For aging executives, here is the cardinal rule: do not make it easy for prospective employers (and they’re typically young recruiters) to discriminate against you.Sadly true, some recruiters and employers are age bigots. If you are older than their mind’s-eye vision of their ideal candidate you won’t be considered regardless of your relevant experience or accomplishments. No explanations. Sometimes there is not even an acknowledgement that you submitted a resume.
Bigotry is not about hate, but ignorance. In this case, candidates can do something to fight that misguided point of view. Here is what we advise our candidates:
- Be physically fit. Being overweight saps energy, creates increased risks for serious disease and sends a bad message to the employer or recruiter. Having trouble walking up a flight of steps at an interview — a trick some employers/recruiters use — creates a bad atmospheric that you may not be able to overcome with your prior record of achievement. If you cannot lose the weight through improved diet and exercise, then consult your physician. (Don’t do this just for the job, do it for yourself and your family.)
- Embrace change, do not complain about it. While this is not necessarily age-specific advice, older executives are more likely to resist transformational change than their younger counterparts. Older people are sometimes seen as set in their ways. See the change as opportunity, not a threat.
- You have more experience and wisdom, use it. Older executives, on any given day, are more experienced and wiser than their youthful counterparts, many of whom are trying to figure it on the fly. Be a good mentor/coach and trusted adviser, someone the up-and-comers trust, not disrespect.
- Master the digital age, from the use of social media and smartphones to mobile applications. Understand how these powerful tools can be instrumental in healthcare strategy.
- Stay up to date on issues. Transformational change brings a tsunami of programs, regulations and opportunities for improved performance, or even new businesses. Read, read and, when you have some spare time, read more. Attend local and regional meetings whenever possible to reinforce that which you learn from other information sources. If you are not on top of the information, you just make it easier to be eliminated.
- Interviewing today is very different from when today’s senior executives entered this profession. Understand these changes — what employers are looking and listening for. Submit resumes that reflect the specific language of the job description. Emphasize your relevant achievements that match those in the job posting. Submitting the same resume for every job is like wearing a sign that says, “I Don’t Get It.”
Above all else, be confident. If you look good, feel good, possess the energy and up-to-date industry knowledge and, can demonstrate that you are “with it” in terms of the digital age, you can go a long way to diminish age bigotry.