New Evidence of Awful Age Discrimination in the Workplace: Protect Your Livelihood (and Future Retirement)

Old. Venerable. Elderly. Veteran. Senior. Long in the tooth. Geriatric. Mature. Seasoned. Geezer. Expert. Grey haired. 50. 60. 70. 80. 90…  No matter what you call it (positive or negative), your age should not matter when it comes to jobs.  However, new research indicates that age discrimination is a very real and measurable thing.

Age Discrimination in the Workplace

This is bad news to the masses of Americans in their 50s, 60s and even 70s who want to keep working.  A retirement job or a delayed retirement is a huge part of many people’s retirement plan.

New Evidence of Age Discrimination

Research abounds that documents age discrimination.  A 2013 AARP study found that 64% of older workers (ages 45-74) have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.

A more recent and significant study from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco has found that older workers, especially women, experience age discrimination in hiring.  Researchers created 40,000 realistic but fictitious resumes for applicants to a variety of jobs.  The resumes listed identical backgrounds — only differing by age and gender.  The study found that older workers got fewer callbacks — a call to interview for the job — than younger applicants:

  • The oldest group of female applicants for administrative jobs had a callback rate of 7.6% — nearly half the rate of 14.4% for the youngest group.  For sales jobs, the older women had an 18.4% callback rate vs. 28.7% for the younger applicants.
  • The oldest group of male applicants for sales jobs had a callback rate of 14.7% vs. 20.9% for the youngest group.

Are You a Victim of Age Discrimination? Resources for You

Age discrimination happens in many different ways:

  • Being passed up for a raise due to age.
  • Being passed up for a promotion due to age.
  • Getting laid off due to age.
  • Not getting hired due to age.
  • Denied training due to age.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that protects workers and job applicants age 40 and over from age-based discrimination.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers additional information and services to victims of age discrimination.

What You Can Do to Combat Age Discrimination in Your Job Search

Be Confident: It is important to note that study after study has found that there is no real basis for age discrimination.  If you feel you can do the job, there is nothing about your age that says you can not and there is research to back you up.  Cognitive thinking, commitment, productivity, reliability, work ethic, creativity, organization, writing, problem solving and other key job skills do not wane with age alone.

Get Online: According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, 77% of employer’s are using social networks to find applicants. And, 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn.

Keep Your Resume to One Page: Sure, you’ve got pages of experience, but don’t make the hiring manager wade through your life history.  Keep your resume short, sweet and to the point.

Network: Knowing someone — or, knowing someone who knows someone — is the best way to get a job.  And, luckily, networking has never been easier.  Get yourself on LinkedIn and expand your network exponentially.

Be Flexible:  If you are flexible and open to learning new things and accepting feedback and change, then you should be okay.  If you are having a hard time, look for a workshop or career counselor who could help you.

Research: Find out as much as you can about the person interviewing you, the job, the company and the industry.  Go to the interview prepared.

Seek Part Time Work: “Rumor has it that lots of companies will pay ‘over 50s’ good pay for experience—as long as they are not full-time and eligible for health insurance.”

Get Help: There are numerous organizations designed to help older job applicants find work.

  • AARP Employer Pledge Program
  • Retired Brains
  • Seniors4Hire

Know Fair Compensation: Pay scales shift and change.  Depending on the job you are seeking, you should have realistic expectations for your compensation.  It may be lower than you would like.

Can’t Join Em, Beat Em:  More and more older Americans are becoming entrepreneurs — starting their own businesses and becoming their own bosses with their years of experience.

Keep Your Job: Don’t Be a Victim of Age Discrimination

If you are still working and want to keep your job as you age, here are a few tips:

Be Curious: Intellectual curiosity will help you get a job, as well as keep a job.  Keep learning. While you probably have a lot of experience, always ask questions.

Stay Positive:  It is important that you keep your enthusiasm for your job and be willing to embrace change and new ideas.

Be Focused and Vital:  Know what is important about your job and focus on that.

Care About How You Look Within Reason: Stories abound about people getting Botox injections and dying their hair to try to give the appearance of being young at work. However, these treatments can sometimes highlight age rather than mask it.  Be yourself and remember why they hired you to begin with.  If you do a good job and deliver what is expected — or more — then your age really should not matter.

Know Ageist Stereotypes Won’t Hold Up:  A New York Times article on age discrimination says this: “Not one negative stereotype about older workers holds up under scrutiny. Abundant data show that they’re reliable, handle stress well, master new skills and are the most engaged of all workers when offered the chance to grow and advance on the job. Older people might take longer to accomplish a given task, but they make fewer mistakes. They take longer to recover from injury but hurt themselves less often. It’s a wash. Motivation and effort affect output far more than age does.”

Maintain Relationships: It is important for you to maintain good relationships with your supervisors and co workers.

Stay Current: The world is changing pretty quickly.  No matter your industry or the type of job you are seeking, you need to stay current.  Keep learning new things.

Have a Back Up Plan: If you are worried about age discrimination, think through your options carefully.  Stay connected to other companies where you might be able to work and think about what you would do if you lost your job.  Can you consult? Start your own company? Find another job? Or, might you be ready and prepared to retire?

How Long Do You Need to Work?  Do You Have a Retirement Plan?

Knowing that your current job and job prospects have a somewhat precarious nature to them, it is important to have a good retirement plan in place.  You should know what you have and what you need for a secure future.

Named a best retirement calculator by the by the American Association of Individual Investor’s (AAII), the NewRetirement retirement calculator is a powerful and very personalized tool that makes it easy to get started and maintain a detailed plan.

See how different work scenarios impact your retirement plan


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