9 Tips for Baby Boomers Who Face Age Discrimination

Memo to the Millennial generation: Don’t overlook the value of your baby-boomer co-workers. They can be assets in your careers, if you keep an open mind.

Otherwise, you’ll pay a price. What goes around does come around.

Let’s face it. It’s ridiculous, but senior workers face the stigma of appearing too old at work. Countless baby boomers in many sectors — from broadcasting to healthcare — have complained to me about age discrimination either at their work or in their job searches.

Google the term, “age discrimination cases.” You’ll see millions of results that include many big companies that especially should know better.

bm&w at ambro www.freedigitalphotos.netIn fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the number of age discrimination cases skyrocketed about 40 percent from 1997 to 2012.

The tech sector is guilty of ageism, too, which is why salaries have been stagnant for seasoned professionals (see Human Resources: 2 Emerging Trends in Technology). 

But candidly, when I was in my twenties, anyone over 30 was considered over-the-hill and often was not to be trusted. That was the philosophy of my peers, too. But I soon learned that my seasoned co-workers were very savvy and had a lot to offer when given a chance.

One, in particular, gave me daily valuable critiques on my newscasting when I was a young radio journalist in southern California. His name was Larry Shields. He taught me how to sound better-prepared on-the-air and how to talk “with” our listeners — not “at them.” He was also a versatile top-rated announcer.

Thanks, in part, to his expertise, our AM-FM combo stations captured a 55-share of the audience in the nation’s 26th largest market — a record that still stands for any million market. All of us employees deeply appreciated Larry. One of whom still passes it forward (see Helpful Career, Biz Tips from UCLA’s Longtime Broadcaster). 

It was such a positive experience for me, I later sought the opinions of four other mentors in my career endeavors. It’s why I’m a strong advocate for mentoring — giving and taking (see Make the Best Investment to Sustain Your Career). 

OK, now that I’ve got ageism off my chest, to avert the appearance of being too old, here are nine tips:

1. Be contemporary in current trends — news and social media topics. You don’t have to become an expert, just have an awareness.

Regularly visit the Web sites that will help you, such as Mashable, and sign up for newsletters. Launch accounts on sites, especially StumbleUpon, Twitter and Facebook. Scan them regularly to stay current on topics.

What goes around does come around.

3. Get up-to-date on your e-mail use. If you don’t have accounts provided by your Internet service provider, get a Google Gmail account.

3. Don’t divulge more than necessary on your resume. Unless you’re competing for a C-Suite position, only list your last two decades of experience.

5. Be a good listener and don’t speak with finality. Ask open-ended questions to show your interest in others (e.g., “What are your vacation plans?” Or “How did your daughter’s recital go?” Listen carefully to their responses.

Don’t give advice unless you’re asked. There’s nothing more annoying than a co-worker who is a know-it-all. Don’t appear to be lecturing your co-workers.

6. Pay attention to the top of your head. Get a good haircut, which offsets gray hair. Be cautious if you color your hair. Most people who dye their hair back to black look silly. Go for a warmer-looking color or highlights. 

7. Wear trendy accessories. You don’t have to over haul your image to look like a Millennial, just do little things like wearing a contemporary topcoat or carry a trendy handbag.

8. If you get a younger person as a boss, don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world and you can be successful (see 6 Tips for Baby Boomers to Cope with a Younger Boss).

9. While making a few updates, maintain your integrity, and be authentic and natural. Just be yourself. If you have a tendency to dress better than your peers, that’s OK. Wear what makes you feel comfortable. When in doubt, dress as becomingly as you can.

Personally, I once worked for a broadcast company where suits weren’t the norm in the newsroom and it was frowned upon by a difficult boss, but a beloved mentor advised me to be true to myself. I was soon let go by the boss who wore caftans presumably because of his weight.

My mentor’s counsel paid off. A competing employer told me in an interview: “We checked you out, and learned you are authentically professional compared to the rest of that staff. Call us Monday if you want the job.”

On Monday morning, I remembered something else my mentor once told me: “Do the footwork, literally.” So I didn’t call. I put on a suit and went down to the station to claim my job. Not only did I get to work for a more prestigious company, it put me in a position to earn two national awards and a regional award.

From the Coach’s Corner, more career tips:

8 Tips to Boost Your Career with Shameless Self-Promotion — Some of the best tips ever given to me – at a pivotal point in my career – were given to me in the 1980s by one of the nation’s pioneers in radio and TV. 

Is Your Career Stalled? Turbo Charge Your Personal Brand — Perhaps you’re struggling in a job search. You’re ambitious but underemployed, or worse – unemployed. You’re not alone. Millions of professionals are trying to solve similar puzzles. 

How Women Can Enhance Their Careers via Group Decision-Making — In group decision-making, women often participate 75 percent less than their proportional representation when they’re outnumbered in gender, according to a study. It found that “having a seat at the table is very different than having a voice.” 

Need a Career Change? 10 Steps for a Career Makeover — So you think you want to change careers. Or perhaps you need a career makeover. You’re not alone. Professionals of all stripes have found they need to retool their careers or re-engineer themselves. 

10 Strategies to Overcome Stress and Energize Your Career — If job stress is slowing you down, you can jumpstart your career with these 10 reminders. 

“Enter every activity without giving mental recognition to the possibility of defeat. Concentrate on your strengths, instead of your weaknesses… on your powers, instead of your problems.”  

Paul J. Meyer


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 

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