is where you will be paying wisdom tax, which is "over-qualified" The employer's fears that you feel you're worth more than the offered salary and go somewhere else after you find the right role. Employee retention is at risk for overqualification.

Have you seen how Gen-Z is getting attention on social media?

New generations are using new lingo/jargon in conversations. Try reading their text and you need a Google to understand. The older workers would start working with the new generation and there is a gap/ clash with Gen-Z in the workforce due to jargon. We are living in a generation where job seekers are posting Tik Tok videos with a job search strategy. New generations are getting creative with job search plans to get the attention of employers. Gone are the days of dropping the resume in person. Older workers will not even think about going to TikTok for the moment and branding themselves to get job leads. I am not saying older workers need to hang out on TikTok for a job search but try to find employers in a different digital platform than just applying for job postings. At most, older workers will try LinkedIn with an inactive profile which hurts the chance of getting noticed. Not leaving the digital footprints in 2022 is a weakness. It is nothing to be proud of. Tenure career professionals need to adapt to the new way of branding based on the employers' needs. Is this a generation gap or are tenure career professionals not trying to adapt?

7 ways to tackle ageism as a jobseeker

Mindset matters

Ageism exists while hiding your grey hair and some facelift could be a quick fix for a bit, how about your mindset?

You are what you think and how you act. Could you change your perception from within?

How about replacing the word “seasoned” or " I know it all" and replacing it with “highly skilled” and "willing to learn" You need to change the way you think too “ I have always done this way and it worked” might not work anymore. You might have been an expert in your field but the new generation might have innovative ideas, hear them out. Be receptive to the feedback. Whether you are trying to get back to the workplace or already in the workplace you should be adaptable. Get younger mentors within your industry and learn by collaborating. Make Gen-Z your allies, not the enemy. I have managed older workers in the past and there were a few direct reports who would say things like "you are like my kid", things you should never tell your boss. Your future boss could be a millennial, are you willing to embrace that?

Pick the right job

Scan the requirement before you spray and pray your Resume. Throwing spaghetti all over the wall and praying to stick to it is a wrong approach. Define your niche and marketing plan before the job search. Just because you have done it all in the past 20 years doesn’t make you an expert in all of the roles you have had in the past. This is where experienced career professionals have a problem. Jack and Jill's approach doesn’t work. You need to be an expert on that one thing employer is looking to hire you for. Speak to what employers want by listing relevant skills only.

You should be able to explain 15 years of experience within 2 to 3 pages maximum unless there is a requirement of listing tech skills, which may exceed more than 3 pages. Starting the Resume and interview with “ I have 20 years of experience” might not be a good idea anymore. This is how employers could reject with “you are overqualified for this role”. Focus on accomplishments instead of years of experience.

Are you tech-savvy?

The pandemic showed us how to be tech-savvy in a limited time. Virtual onboarding and meetings are the new norms. You might have to lead the meetings and deliver presentations, and learn to be techy. There is an assumption about older workers not being tech-savvy and not willing to adapt to the current trends. Break the assumption by learning new technical world/ tools which are used in the workforce.

When was the last time you invested/upgraded your knowledge which is warranted for the role you are trying to get in for?

Things change year after year, join the group related to your industry and niche market. Ask around and upgrade knowledge based on the requirement. Employers could smell the old degree from far even though you hide the date from the Resume. Get the certifications, and membership to understand the current trends. What might have worked in the past might not work anymore. Folks who have worked with the same employers for years have the issue of not knowing the world outside. If you are laid off after years of service, here are 7 steps to bounce back to the workforce.

Don’t try to force yourself into the wrong environment

You are not the right fit for everyone and that is completely okay. When looking to get back to the workforce, research your “fit’. Research the website, what type of people they hire, age group, and demographic. You need to have a sense of belonging. Walk around and see if they have people who look like you. Look at the interview panel. That gives you an idea about the company’s stand on hiring older workers. You need to go where you are celebrated with your previous experience. Watch out for these red flags on the job descriptions. Take look at their career pages, videos, flyers, and mature-looking workers that would give a sense of belonging. The company could have a media release on the percentage of older workers, and do some research.

Things to Take off your Resume

Ditch the career objective as it is no longer being used in the Resume world. Understand how to brand yourself on the Resume based on the current trend. Resistance to change is one of the drawbacks for the older worker, who gets into the new trend quickly.

  • Add a Career summary with what the employer wants and how you could solve the problem. Here is an example.

  • Remove the graduation date on your Resume

  • Remove the old tools and technology which are no longer valid in the workforce

  • Focus heavily on recent work experience as employers scan into related tasks.

  • Get rid of an irrelevant role from 15 years ago unless the job description outlines more than 15 years of experience and the title is relevant to the role you are applying for

  • Watch out for an old email address that gives away your age (AOL, Yahoo. Etc.)There are biases in the hiring world. What is stopping you from opening a new email account during your job search?

Try listing out older roles in this format➡️ Company name | Title | Earlier Career History Prior to 2010

Tips for interview

How did you come across during the Interview?

  • Be humble during interviews, do not act like you know it all. Leave your ego at the door.

  • Demonstrate you are up-to-date with technology. Highlight the examples during the interview on how you have transitioned into the new tools.

  • Show them you know new tools and that you have kept yourself up to date with courses and certification

  • Your style, clothes, accessories, and shoe matters, get into the new fashion trend based on the roles you are applying for.

  • Show that you are coachable and eager to learn from the younger generation.

Consider Consulting| Self-employment| Freelancing

You are tenure and bring lots of value, perhaps pivoting to the different industries with transferrable skills might be a wise idea. Identify your “niche”. Think about transferrable skills and start branding yourself on social media. Before you start selling your services build your brand by raising the awareness that you exist with a free service launch. Established yourself as an expert based on past experiences. Your “Why” is important and built-in with unique stories. Start as a side hustle and test the market with free consulting in exchange for testimonials and referrals. Join the membership group where your future clients are hanging out. Provide free webinars and join podcasts to establish yourself as an expert. Use the social media platform to build the brand. When someone searches your name on Google, are you on the first 3 pages? if not then you are not visible on the internet.

If you have a career gap, try to upgrade with current market demands based on your targeted roles. How to work around career break on resume and interviews read more here .

Sweta Regmi is a hiring manager from award-winning companies turned into Founder and CEO at Teachndo, a Certified Career & Résumé Strategist.Sweta Regmi is a globally recognized top career expert, speaker, and LinkedIn Top Community Voice for Career Development, Job Search Strategies, Personal Branding, Public Speaking, Resume Writing, and Interviewing with over a decade of experience empowering career professionals. Sweta's insights are featured in CBC National News Prime Time & Local, Global National News Top Story & Global Local News, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, HuffPost, CTV News, City News, FOX 26 News, Daily Mail, BNN Bloomberg, 5 times in Globe and Mail, Yahoo News, National Post, MSN,, FORBES, Toronto Sun, 80+ times in LinkedIn News, LinkedIn Hello Monday award-winning podcast, LinkedIn Creators, Indeed, Employment services, Top Colleges and Universities, Career Conferences, Leadership Conferences, and 100+Top media outlets have widely recognized Regmi's expertise, see here. Regmi has also partnered with leading brands and organizations to elevate and spearhead career strategies, career sites, and outplacement and establish non-profit employment services partnerships. Her RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards nomination by Women of Influence in 2022 and 2023 further demonstrates her success as a recognized career expert in Canada. Regmi is also the Amazon Best Seller of 21 Resilient Women: Stories of Courage, Growth, and Transformation. The book has been recognized by libraries, ministers and MPs in Canada.

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