Speaking at the Engineering Symposium in Portland recently, I had 2 conversations back to back that were exactly the same.
Now, I wasn't surprised, when speaking to a group of 100 engineers, ALL of them much smarter than me. I also wasn't surprised to see many baby-boomers in the audience. So the conversations I had after my presentation were expected.
Each person who came up to me afterward expressed some concerns about using a photograph on their LinkedIn profile. Especially since their hair is graying.
What are the social/employment implications of being passed over based on your age?
Here was my response, and for older (baby-boomer and older generations) readers, you might find some value in these 2 strategies.
First, a disclaimer. I'm not condoning ageism. It's a sad fact Ageism and any other kind of '-ism' exists. My uncle had to lie for years about his age just for the privilege of keeping his job in the dry goods industry. We expect some kind of litigation in the near future about this, but so far, there is no precedent.
Therefore, this post is not going to focus on these social implications. I will focus on what you can do about it.
Profile Photo Strategy 1: Re-frame Age
In many cultures, age carries with it a sense of wisdom, social status and authority. Many Asian and Latin American cultures honor and respect their older generations.
One way to combat a negative perception of age is to simply re-frame it. Let's start playing with new words, such as: experienced, seasoned, proven and still passionate.
Remember many people simply mirror your own attitudes and beliefs. If you can see your age as an asset and manifest that belief in your profile and online, chances are you'll be perceived in that way as well.
So strategy 1 is to leave your photo alone, but re-frame your brand into one where age is couched in age-positive words.
Strategy 2: Youth by Association
The second strategy is to take another look at your photo and use a marketing strategy called, “Brand Association."
Brand Association is when you leverage the brand message of something else, and through proximity, make those characteristics apply to you. Marketing people do this all the time.
Notice how some websites have a “featured on" and then a logo of some news network? They are associating the authority of a news network to their brand.
We will use a similar approach for your profile photo. If you want to stay authentic and not Photoshop on 20 years of youth, just to get stares when you show up for the interview, then this is the best approach.
Let's think of some activities or images that have “youth" associated with them. Perhaps you have a hobby that is youthful, like hiking, biking or indoor soccer. Perhaps there is a place you like to visit that has youth associated with it, like Disney Land, water parks, a sporting event. The brainstorm will be unique to everyone.
Now you should find a way of incorporating those images into your profile photo.
Make a Splash
By the way, this advice isn't just for the older generations combating ageism. The same strategies can be employed by the younger generations facing the same challenge.
The irony was just after my 2 conversations with 2 baby-boomers, I had a Gen-Y engineer come up to me and ask about the same exact issue. “I'm younger than the others," he said, “but I'm just as qualified. What can I do to combat Ageism."
As always, you comments are welcome.
Joshua Waldman helps frustrated job seekers leverage social media to find work FAST! He is the founder of CareerEnlightenment.com and the author of the new book, "Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies." Sign-up for his newsletter today and get access to his exclusive training videos for FREE.Read more » articles by this approved expert.