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The Aging Marketplace

Older Workers Face Challenges in Job Hunting

Whether or not employers want to admit it, there is something of a bias against hiring older workers.  

And there are three primary factors affecting whether or not they get a job: age, appearance and attitude, says business psychologist Steven Laser in his book, “Out-of-Work and Over-40.” He calls those factors “the three As.”

Nearly 18 percent – 2,200 active customers 55 and older – are seeking work locally, says Dana Barton, business relations and employment development director for the Pikes Peak Workforce Center in Colorado Springs. 

Let’s Talk About Age

First of all, employers are not allowed to ask your age she says. “It’s completely illegal.”

That means it’s up to the job applicant to present the best impression he or she can without giving away age. 

“We tell our clients to eliminate dates on their resume – there’s nothing wrong with that,” says Pat Lightfoot, employment specialist with AARP locally. “And there’s usually no reason to go back more than three jobs.”

Do have that older information with you if you get an in-person interview, however, she adds. “You can say, ‘for several years, I did this or that,’ rather than “I did that 30 years ago.’”

There are other ways to hide your age.

“If the job description says you need a minimum of five years of experience in something (and you have 20), you can just say on your application that you have five-plus years of that experience,” Barton says.

Appearance is Important

Although she’s never going to tell someone to dye their hair, Barton will tell them to dress appropriately for the workplace. 

“If it’s a hip, younger looking workplace, and you’ll have public contact, try to blend in. Get some cool glasses or something.  If you’re behind the scenes, in an office and not in touch with the public, you can be more relaxed about all that. Dress for your job and for your industry.”

In any case, dress up for the interview, Lightfofoot says, and suggests looking at yourself in a full-length mirror before going to a job interview.

“Ask yourself, ‘Would I hire that person?’ If you have any hesitation about what you’re wearing, change it.”

Attitude Rules

“Angry, bitter and resentful job applicants do little to help their cause,” Laser says. 

“Don’t focus on the past,” Barton advises. “Instead of saying, ‘Well I did it this way for 40 years,’ say ‘I’m looking forward to learning a new way of doing things.’ ” 

Change is inevitable and it’s happening faster all the time, she adds.

Stay relevant, she says. “I’d add a fourth A to the list: adapt.”

If a worker doesn’t know how to use a computer, it’s going to affect many job possibilities. There are lots of ways to learn, and employers are looking for workers who are willing to do just that. 

“One thing they need to remember is that, if they’ve been laid off or lost a job, they may not find a job at the same level as the one they left.” Barton says. “They may have to take a few steps back, learn a new job, then move up to the level where they were.

“It’s a hard thing to be humbled,” she says, “but it can pay off big.”

Both agencies offer workshops and resources for older workers. Call the Pikes Peak Workforce Center at 667-3700 or the AARP Foundation at 635-3579.