Age discrimination against older workers is an issue that exists across most industries. Officially, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are 40 or older. This is a difficult law to enforce and many workers who are close to or over 50 in particular often feel employers overlook them.
Unfortunately, security clearance holders and applicants are not immune to age discrimination. But your experience is an asset, not a liability; use age to your advantage. Here are six ways to tackle age discrimination.
1. Remain current
Stay abreast of the most current developments and trends in your field. Not only should you be familiar with what’s changed, take training or coursework in these areas to enhance your knowledge. This could be in the form of free or paid online training, or in-person workshops or courses.
2. Learn the latest technology
Invest time learning the tools you do not know well and will need to use in the job you are targeting, whether it’s Microsoft Word, Salesforce, or Slack. If you’re in a technical field, it’s an absolute necessity to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and how to use them. See which certifications may be available and useful in your position; some employers may reimburse you for them. While your IT skills from 1985 may still come in handy, you need to come up to speed on the latest applications and software.
3. Be a thought leader
When you’re seen as an expert in your field, you build credibility. There are so many different ways to establish yourself as a thought leader thanks to the internet. You can author pieces and publish them on your social media profiles. You can also answer questions on group discussions to showcase your knowledge. You can write blogs on your own website, or articles for a trade journal, or industry publication (You could even contribute to ClearanceJobs!). Pitch yourself as a speaker to local industry panels or conferences.
4. Identify strategic community leadership positions
Assuming strategic leadership roles in your community, whether it’s as a volunteer coordinator or board member, helps you stand out from the crowd. This shows you are applying your know-how outside of work, and you are indeed an expert in a particular area.
5. Keep up with your contacts
While this is vital for people at any stage of their career, this is particularly important as you age. It may be helpful to use a spreadsheet or calendar to keep track of correspondence with key people in your network and remind yourself to get in touch with them every four to six months. If you wait to re-engage with people until you need them to send your resume to someone, you may be out of luck. Ongoing communications are essential to maintaining a good impression and getting the help you need when you really need it. If you can schedule coffee meetings or brief phone calls to catch up, that makes the relationship even more valuable and sustainable over the long-term.
6. Broad experience equals extensive knowledge
If you feel like you are experiencing age discrimination in discussions with an employer, tell them exactly what you would do in the position to make their business better. For example, describe the specifics of a training program you would develop, or how you would empower a sales team to increase their numbers.
While it may seem expensive to an employer to hire you, it could end up being a lot more expensive to hire several inexperienced people who end up not working out. Don’t be afraid to mention that if the discussion reaches a point where you are being told that you are too expensive and/or have too much experience for a job.
The best thing you can do is emphasize how your comprehensive knowledge across your field will enable you to do a few specific things to improve their bottom line or operations – and spell it out. It will be hard for an inexperienced person to make the same argument without practical experience to substantiate it. If you’ve also kept current in your field and are seen as an expert in your field, you’ll have an even better chance at convincing the employer that you’re the right choice.