As a Career Coach, I’ve met dozens of job seekers who've felt plagued by employment discrimination.
What is employment discrimination?
It is the basis of hiring decisions on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
In retrospect, when I first started my coaching business I was certain that I'd be working mostly with millennials because:
Age plays a factor in experience level, and experience outweighs education in today's job market; and
Stereotypes exist about the work ethics of millennial workers and their ‘sense of entitlement.’
Statistics even show that on average, millennials change jobs 5 to 6 times within 2-3 years. They also represent millennials are the least engaged group in the workplace. So I figured this generation would find coaching most critical. But, what is interesting was the pattern of Generation X workers soliciting for coaching—complaining of being unable to find satisfying work specifically due to their age.
Ever since Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed into law, it has made employment discrimination illegal against someone because of, amongst other things, her age. Despite the laws only a fool would suggest that discrimination has been completely eradicated. The fact of the matter is - hiring mangers would never openly tell you to your face they think you're too old. Rather, the curse of discrimination is most often silent.
Here are some ugly truths:
We live in a youth-centered culture, and your appearance may not appear as youthful as it once did.
The higher you climb the professional ladder - the fewer opportunities are afforded to you because employers assume you require more money—which’ll cost the company more.
There are adult learning theories that assert you may be a ‘know-it-all’ or potentially pose problems for management.
You may be seen as not being current with applications of technology.
While age discrimination is totally unjust and illegal, it’s easy to point the finger of blame and slowly resign yourself to diminished horizons. As this form of discrimination has nothing to do with your ability to do the job, it’s best to fight back with experience, understanding and the streets smarts you gained through your years.
How are employers getting away with it?
The issue is that when you don’t get hired - you rarely find out the candidate who got the offer. It proves difficult to be able to explain to the court that this person was less fit for the job when you don't really understand the intimate details about their background.
You have the burden of proof as the accuser to show that the company looked more favorably upon the other candidate for discriminatory reasons. Again, this is very difficult to provide, which is why a great percentage of employment discrimination cases do not prevail…
Here are some ways for job seekers can beat age discrimination:
(1) Make your resume age discrimination proof:
Hiring managers can just guess an applicant's age based on how they're presented on their resume. Here’s what to do:
If you have tons of job experience, don't list all of it. It can give an idea about the age group you belong in.
Use “Additional Experience” to state relevant work history that's older than 10-12 years and list the position and title only.
Stick with job experience that's most relevant to the job description. Meaning, if that only includes your last 3 jobs then leave all that other stuff off (it's probably irrelevant by now anyway).
Don’t list your graduation date. Although people continue/pursue education at all age levels, some employers still think they know whether you're Generation X or Y based on college graduation dates.
Do away with old school techniques: (1) Microsoft templates; (2) stating ‘references upon request' on your resume; or (3) using objective statements.
Get rid of email accounts such as AOL, Yahoo!, etc. if you use them (they signal you've got to be 40 or over) and sign up for a Gmail account.
(2) Master the questions of age on the interview:
An interviewer may be bold enough to ask you directly what age category you fall in. Although questions concerning age can typically be considered illegal, this sometimes doesn’t stop the interviewer from asking. Regardless, it wouldn’t advance your candidacy to take offense to the question, so let’s explore ways you can better answer this:
“It’s interesting that you should ask. I just turned 49, and this give me years of experience doing exactly what’s demanded of the job. In my years of experience, I’ve been exposed to all sorts of situations and environments. I have also made my share of mistakes on someone else’s dime, and have learned from those mistakes greatly (Smile). The greatest benefit of my experience level of all is that ______________.”
And then fill in the blank with benefit statements relevant to the job.
(3) Manage your appearance:
Your personal appearance has a huge impact on fighting age discrimination. We live in a youth-centered culture where appearance of clothes, hair and skin can say a lot about your ability to fit in the work culture. You need to everything you can to maintain the vibrancy about your appearance.
(4) Seek opportunities at smaller companies:
Smaller companies are more than likely growth-focused, whereas larger companies may aim to cut costs. As a seasoned worker, you can leverage your maturity as someone who may serve as a great benefit because you have likely encountered and solved problems before that exist in the organization. In this type of culture, hiring managers may likely see your wisdom and depth of experience very valuable.
Although illegal, employment discrimination still occurs. While you can't control it from happening, you can give it a great fight.
Now, I'd love to hear from you! Comment below on how these truths have impacted you.