On Older Pros Getting Jobs

Older professionals are noticing that it gets harder to advance or to land a job as the years go by.  There are a number of reasons for this, not all rational.  Being aware is the first step to countering likely obstacles.

Most obviously there is the issue of whether an older pro has the necessary grasp of the latest media advances and the newest technologies: the familiarity that comes naturally to digital natives.  But many have kept pace and although digital immigrants, they more than compensate for any lack of fluidity with skills, experience, contacts and knowledge built up over their careers to date.  Not the least of these is the ability to recognize certain situations so that their responses can be based on what they know from experience will work rather than on the winging-it methodology that they certainly used in their twenties.

Herein lies one of the traps.  There is for some nutty reason a desire among many managers to see you sweat. They want to see the cogs turning, the muscles flexing.  A smooth and confident handling of a situation doesn’t always score you the brownie points that can add up to advancement.  If it looks like it’s too easy, then maybe you weren’t trying hard enough, or stretching yourself. Think on this as you glide apparently effortlessly through your familiar tasks.

Another factor is that interviewers and managers are often way younger than the applicant.  A recruiter may be in his twenties and a hiring manager in her thirties.   Employers love to hire a person who reminds them of “the young me.” Well that isn’t going to happen when the applicant is twenty years their senior.  So who are you going to remind them of? Their old boss? Their mom? Your energy and excitement and au courant-ness are your best methods of attack against this.

And then there’s the question of your motivation as an applicant.  In your twenties and thirties, you are ambitious: you are looking for advancement; what drives you is the hope of getting more control. More authority. More status. More money.  More fame.

In your forties and fifties this may be less true.  You are looking to do the work you love and probably looking to be left alone to do what you know you do well.  This is not a model that is familiar to our twenty or thirty something hirer. They don’t admire it.  They don’t know what to do with it.  So it makes them uncomfortable and once that happens, you are sunk.

So I suggest that you consider the dynamic of the situation you find yourself in.  Project what the interviewer may be thinking and feeling.  And work on your own presentation and attitude to put them at ease and to offer them a desirable persona that they can identify with.  This may be the critical step to winning them over.