The other day, I was reading a ‘Dear Abby’ type blog that focused on ageism in hiring, and I thought that topic specifically geared toward the tech industry would be interesting to explore.
Recently, I’ve written a lot about how you can earn skill specific micro certifications and display those skills in a meaningful way on a resume
, in an online portfolio
, and in-person
. As with any ‘advice’ geared post, one always runs the risk of getting hit with the ‘easier said than done’ argument.This may be the case, with ageism being one of only many factors working against us all in the job market. So again, I’ll look to address some ways we can tackle this issue head-on and increase the chances of landing that ‘dream job,’ as I always say.
Recognize the Bias
Before we dive-in, I will give full- disclosure that I am a twenty something, so I will try to approach the topic the least bias that I can.It seems to me that both younger and older hires alike face their fair share of challenges in the job market; millennials having too little experience, while baby boomers having ‘too much.’ (Is there such thing as too much experience?)But there’s no denying the IT industry favors the young. That is one point I will whole-heartedly agree with, especially after doing my research.A controversial Mark Zuckerberg once asserted that, “young people are smarter.” Sounds like a discrimination lawsuit waiting to happen.Unfortunately, this may just have set the tone for ageism in Silicon Valley.According to PayScale, Inc., the median age of workers at Facebook in 2014 was 29, at Amazon and Google, it’s 30. The median age of all American workers, according to the Labor Department, is 42.In the blog post I previously referenced, the author made a valid point. They said the way we address this issue is adopting a sense of understanding from both hiring managers and employees. But, even for hiring managers who are not so understanding, there’s a lesson to be learned.“At the end of the day, a company that won't even look your way because of your age is not a place you want to be,” read the blog. “When experience is viewed as a liability instead of a benefit, it's not a job you'll love or a place where you will succeed. Finding companies and roles that value employees for their skill sets is key to finding professional happiness.”
Focus on your Skills
Still, there are certain things you can do to set the tone to ensure that skills and personality, rather than age, are the focus of your candidacy. (Especially because we know not every hiring manager is perfect.)
- Learn to brag.
More than ever, you should focus your resume (and the interview) around some of your major accomplishments. Be sure to explicitly state the type of technology you’ve worked with, and still do, as well as the type of projects you’ve had a hand in.
- Get hands-on.
It’s one thing to talk about your experience. It’s another to showcase it. Consider working on an open-source project or teaching a course. Now, you can create a course on Cybrary, here
. This is where an online portfolio
may come in handy to best display that work.
- Demonstrate leadership.
Let’s face it- companies expect older workers to have leadership experience, even if they’re not seeking a management role. This lends itself to point#1, but emphasize how you’ve taken charge in the past.
- Have a voice.
Whether you blog, freelance, consult, etc. show that you have an opinion about the current IT trends. If you’re active in conversation on social media, you can leverage that to your advantage as well. Showing you’re up to date on the industry is something employers look for.
- Update your skills.
Getting a skill- specific micro certification
is a great way to guarantee you know just what is needed to get the job done. "Certification gives everyone a lingua franca through which to talk about skills and your experience. It's a shared language that everyone understands. That benchmark means that these hiring decisions can be skills-based and it can level the field so that anyone can participate," says James Stanger, senior director of product development at CompTIA.
- Stay current.
This goes further than updating your skills and being on par with industry news. Pay attention to what is trendy for a specific company. Do most employees use a specific device, contribute to a certain charity or value a particular brand of coffee? This may take some ‘About Page’ investigating, and may even sound silly, but showing you can align with the company culture in lifestyle and workstyle is huge.
- Show your passion.
It’s especially important to convey why you want to work for a specific company. Part of your experience is knowing what best corresponds with your values, and making that parallel to the company you’re interviewing with will make it that much easier for managers to see. Plus, you’ll want to highlight what it is about the industry that you love and why you’re motivated to continue working in it.
- Expand your network.
Utilize your contacts for advice, best practices, testimonials and even job referrals. Word of mouth can go a long way. And knowing how to leverage social networking, a skill that most young professionals seem to have a knack at, is an advantage. Cybrary forums
are a great place to network!
- Be willing to have tough conversations, if needed.
Recognize some of the concerns employers may have and address them head- on. If you believe they’re worried about retention or lack of updated skills, address those concerns in your interview.
- Don’t age yourself.
“Avoid statements that shift the focus to your age. Saying things like "Oh, I'm probably aging myself" in reference to an industry tool or obsolete brand or "I've worked with this system—but not since 2004" isn't helpful. Instead, refer to your experience by employer, not by year,” advises TheMuse.com
- Remember how far you’ve come.
With age comes wisdom, perspective, maturity, experience. Market yourself around these important qualities.
Still having doubts? A recent Dropbox survey of more than 4,000 IT workers found that people over age 55 are actually less likely than their younger colleagues to find using technology in the workplace stressful.Be confident in what you know and take the initiative to work on areas where you may be lacking. With these tips, and the right company values, there’s no boundaries on where you can take your career, at any age.Comment below and share your experiences and/or additional tips!Olivia Lynch (@Cybrary_Olivia)
is the Marketing Manager at Cybrary. Like many of you, she is just getting her toes wet in the field of cyber security. A firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, Olivia considers corny puns and an honest voice essential to any worthwhile blog.