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How can I get employers to focus on my qualifications and not my age?

non-traditional_students-300x216Vincent from Bridgewater University asked: 

I am a older student.  I have an Associate’s in Computer Science and am currently working on a Bachelor’s in Communications with a minor in Computer Science. I am due to graduate in June 2014. I was told by several people that I may have a hard time in the job market based on my age. Is this true? What can I do to improve my chances on getting a job and to get an employer to look past the age issue?

HI Vincent –

First, I commend you for completing your degree. As an older student, you very likely have responsibilities and have experienced challenges that traditional 18-24 year old students just don’t understand.  Kudos to you!

Now to answer your question:

Yes – there are some people who will not be able to look past your age

I would be lyng to you if I told you otherwise, and I will not lie to you.

It is not right, it is not fair, but it is reality.  While I don’t think “age-ism” is as epidemic as some might suggest, it does exist, just as sexism, racism and all the other “isms” exist. All you can do is make sure your age is not an issue for you, because . . .

If your age is an issue for you, it WILL be an issue for employers

What do I mean by that? Sometimes older candidates become preoccupied with their age to the extent that they make it important to the employers.  They do this by overemphasizing, apologizing for or otherwise drawing unnecessary attention to their age on their resumes and cover letters and in their interviews.  If you are constantly bringing up your age, you are telling employers “hey – pay attention to my age – it’s an important part of my candidacy.” Now, most people don’t do this on purpose, it just happens when they get nervous or are unprepared for the interview, or both.

If your words and actions tell an employer that your age is an issue, your age will become an issue the employer will factor in their decision-making; whether you think you are too old or too young for the job.

Sometimes, it’s not your age, it’s your expectations

The only time age is a legitimate factor in hiring is when it genuinely disqualifies you as a candidate for certain positions.  You’re most likely not going to start a new career as a professional athlete if you are more than 30 years old, and you are probably not going to be cast as the lead role in a movie about  a grandfather if you are in your 20s.

Beyond these obvious examples, it is not the age of the candidate that is the biggest  issue, it’s what comes along with that; like the candidate’s expectations.

If you are looking to enter a new career field, entry-level work pays entry-level wages, regardless of how old you are.

Unless you are offering something an employer needs that they value enough to pay extra money to get, that employer will offer you the same level of compensation they are offering every other entry-level candidate.  You may have obligations (a car payment, a mortgage, consumer debt, student loans. etc.) the require you to earn a certain amount of money, but that doesn’t matter to the potential employer.  They are not interested in paying you what you would like to earn or what believe you need to earn.  It’s basic supply and demand economics. If you can’t afford to take the job they have to offer, it’s a money issue not an age issue.

If you are trying to enter a very competitive field, the issue is the level of competition not your age

Some fields are really competitive and therefore really hard to enter.  In other fields, he demand for talent exceeds the supply.  As I look at your two fields of study – computer science and communication – my first comment is that there is greater market demand for computer science graduates than there is for communications graduates.  I don’t mean to demean communication grads (I happen to be one!), I am just stating a fact:  There is a greater need in the job market for graduates with computer sciences degrees than for graduates with communication degrees.  Computer sciences jobs tend to pay better and tend to be easier to find.  Computer sciences is a very competitive field, but the volume of opportunity in computer sciences exceeds the volume of opportunity in communication fields.

If your goal is to move into a communication field, you will face more competition for a smaller pool of jobs that will pay less than those in computer science – regardless of your age.

Vincent, I won’t go on further, because this blog is already getting long and I don’t want you or anyone else to stop reading, and you get the idea.  You will face some resistance because of your age; there is nothing you can do about that.  My advice to you:  Focus on telling the story about why you are a good candidate.  Keep the focus on why employers should want to hire you, and don’t dwell on reasons why they might not want to hire you.

Good luck!

matt-signature

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1 Comment

  1. […] How can I get employers to focus on my qualifications and not my age? […]

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