Pinsky: Ageism is real, more prevalent as population changes

What about age? Is it going to be an issue? Is anyone going to consider hiring me?

As a career counselor, I often get asked these questions — typically, by clients in their 50s and 60s who have experienced some form of age bias on the job.

Ageism is real. It happens. Age discrimination has become more prevalent as older workers delay retirement and choose to remain in the workforce longer.

It is a serious issue that deserves attention however age discrimination is not inevitable. I still believe that most companies and hiring managers are looking for the most qualified workers —  regardless of age.

Whether you have experienced age discrimination firsthand or you are just wondering how your age might affect a job search, here are steps you can take to stand up to ageism at work.

Refresh your resumé — Present your skills and experience in a current and contemporary style. Include work history from the past 10 to 15 years and focus on recent accomplishments. In addition, using a modern font and format sends the message that you are energized about your career.

Seek out employers who value diversity — Learn about companies known for promoting diversity and inclusion. Research organizations with high levels of job satisfaction, low turnover and welcoming cultures. Then, focus your networking and job search efforts accordingly.

Be savvy in your search — Read job postings carefully. You can glean a lot about company culture from the language used to attract talent. Steer clear of offensive and off-putting job ads. For example, if a job posting reads, “seeking new grads and digital natives,” older workers can focus their attention on other opportunities.

Speak respectfully — Avoid saying, “I had a senior moment” or “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” These common phrases reinforce myths and stereotypes about older workers. Likewise, do not make disparaging remarks about “those darn millennials.” Stay confident in what you can contribute and avoid perpetuating age related biases.

Commit to continual learning — Regardless of our age or the stage of our careers, it is vital that we stay current with the key technical and soft skills needed in our fields. Identify areas that need refreshing and continually seek out training to ensure you remain productive and valuable.

Notice age bias — If you feel you are being treated unfairly due to your age, don’t shrug it off. Document situations or comments that have impacted you. Many companies do not have verbiage in their handbooks about age discrimination. It is up to employees and job candidates to point out possible bias. Documenting issues will ensure you provide clear feedback.

Defend your rights — If you believe you have been discriminated against, a good first step is to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC). It is important to note that recent analysis conducted by the Washington Post of more than 200,000 EEOC age-related claims showed that less than 1 percent resulted in discrimination charges.

According to senior leadership at the EEOC, the agency is making significant efforts to focus on age discrimination. File a claim and then consider engaging private counsel. If you believe you have been passed over for a job, demoted or terminated solely based on your age, talk to an employment law attorney.

Age discrimination can be difficult to identify, much less combat. In a culture that inherently values youth, ageism often seems far too acceptable. Change begins when we acknowledge there is a problem. Real change will take place when the generations join together to create workplaces that are respectful and inclusive for all.

Carrie Pinsky LPC is a career counselor and job search coach in private practice at Pink Sky Career Counseling. Reach her at carrie@pink-sky.net or 970-225-0772.