If you’re a woman in your 50s looking for a job in this economy, prepare for an uphill battle. Employers don’t care that you raised two or three kids, paid for your kids’ college, and ran a household. When they get your well-written cover letter and resume, they see one thing—you’re over 50 and, unlike a male boomer, you probably had to split your time between work and family. But does that make you less qualified?
You may have tried to conceal your age, but HR managers and recruiters have ways of finding out roughly how old you are. Even if you get called in for an interview, chances are, it will be with a 30-something woman (70% of HR people are women). They’ll see you as “pre-Internet” and you’ll see them as college kids just out of the dorms. The chasm of age and gender bias can be particularly hard to breach.
An article in Pavement Pieces by Elizabeth Vulaj underscored the problem women boomers face in this underperforming job market. “Some of the challenges people in the workplace face is ageism, and it’s even harder for women,” said Aurora Salamone, Special Advisor at The New York City Department of Aging. Tory Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire, a career recruiting website geared towards college-educated women noted a problem many successful women face, “Having a higher salary or higher salary history can hurt your chances of getting hired,” said Johnson.
So where do you start? How do you combat the double whammy of age and gender bias? Some suggestions:
Show Your Tech Savvy
For some reason, HR managers and recruiters believe that older women are less tech savvy than men. It’s an old stereotype and long discarded by many, but it stubbornly hangs on in the minds of some. So sell your technical knowledge—Internet, management software, and any IT background you have. Same thing during the interview. Bury all notions that you’re a “dial phone” applicant who will pester staff and supervisors with non-stop technical questions.
Show Your LinkedIn Presence
If you don’t have a presence on LinkedIn, get one. If you do, make it shine. Ask past employers for references you can post. Include content that shows you’re up to speed on issues about your potential employer’s industry. Have a professional photographer take your photo and work with him or her to make sure you look as young as possible—angles, lighting, make-up, etc. And do wear clothes that are age appropriate.
Show Your Energy
If you’re lucky enough to get that all-important interview, make sure you exude all the energy and vitality you can muster. In her article, How Women Job Seekers Can Beat Age Discrimination, Kerry Hannon quotes executive career coach Beverly Jones, founder of Clearways Consulting, “The vital first step in fighting ageism is to be physically fit, energetic, and positive in attitude.” If you have to, join a gym, go on a diet, get a little sun on your face. You don’t want to walk in looking creaky and sapped of energy.
Are you over 50, female and looking for a job? Employers are looking for your experience and maturity. But you'll have to show you're up to the job.
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