How Executives Overcome Ageism After 50

John Krautzel
Posted by in Career Advice


Age discrimination is an unfortunate reality of the work sphere that can hinder your job search, and it isn't limited to unskilled older workers just entering the workforce. Even with vast experience and an executive status under your belt, you may have a harder time landing a job after hitting the 50-year mark. Here are a few ways savvy older professionals can overcome age discrimination and increase their chances of scoring a job.

Accepting the Reality of Age Discrimination

Age discrimination is illegal, but that doesn't mean it doesn't still run rampant in the office and interview room. This might manifest itself as potential employers believing you're outdated, not flexible and resistant to change just because you're over age 50. Although this reality is disheartening, don't walk into the interview with a negative attitude. Instead, overcome age discrimination by showing yourself to be the ideal professional regardless of age.

For starters, avoid mentioning the topic of age directly, instead guiding the interviewer's attention toward your strengths. Talk about your background and experience as well as the results to show for it. Continuously engage with interviewer, and ask thoughtful questions.

Staying Up-to-Date on Technology and Trends

Older professionals are up against younger competitors with a knack for tech and Internet solutions. Fight age discrimination by proving that you are just as capable in this area. If you haven't already done so, create social media accounts on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and learn the basics of connecting with people and using each. You should also have a strong handle on the software and tools relevant to your industry, such as the latest versions of Microsoft Word and Excel.

Demonstrating Value

Another way to fight age discrimination is to use your age in your favor. Demonstrate the professional value that you've gained from your years of executive experience, such as knowing when to take risks, knowing how to collaborate and exhibiting good decision-making skills. At the same time, make known that you're flexible and open to making changes to your thinking and work style.

Building a Network

At any stage in life or along the career path, a major component of getting a job is still the people you know. Take time to connect with other industry professionals on and offline. At networking events, smile and be social, coming up with questions and compliments to get conversations flowing. Strengthen your online presence on career networks such as LinkedIn, and ensure your profiles are filled out and up-to-date.

A great way to boost your network is to be of service. Reach out to people you've met, letting them know what you can do for them. Place the same information in your LinkedIn bio. As you help more and more people out, many are happy to someday return the favor.

Age discrimination can dampen your hopes for scoring a fulfilling job, but fear not. These simple practices can help you fight ageism and climb to the top of the candidate list.


Photo courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  • Cynthia Burlette
    Cynthia Burlette

    Great advice! I will be revising my coverletter, again, to include my willingness to share my skills and acquired knowledge with others.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @William Stahl thanks for your comment. I respectfully disagree. You should never lie about anything. They can't ask your age - that is illegal. But they can pretty much figure out how old you are just by your resume. Lying about your age certainly is not going to get you the position. Honesty is always the best policy.

  • william stahl
    william stahl

    just lie about your age and supply false dates, since they can not discriminate against you on the basis of age you are simply only supplying irrelevant information

  • Elaina Hannaford
    Elaina Hannaford

    I have always used my "25 plus years in Customer Service support " in all of my job applications to great success. I stress that my experience with nearly every possible scenario of customer relation is an awesome plus that only time can provide, not just reading about it. When your older like me, you have to sell the idea of the "mature and experienced , and only getting better " concept.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for all of the great comments. @Glen J sorry about the layoff. It's tough to get back in there. Are you using a recruiter who specializes in your field? Have you considered taking your considerable skills and using them in another industry? @Lynne R thanks ever so much for your comments. Hope everyone is paying attention. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Dress for success today -not for success 20 years ago. But don't look ridiculous, either. I have seen it myself - desperate job seekers trying to look like teenagers. Doesn't fool anyone. Be honest about who you are and what you want. Don't try to mold yourself into someone you are not - just to get the job - because then you are stuck with that "someone you are not" for the duration of your employment. @Harold C sorry that you are experiencing that. Have you tried freelancing? I have a great friend who has been battling age discrimination for almost 20 years now. He is not able to get a permanent position but he is able to freelance and has more work than he can handle. @Kelly M thanks for your comment. So very true and we tell job seekers this all of the time but we tell them 10 years, not 15. Realizing, of course, that some things you can't change to make yourself look younger. If they ask for HS grad date - games pretty much over.

  • Kelley M.
    Kelley M.

    For those with 20+ years experience not getting calls back from their resume, have you listed your 20+ years? Don't. After about 15 all you are doing is showing your age. For non executive role, show up to 15 years, for exec, show up to 20-- no more. Take off your college grad year. This should help. It has helped me as a 49 year old HR professional. One commenter was right that the IT tech industry is fast moving and may be tough to compete in later in life. Consider how to apply your transferable skills in other industries if you're hitting a wall. Best of luck to all.

  • Harold C.
    Harold C.

    Has anyone looked at companies eliminating training as a form of age discrimination? Sorry, we're moving to a new computer language which you don't know (even though you know 30 others), so we need to lay you off and hire someone straight out of college who has had a semester of this language (and pay them half what we were paying you).

  • Lynne R.
    Lynne R.

    More one thing - Ladies no pants suits please. No one wears them any more.

  • Lynne R.
    Lynne R.

    I run recruiting for a larger organization. We hire all kinds of people - in fact I can say that I am very proud of your diversity record. I will tell you I am not over 50 but I interview plenty of candidates who are.

    I have one more suggestion for everyone.

    Take a look at your wardrobe and appearance. Most people still have the hairstyle they had in their twenties and many of us get set in our wardrobe styles. The only way you get hired is if you "fit." Make sure that you don't look "old." Don't try to dress 20something but make sure you think through the environment you are interviewing in. Wear a suit if they still wear suits or just a jacket and a pair of pants (no tie) if they are a casual atmosphere. Always dress just a bit above the company standard to show respect and to show you are turning out your best but don't allow yourself to stick out like a sore thumb. Happy hunting!

  • CHUCK HARLAN
    CHUCK HARLAN

    I work in sales and deal directly with executive level ppl all the time. It seems that most of them are over 50. Not sure which industry you are talking about. Maybe you are in the tech world.

  • Glen J.
    Glen J.

    After nearly 35 years of increasingly responsible manufacturing and operations management experience,I find myself at the age of 63, unable to find even the most basic relevant employment opportunities. Two years ago, I was included in a "Workforce Reduction Program" by a Fortune 100 Corporation. Despite doing all of the "right" things, including LinkedIn, Networking, active participation in my Industry association (ISM) I have concluded that all of the folks handing out advice are employed themselves...sometimes I am tempted to say to the "hiring" authority "You are going to get old too". As Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame said "Younger people are simply smarter".

  • Paul F.
    Paul F.

    Working in sales most of my life, I've had success in multiple industries. I've also been "downsized" 3x in the past 10 years, each time surprisingly after closing mega-deals. This saves the company tens of thousands in commissions btw. It's difficult not to sound angry, but here's what I did in the last situation like this. I went from a $100k+ income to accepting a base pay of $36k plus commission with a fortune 100 company. I

  • Shylin C.
    Shylin C.

    I am 55 years old, still work hard and keep young.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for all of the great comments. @Harvey W. it's not just the young who earn an MBA. I was well in my 40's before I earned mine. Also, it is true that companies do not look at resumes anymore. Most companies use ATS to screen through resumes and then a human will review the ones that made the cut. So having a strong resume is the very first step in getting your foot in the door. Keyword laden resume that is. I hear from job seekers every day about the sad state of affairs in the unemployment world when it concerns age. Age discrimination is illegal @David M and you are right - it's still rampant. Not sure what it's going to take to wake up these companies to realize that all of this great talent is just going to waste. @Steve F. you are so very right. It used to be that the rule of thumb is to stay with a company for 5 years before looking elsewhere. Then it changed to 3 years... that was about 10 years ago. Now you are lucky if they stay long enough for the ink to dry on their acceptance letter.

  • David M.
    David M.

    The most accurate part of this post is, sadly, that age discrimination is illegal but still rampant. While one over 50 can remain current in skills, it is far harder to overcome the bias that exists in the interview process. Networking and knowing how to use social media rarely overcome that issue. We are experiencing a generation of lost talent.

  • Steve F.
    Steve F.

    One step further, if I may: by hiring a 20-something, companies run the real risk of having that person leave within 18 months or so for the "next big opportunity." As an older job candidate, I can honestly say I've already done that, and am far more interested in staying in one place where I can make a significant...and ongoing...contribution to the company's success.

  • Lee D.
    Lee D.

    I would always focus on experience first, and education last while reviewing resumes. To add, it does not start at 50, it will hinder the job search as early as 40.

  • Harvey W.
    Harvey W.

    To add and explain the culture problem. If you are a business seeking expansion, re-alignment, or survival. I would rather employ a experienced in the field professional than an MBA under 45 year old. Sorry an MBA does not give licence that you have the hands on experience or expertise to deal with many of todays tricky problems. With over 25 years global experience in a global development of brand dominance . I am now unemployable because of the age barrier. I can if given an opening move to any where in the world and mix immediately with that culture, and produce results. Sorry MBA in business management does not provide that type of exposure or understanding of how to achieve results when dropped in to a mine field of international business. Am I bitter and twisted NO. Employment agencies, and HR do not look beyond their computer loaded key words. No one actually reads a CV anymore. So the dice are loaded to I am sorry to state a lazy culture, of disinformation of personnel who 90% do not really understand the requirements of the position to be filled, and the enormity/cost of when square pegs are put in round holes.

  • Harvey W.
    Harvey W.

    There is a culture problem in all elements of industry globally.

  • Vijayarajan  K.
    Vijayarajan K.

    Absolutely correct. It works. Reach out to people you know and volunteer. It worked for me.Stay mentally young at least by 20 years.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the great comments. @Diane L it sound like you are doing everything you can. Are you reaching out into that network that you grew when you ran your two businesses? Reach out and see what happens. Are you networking on sites like Beyond and LinkedIn? When you include your skills, are you including anything that's outdated? If so, that would be a good place to start weeding things out. Are you up to date on the skills that you will need for the position? Nothing wrong with dropping some work history. The rule of thumb is to only include the past ten years, if possible. Anything over that and companies consider your skills to be outdated. @Caroll S sorry - it is tough when our partners don't understand because they have never walked in your shoes. All you can do is keep on searching and keep on applying. @David U. I have not encountered the same issues using a recruiters or even a temp agency however I don't doubt that they exist. Keep on top of that agency or that recruiter. Call them on a regular schedule. Hold them to task. Yes they want to fill the position but they don't usually just throw someone at it hoping that it will stick. They want this company to use them again so it's in their best interest to find the best possible candidates to send to the hiring company. Do NOT wait for them to call you! Call them. Make yourself a schedule and call them at least weekly. Truly hold them to their commitment to find you a new position. Follow up on everything that you can. When you send your resume out, wait a day or two and then try to find a contact point and follow up on it. The jobs are out there. Keep on keeping on and all the best.

  • PETER GILLEECE
    PETER GILLEECE

    Thanks for the article. I plan on heeding your advice.

  • DIANE L.
    DIANE L.

    Great article. I have run two successful businesses that I founded, I have won awards for my work, I have two published books, I am a professional speaker & trainer and travel writer. Business is tough to find and when applying for jobs - I never get a response. I adapt my resume, I include a well-thought out cover letter, I give specific examples of what I've accomplished and on and on. I even stopped showing more of my work history (which would show even more experience) but because I've had my own businesses for 25 years, they can pretty much figure out my age. I'm over 50 and I think my age and working for myself both put me at a disadvantage. I have very little work due to economic factors and at this point, I would like to have a job, with benefits and the ability to contribute to a great company. It's very frustrating indeed.

  • Caroll S.
    Caroll S.

    I am experiencing all of the same issues with not being able to be hired, I am having issues with my partner not understanding it though. Is anyone else feeling less than from there family or loved ones? Thanks for sharing it helps to know I am not the only mature woman struggling in today's job search.

  • DAVID U.
    DAVID U.

    Keith, I totally agree with you. I'll talk to an agency rep but I know their only goal is to get a body into the organization so they can start making money off that individual. I don't even waste my time calling them back cause I know where they are coming from with regards to placement opportunities.