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How Do You Fight Age Discrimination?

Dear J.T. & Dale: How does one fight age discrimination? I've been out of work for a year and have had five five-minute interviews. I'm in my mid-60s and can't afford to retire. How can I fight age discrimination, if that's what this is? - Robert DALE: You and I, Robert, are old enough to remember when "discriminate" was not a pejorative word. In fact, advertisers boasted that their products were designed for "the discriminating buyer." The Latin root of "to discriminate" means "to distinguish between." So you'll understand my mantra about the workplace: Hiring IS discrimination. Employers have all sorts of preferences/prejudices when it comes to hiring --some prefer young "blank slate" employees, others prefer veteran performers; there are those who hire only MBAs, and those who refuse to hire MBAs; on and on. If we could truly know the mindset of employers, we could assign a Discrimination Index to every person in the job market. If you did that, you'd be grateful for how LITTLE discrimination you actually face. J.T.: The information you sent us is so impressive that I don't see why you aren't finding work. Something doesn't compute. There has to be some other factor at play. The problem might be that you are:
  • Offering expertise that is saturated in the market;
  • Overpricing yourself compared with others who have the same skills; or,
  • Packaging and presenting yourself in a way that doesn't make hiring managers feel you still can perform as well you as you have in the past (for instance, fearing that your techniques are outdated).
This is a case where I would urge you to consider a personal branding specialist. As we become seasoned professionals, we sometimes don't notice that our brand is dated. Working with someone who can give you an honest assessment of your resume, online presence, interview techniques and professional appearance likely will change your results. (I have a list of career coaches at my site, www.workitdaily.com.) DALE: I agree that your materials are impressive. One of the things the coach might tell you is that you are overly impressive. It's hard to find that line between self-promotion and self-indulgence. That's one of the areas where outside assessment, whether from a professional or from former colleagues, can make all the difference. Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Age discrimination image from Shutterstock