How to Get Around Age Discrimination When How to Get Around Age Discrimination When You Need to WorkYou Need to Work

Ageism is a hot topic, which is both bad and good news. The downside is that age discrimination is rampant in the workplace . The upside is that as more Baby Boomers run into this problem, they’re speaking up about it and offering suggestions for finding jobs that make the most of older workers’ skills. Here’s what you may face, and how to cope.

The Washington Post recently ran a feature by Lydia DePillis on how pervasive ageism is in the workplace. One of the subjects of that article, author Ashton Applewhite, wrote a New York Times column about the problem that all workers will face eventually. Older jobseekers need to know the points they make.

Age discrimination is common and widespread

According to Applewhite, more than 1.5 million US adults over age 50 can’t find jobs, even during this economic recovery. DePillis reported that jobseekers over age 55 are much more likely to fall into the “long-term unemployed” category reserved for workers who’ve gone 27 weeks or longer between jobs.

Age discrimination starts much earlier than most people realize

Ageism is sometimes baked into the hiring process, starting with job postings designed to encourage young applicants and discourage older ones. Scan a typical selection of job postings and, as DePillis noted, you’ll see plenty that ask for “young” people or “recent college graduates,” even though the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that these types of postings may violate the law.

Surprisingly, age discrimination affects workers far younger than 55, too. Women, in particular, start feeling the impact of age discrimination by employers around age 35, according to an in-depth report by PBS Newshour.

It’s hard to prove age discrimination

Because the number of age-discrimination complaints against employers is increasing, and because the EEOC doesn’t have the resources to investigate them in a timely way, companies are unlikely to face consequences for passing over older workers for promotions or ignoring older applicants. What’s more, not all employers are required to abide by the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Even if you have a case, the AARP cautions, pursuing a claim “can be emotionally and financially draining, and you may never get your day in court.”

Working around age-discrimination barriers

Of course, some employers value the experience that older workers bring to their jobs. To find them and to improve your job-search odds, Forbes has some specific suggestions.

Network like it’s your job

Join professional groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networks relevant to your profession. Go to local career meetups and tap into senior job training programs in your area. Follow up with people you meet and share information they might find helpful. The connections you make can lead to your next job, thanks to people who can vouch for you and recommend you to hiring managers.

Take care of yourself

The experts interviewed by Forbes recommend staying physically active so that you project energy, stamina, and smart self-care. If you’re not already exercising regularly, talk to your doctor about the best way to start.

Sharpen your skills

Older workers face the stereotype that they can’t learn new things or don’t keep up with changes, so the more you can disprove that, the better off you’ll be. Online classes, community college courses, and professional continuing education units on your resume show you’re willing, able, and eager to keep learning the skills employers need.

There’s more information about working after retirement age on the blog.


Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.


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