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Blowing Through Ageism: How to get hired at 70+

ageismI have experienced ageism and blew through it — several times. Pretty much solidly employed all my life, I usually changed jobs by my own choice.

A short history of my careers

I was not terminated until 56 years old. I found a job a few months later, lost that, and then found another relocating from North Carolina to Texas. Then the terminations became relatively frequent.

By Don Harkness

I was laid off at age 63 and spent many months job hunting, taking a part time job in retail at 64 while still looking. At this point, I changed direction and decided to try recruiting. I networked into a new job and career path at 65. I was terminated at age 66. The next day I started a new recruiting job and was terminated three years later. This time I aimed for a part-time recruiting job, and quickly networked into one at 69 and worked until age 76 when I left on my own.

I would still be there if I’d not moved.

Lessons about ageism

There are some lessons about dealing with ageism I’d like to share based on my experience.

Most important, through all I’ve described, I got all my jobs but one via networking and personal contacts. The only successful job application I ever filled out was for the part-time retail job at 64. That was just to keep busy while I job hunted!

1. The personal-contact method is the best and most manageable way to go.

And for now, in this economy, it is the way to go. Any time spent acquiring, restoring, helping and growing your personal contacts is time not wasted.

Remember, when you get an interview, not only do you have a job opportunity, you have a networking opportunity. And that applies to both sides of the table.

2. Damn right, there’s ageism.

The best way to deal with ageism (or age discrimination in hiring) is to ignore it and work your plan the way you feel you need to, and do it via personal contacts. Personal contacts cut to the chase. They know you’re long in the tooth, so the people they refer you to know as well! If the employer doesn’t want older workers, your contacts wouldn’t refer you. So in essence, your contacts are running interference for you, vetting their contacts.

Learn from that. It means that if you are job hunting on your own, without contacts, you must add one key thing to your search criteria. You must limit yourself to employers who don’t give a shit about your age and, even better, those that actually value it and recognize your age is firmly bolted to experience they value.

How do you do that? Adjust your mindset. You are interviewing them with an aim to finding out their attitude about age. If you don’t like what you see and hear, move on.

3. If you want social justice and to eliminate ageism, bless you.

That’s time consuming, expensive and gets strongly in the way of the main objective, getting meaningfully employed. Taking your time to battle ageism fits perfectly into one of my favorite mantras: “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

A really good way to combat ageism is to find your niche and, from there, help others land. In your new job, you can be a walking example that ignoring age is good business. You can ease the way for other “oldies.” Yes, I did this, as a recruiter for a company.

I think the best way to fight ageism is from the inside. Think about this the next time your employer asks you to interview a job applicant — and they’re an oldie.

4. Ageism swings both ways.

Keep this in mind: Ageism is a door that swings both ways. Be prepared to work for younger managers, possibly much younger.

Treat them as you want to be treated. Treat them as your boss. Look at them eye to eye, not down your nose. Park your ego.

If it works out right, your young boss will be perfectly aware you know more than they do. That’s why they hired you! I started working for younger people when I was 39 and it changed little after that.

5. Re-tool.

When I was laid off at age 63 from the computer industry, I did some thinking. High-tech is addicted to youth. I doubted my chances of re-landing in it. It would take intense effort and leaning hard into ageism. I worked 50+ years in software engineering and had ample personal contacts, but I knew this would be a grind.

The truth is, I’d had my fill. I took Social Security at 62. But I didn’t want to retire retire. So I decided to re-tool myself.

Rather than try the same-old thing again, I turned myself into a recruiter. That worked. Again, I did it with the help of personal contacts. This change in direction brought much into focus.

6. Focus.

Once focused on my new objective — to become a recruiter — not only did I make better use of my time, but I could help my contacts to better help me.

Despite much grumbling about recruiters, just about everyone knows a few recruiters. Talking with them got me in the door. The pace of my transition picked up. Was this easy? No, but it was doable.

In my case, I’m a 10th degree black-belt introvert. In a million years I’d never see myself doing this. But I did it. I’m not saying be a recruiter. I’m saying you can move out of a rigid habitual comfort zone. Focus on where you want to go next. If I can, you can.

7. Leverage your age. Pursue smaller companies that value expertise.

I not only changed my primary vocation, but eventually I changed industries. And size of employers, from mega-corporations to small and medium sized businesses. The last one was privately owned.

Both as a job hunter and a recruiter I can tell you that, if you are an older worker, give serious thought to focusing on small businesses. In a huge corporation you’re a statistic. In a small company you are a person, known by name.

And to quote the man who hired me, “I can’t understand the concept of ‘overqualified.’ Why would I turn aside someone with a lot of experience to offer?”

He did not give a hoot about anyone’s age.

If you go this route, you can turn age into an advantage. If, like me, you took Social Security early, you’ll find it not only frees you from chasing benefits, it will free a small business that hires you from messing up its health insurance costs. Believe me, for a small company the words “I don’t need your insurance” can be music to their ears — and for you, it’s a bargaining chip younger people can’t play.

8. Decide what you need.

I understand if you need a paycheck of a certain size. If that’s the case, this is a different discussion because it’s not specifically a problem of age. If you need money, my advice may not be for you.

But if you have some financial flexibility and what you need is to get back into the game, then do your financial homework. Know the difference between what’s nice to have and what’s necessary.

In my case, the “content” of my job has been more important than money. High on my list is an environment where I can work while being “retired” from B.S., stress and company politics.

I was pleasantly surprised at how shoving money and benefits out of the way empowered my job search and strategy. I hope you experience the same thing. I believe life is a trade-off. For everything you give up, you get something in return. Yeah, you may give up some pay, but you’ll get something in its place. If you decide what that is and what it’s worth to you, you may be able to find your way past ageism so you can work as long as you want to.

[UPDATE Feb. 18, 2021]

9. Get in shape

Get in shape” physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally — but particularly physically. Get off your ass and get your mojo going. That really applies to all job hunters, but more so for oldsters! And don’t be surprised if you are talking with interviewers and hiring managers who need to do likewise.

There’s a lot of things in job hunting out of your control, which is why it can be so discouraging and energy draining. But getting and keeping in shape for the hunt is completely under your control and as such offers a sense of accomplishment. And that sense of accomplishment will greatly fuel your search.

If I can do it, so can you.

Sorry for pontificating. The gist of it is, age is an issue if you make it an issue. Stop chasing jobs, and start pursuing companies. Look for ones that equate experience with age. It won’t help you to apply — along with hordes of competitors — to job postings that will use a computer algorithm to select or reject you based on your “keywords.”

People who know you can help you. I’m now 81. Hold that thought. At 76 I was still working because I chose to work, and because I worked with employers that wanted the value of my expertise and age. If I can do it, so can you. Persist.

One more thing. At times I’m bored, drawn to using my business brain again, with urges to set up another part-time gig. My age never enters my mind as a reason not to. I still enjoy the fun thought of contacting someone and saying, “Hi Joe or Joanne, I’m 81 and…”

Don Harkness has been an active participant on the Ask The Headhunter discussion forum since 2004.

Don is a seemingly retired 81-year old warrior from a number of trades. A job hunter, hiring manager and recruiter, both domestically and Internationally, Don can relate to about any career situation you can name.

He worked 35 years for three Fortune 500 computer companies in the bowels of software R&D, mostly on the dark side as a Software Quality Assurance Manager. He lightened that up with tours as Program/Project Manager, Software Development Director, and sundry supporting functions in the computer industry. Don put frosting on that cake with 10+ years in I.T. recruiting. In addition to the school of life, he spent 4 years in the University of Science Math and Culture (U.S.M.C.) and holds an A.A. in Accounting and a B.A. in Business Administration. Don got off the merry-go-round and stopped working when he decided to, at age 76.

Copyright © Don Harkness 2020.

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  1. Taking social security early does not provide health insurance. The current law says one can sign up for Medicare at age 65 – independent of whether or not one has started taking social security. So if one signs up for social security at age 62, with the lowered monthly payments, one still can’t get Medicare until age 65. And social security benefits taken before what is considered in the law to be one’s normal retirement age, finds that additional income is taxed substantially. I believe it’s around $18,000 in 2020 of earned income in addition to early social security benefits before the tax penalty kicks in. Social Security has a good website where this information can be found.

    • I understand and agree. I will be turning 62 next year, so I have been studying up on all of those details.

      I was wondering about that when I read his note/story. However, he would have turned 62 almost 20 years ago, so maybe some of those rules were different back then; not sure.

    • You’re right..I picked up the social security early which gave me some wiggle room on compensation. And COBRA carried me awhile with benefits, and although my 1st recruiting job was 100% commission I found that they offered excellent benefits. Then when Medicare eligible we signed up. opening up opportunities with small companies

      • Don Harkness,
        You have a wealth of management knowledge. I think it would’ve been a nice deal to have worked for you, and with your management style.
        One thing I’ve seen is that older workers need to really sell is showing some enthusiasm and initiative (within reason), and selling value. We also have a tendency to be blunt and not sugar coat our words (usually), and that tends to wither turn of, or intimidate, the more common millennial hiring managers.
        The often unfair and false narrative is that older workers are perceived as burned out, old, tired, unhealthy, donut dunkers, and just looking for a place to “roll over and hide out at”.
        Unfortunately, I’ve seen this play out before, where the older worker lands a new position, but disconnects quickly and rolls over, feeding into this often false narrative.
        Sadly, I’ve come to the painful conclusion that a former colleague of mine, who I lobbied for a management position at my current employer, has basically disconnected after 4 months. The place is toxic, and he took a massive pay cut, but I made him well aware of this prior to pursuing the job.
        Relay a story.
        Yesterday, I went into a local glass shop to get a cracked windshield replaced. The place was a preferred shop per my insurance company. I had to wait for 2 hours to get the new windshield. The Shop Manager, was a guy about 40, and he was the sole guy working. Come to find out, one of his millennial installers quit and walked off the job, while the other millennial installer called in sick (Mondays and Fridays are a national holiday much like my current day job), leaving this poor guy with a backlog of work, and with a string of angry customers. I had a nice, be it short interaction, with the manager.
        They had a “Help Wanted” sign posted on the front door, and it stated that they provide OJT, I’d wager I could have possibly (maybe a stretch, and not exactly what I’m looking for currently) got hired as the manager valued dependability, customer service skills, quality work, and a work ethic.
        Maybe, just maybe, some employers still value these traits among older workers.

        • Thanks for the kind words.
          But I wasn’t born a manager or recruiter…You learn by doing & the doing includes some
          dumb moves. But you don’t have to hit me with a board, I learn from mistakes which I hope
          benefited people I worked with.

          Age is the great equalizer. You can’t run or hide from it, so one best learn to deal with it. Attitude is important in a working environment and no age group has a monopoly on negative ones,

          but I think it’s particularly important for old timers to manage attitude because as time moves on, the probability of working for younger people rises. Who are learning their managerial way, and they can do without old farts who patronize them. The good news is in an uncontrollable world, attitude is one thing every person can completely & equally control. You can choose to have a good one, or bad one.

          And to your point I’ve seen bad oldster attitudes. It’s doubly bad because it can create & embed mistaken negative attitudes in younger managers about the value of older workers per se. Such as they are to be avoided if at all possible (HMUs (High Maintenance Units) or embraced as “no management required” And the damage of a bad attitude is magnified if it involves a managerin his/her formative stages who will adopt a negative attitude forever about older workers & preach it to their peers.

          I was in the military for a hitch. One thing the military does for you is make crystal clear how to drive home who’s boss. It’s on the collar and if you make it a career highly hlghly likely it will be a younger person also likely with an attitude of their own. So I had early attitude adjustment & training which I put to good use.

          As I’ve noted, my last hiring manager was decades younger then me. But he addressed hiring with an underlying appreciation of value. Age=experience=value. There’s no such thing as too much value.

          I looked at my team’s value something akin to a portfolio. I had their resumes, and I had increasing 1st hand knowledge of their hard and soft skills, & I had my own strengths and weaknesses. And I follow another belief, “know thyself” which I bolted to the common sense of covering my weaknesses. Hence hire people that know more then you.

          And when you put that all together you have your team’s “resume” and skills portfolio. All of which at any given time added up to more than I needed…at the given time. But I was also poised to quickly develop and/or respond to new avenues be it product process or service. Because I had some internal consultants to help me with things I or my team had yet to learn.

          I think my last boss operated likewise. Hence there’s no such thing as “over qualified or too old” If a person was OK with not using all of their experiences, it was OK with me. And I built a strong team portfolio.

          I sought to build & manage meritocracies and there’s no place for “isms” in meritocracies. And I’m an optimist who believes enthusiastic smart people grow and learn fast. So in my world potential was an important attribute.

          In a way, admittedly I had to develop this approach. I managed functions that goose stepping tech wizards felt was beneath them. Real men cut code, lesser beings tested it. But I recruited from the same pool, pool full of ego. So I quickly learned to find other pools and go where my peers weren’t looking. I learned to build my own pool of contacts, particularly of promising candidates who I couldn’t hire or they passed me by. And I learned to spot potential, recruit outliers, and oldsters were outliers. Affirmative Action was good business as far as I was concerned. While many peer managers pissed and moaned about intrusion, I looked at it as another pool full of potential.

          And overall I learned to build and grow A Teams. And grow in the broadest sense. I think the # 1 job of a boss is to help people grow…across the board, inside or outside the company. I can’t guarantee people jobs..but I could make them more marketable. Via assignments that afforded the means to grow, and yes the much maligned FRANK performance appraisal.

          This includes cutting people loose if they weren’t working out..or the more usual scenario of downsizing. I’m not being snarky about saying cutting people loose. I had another boss who believed and instilled in me the idea that “you hired them, you owe them the chance of redemption inside or outside” It doesn’t take skill or much time to fire someone, but it does take some skill, and effort to turn poor performers into good ones. As my boss preached, a boss owes someone that effort.

          As a recruiter, this was my foundation. Which translated to spending a lot of time with applicants. Which i think in the long term as far as I was concerned resulted in finding and
          placing good people.

          How I do run on. Over and out

  2. At age 69, I was hired by a large publicly traded company that was self-insured. That I didn’t need insurance probably helped me.

  3. I just turned 61 and, in my case, the insurance (medical [including prescriptions], dental and vision) is important to me and my family. I’m willing to accept lower pay, as long as I can get the insurance with the job. Nowadays, I consider insurance coverage as a good part of the total compensation package.

    With that, I don’t know if this would still be a turnoff, however big the company is.

    What have you folks experienced here? What would you advise here?

    • Bob you didn’t mention if you are looking or employed. If employed and you get thrown under the bus you can carry your benefits via COBRA. I confess that my wife was the benefits expert..but I think COBRA carries you for 18 Months…for a cost. Then you’d be 1.5 years from Medicare.
      Not usually welcome you could buy insurance long enough to carry you.

      Insurance scenarios widely vary. Again in my case I was officially retired twice from 2 different mega providing retirement benefits and a meager pension which we applied to paying for secondary insurance. until via an acquisition it went away. Then we pay for our own secondary & still carry it even with Medicare

      One thing you can assume. or rather don’t assume that small companies have no or poor insurance benefits. We were pleased to find that my 1st job as a recruiter, offered benefits superior to my former biggie corporation administered by a human being.

      If you can swing it, in addition to job hunting, plan worse case and shop around for a package you can afford, & buy your own coverage. Freedom from benefits dependency will open up whole new opportunities

      • Thanks for your feedback Don! Sorry I forgot to mention that I’m not employed full-time and my COBRA coverage has long since expired. I’ve worked part-time and a brief consulting gig, but one offered no insurance and the other’s insurance was very expensive for family coverage. We all have pre-existing conditions, so we rely on ACA and a full-time job’s insurance would likely be better than ACA.

        I do think the smaller company aim is good and I’m gonna gocus more on that (not just for the coverage, but for the lack of bureaucracy too, like you’ve mentioned).

        • Bob, in retrospect, what I think you outlined is what in necessary and most important to you. And that can set the direction of your search.
          try reverse engineering your search & focus on the insurance end and see if you can work your contacts for working their contacts to find targets that won’t blow you off because of insurance concerns.

          It will also to be useful to network your way to people in the insurance business. Not the retail side, but corporate see if you can get a tutorial on the kinds of packages and they are packages they sell to companies, or conversely what small to medium companies typically buy in your area. And how the game is played. By that I mean will hiring someone with existing conditions actually impact their rates? or will adding some age to their demographics do likewise?. I doubt they’ll name names, but they likely could give you the profile of typical clients for the packages they sell, which you could translate to target employers.

    • I think you are right about health insurance. I suspect COBRA will be super expensive but maybe less than the ACA at our age. No health insurance is low cost any longer unless it doesn’t cover anything. I am purchasing mine through the ACA with no subsidy because I don’t qualify for one. It will cost me $1300 a month for just me next year at age 62, with dental insurance on top of that cost. I do purchase good insurance because I added up my actual costs vs the high deductible plans and found paying more per month actually covered more and is cheaper. I have some medical issues.And it’s a priority for me. In my state, the cheap ACA plans have few doctors who take them and they don’t cover my medications. What’s the point if nothing is covered? ACA is the acronym for the Affordable Cate Act, what many call Obamacare.

  4. Really appreciate the perspective, and couldn’t agree more.

  5. Thank you both for a great message!
    I will be 70 next month and both my self generated ventures have merged into a very dynamic income-producing small business.

    When I am not being North Texas Santa® professionally, I help newer Santas by teaching them how to be a better Santa in the photo studio.
    “Santa George” as I am known has a great knack for photographing children of all ages and I now have some steady clients.
    Who doesn’t want to smile for Santa?

    Besides my own photography, Santa George works as a subject for some with some award-winning photographers and has been featured in a book this year “We Are Santa” by Ron Cooper, available on Amazon. All the books proceeds go to Colorado Children’s Hospital.

    In this crazy reindeer-turd of a year, I have also collaborated and assisted in the launch of plexiglas shields for Santa make photography and made national news for a struggling trade show display company.

    While helping another struggling company, we developed a special holiday season line of disinfecting products, complete with a peppermint fragrance kids love! “Santa*Tizer”.

    Santa knows: The more you help others – the more you help yourself!

    Nick, I want to say thank you, as without your “digital friendship” and excellent guidance over the last decade or so,
    I don’t know if I would be in such a good place. You and Don are definitely on Santa’s nice list. Stay safe and well.

  6. I am 36 years old, a woman in a creative industry and I started feeling the job search getting harder and harder since I hit 32. This was the first time when I was the oldest employee of the whole agency. Right now the only option I have for switching companies is if the head is a female or is at a c-level and will create a position directly for me.

  7. I hired a 65-year-old retiree as an IT support person. The prospective employee only wanted to work until 2 PM because he wanted to pick up his granddaughter from school. He was roundly dismissed because he was 65 and he didn’t want to work past 2 PM. However, I was the hiring manager and I needed someone who was well versed in IBM mainframes. Over 7 objections, I hired him and told him his start time would be 6 AM. Three years later he still working at the same position. Thanks to his maturity and wisdom, I don’t need to put up with ego and whining that I normally get from younger hires. He works well with colleagues and is highly regarded within the firm. A good hire overall.

    • @Jonathan: You of course need not answer this. May I ask how old you are? I’m curious about younger managers and older employees working together effectively. Either way, thanks for posting your experience!

      Everybody else: Who knows what an IBM mainframe is? ;-)

      • I am 20 years younger than the employee I described above. To avoid an awkward relationship, I treated my programmer as a colleague than as a direct report. He knows what he is doing and doesn’t need my oversight. The real trick is to avoid hiring people who need to be managed.

        • Thanks, Jonathan! You are a wise manager.

          • My experience with this programmer has made me think I should start a temp agency for highly experienced staff.

            • @Jonathan: A temp agency with only the best workers? Now, there’s an idea. But you’d also need the best recruiters.

              Who’s in? I am.

      • Not only do I know what an IBM mainframe is, I know what ENIAC and UNIVAC are/were, and remember when a state of the art computer was big, black, had large cash-register like buttons and a crank handle on the side.

        • @Chris Hogg: Well, I used to put punched tape through a PDP-8 that we also programmed by flipping switches. No crank handle, though.

          • N) Everybody else: Who knows what an IBM mainframe is?

            C) Not only do I know what an IBM mainframe is, I know what ENIAC and UNIVAC are/were, and remember when a state of the art computer was big, black, had large cash-register like buttons and a crank handle on the side.

            N) Well, I used to put punched tape through a PDP-8 that we also programmed by flipping switches. No crank handle, though.

            J) Okay, you youngsters, I remember when we didn’t have tape, just cards.

            B) In my case, we didn’t have cards, we had to set levers and mesh wooden gears.

            K) Back in the day, we didn’t have computers, and we had to write everything with a stick in the dirt.

            W) Dirt? You had dirt?

            • @Chris: It’s not just about having the right answers. It’s about being able to make people laff. I needed that today! Thanks!

            • Laughter is the best medicine but stop it hurts too much:)

            • L) You Are older than dirt?

  8. I agree with Don’s sage advice on social justice. It’s a fool’s game. I’ve faced blatant ageism so much, I’ve become numb to it. Now I just cut to the chase, divulge that I’m older, and cut my loses and walk away if they start their shenanigans. The older I get, time is valuable, and not worth wasting effort on these types.
    I’ll be 63 this winter. In 3-1/2 years, I’ll be at full retirement. Set backs in life, and poor planning, has left me with an anemic retirement, so I’ll be working until I’m taken out in a body bag, or until I wind up in the drooling academy on my backside. I’m working on an exit plan (that is if my Jerry Springer Show day job holds out until then, or after 8 years, I’m kicked to the curb) for a retirement job/jobs. I’ll draw SS, work full-time, and take Medicare.
    Don is spot on right about small to mid-size employers. I’ve heard that some such employers welcome older workers. I see a lot of gray heads running parts in company pickups for local auto parts houses and specialty niche manufacturers and suppliers. Something to be said for some autonomy, and less micro-management.
    The other day I stopped into a neighborhood hipster coffee house on my way to work. As I exited, I watched a truck that locates hidden and buried gas lines and utility lines. The young millennial woman was sitting in her company truck smoking a marijuana joint. Then she put her feet up on the dash and dozed off. This company advertises for such jobs, pays so-so wages, and has decent benefits. I’d wager they’d welcome an older worker who shows up, shows up on time, works, and doesn’t smoke dope and nap on the job. Then again, maybe they’re one of those unfortunately far too many employers that enable this aberrant behavior. Hum?

  9. Don’s advice and approach is spot-on. I follow much of it, and my approach to marketing myself is similar to his. His core advice — and the cornerstone of my own marketing practice — is to develop a personal connection with my prospects so that I can demonstrate my value above and beyond the label of an “older white guy.” (I should point out here that I am not job-hunting per se, but looking for consulting clients and part-time and temporary gigs in my semi-retirement) I also followed his practice of rebranding myself by focusing on developing and offering new skills and services.

    This approach has generally worked pretty well for me. It requires a lot of energy put into making in-person connections in order to build trusting relationships so that the prospects recognize my value and how I can help them succeed. However, in the pandemic, business development in general is a challenge for me.  Videoconferencing is certainly the wave of the future, and the pandemic accelerated our use of it.  Same goes for social media, which I do frequently. 

    But those cannot substitute, as an example, for the random serendipitous results of in-person networking – working the room at a conference break, coffee in hand, schmoozing and passing out my card.  Generally, there needs to be some kind of reason to set up the call, and that can work well if you are cultivating existing relationships, or have been specifically introduced to someone by a former client.  But that schmoozing accounted for a big chunk of my business development strategy.   

    Making the personal impression is especially important here in Los Angeles in 2020 because of the emphasis on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in my field (nonprofit management, including public relations and fundraising), and the problematic impact it has had on my marketability.  I am an early and passionate believer in DEI and its importance to forward progress in our society, but it makes my personal brand (a wise older guy with experience) outdated at first glance, especially since my targeted and historic client base is community-based social justice organizations.  The way I had been overcoming that in the past is by demonstrating that I am still relevant and am a “righteous white guy,” and the most effective way is to make a key in-person impression on potential clients that is cultivated multiple times.  But now that tactic has basically be deleted from the repertoire.

    I don’t see a return to events like seminars, conferences, luncheons and dinners for at least 9 months, and more likely for another year. I’m doing a lot of one-on-one phone and videoconference outreach with existing connections, which is better than sitting home and watching cable news all day, but it cannot fully substitute for the personal contact of live situations that are critical for new introductions.

    • @Larry: Have you considered creating your own Zoom conference or “event” where you invite the kinds of people you want to schmooze with?

      Pick a controversial topic or problem in your field (maybe one no one else will touch) that you can address and help with. Work up an hour-long interactive presentation. Maybe 20 minutes of you talking, 40 minutes Q&A. Run it almost like a roundtable. Promote it to people/orgs that are your consulting targets or businesses related to them. A good “workshop” or whatever you want to call it could draw unexpected people. Of course, the program must have meat on the bone. Put the word out to your biz community, related professional associations, the press, etc.

      Duncan Watts, an applied mathematician and leading expert on networking, says the most profitable connections in any network are on the periphery — people you don’t know yet.

      Just a thought. Not traveling means people have more time for virtual events like this.

      • Great idea. Will noodle on that. Thanks!

  10. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Don in person as he led a seminar on job search techniques. It wasn’t specifically targeted at older workers, but like in this column, his comments and advice is sharply targeted and dead-on sensible. No fluff, no nonsense, no feel-good but useless ideas – Don sticks to things that actually work.

    Any job search is hard work. If you do the right hard work, you’ll find a job. Listen to Don (or Nick) and you’ll spend your time and effort doing things that end in a successful job placement instead of just doing things to be busy.

  11. Age discrimination has existed throughout the 20th century. In 1907, the editor of The New York Times wrote, “Employers, naturally, look to the young. A man or woman of advanced years is too apt to be given to old-fashioned ways of doing things, and open to suspicion of having the unforgivable fault, in modern business, of slowness.”

  12. I forgot one piece of advice, it should have been the 1st. … “Get in shape” physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally particularly physically. get off your ass and get your mojo going. that really applies to all job hunters, but more so for oldsters. and don’t be surprised if you are talking with interviewers and hiring managers who need to do likewise.

    There’s a lot of things in job hunting out of your control which is why it can be so discouraging and energy draining. But getting and keeping in shape for the hunt is completely under your control and as such offers a sense of accomplishment. and that sense of accomplishment will greatly fuel your search.

  13. Great comments. I am 53 years old and starting to show some symptoms of mental decline. I was working as a computer professional but ageism obviously wasn’t the problem. Once I got terminated after the manager set me up to fail I haven’t been able to find another “white collar” opportunity anywhere. I’ve been stocking shelves but now am physical too old for that. Real age related problems, not ageims, is just a number too. But it’s different for everybody. I’m 53 which might be equal to someone else’s 88. In other words, mother nature says when you are too old. This is what I am trying to say. It would be nice to “blow through” dementia but I don’t think it’s possible.

  14. Great insights and advice, Don. We are all heading this direction eventually and I like how you are reframing this very real situation. Your own attitude is key, along with energy and taking care of your health and appearance. It’s true in every step of a career and even more so after 50. We can create long, healthy lives and healthy careers. I’m especially optimistic due to the growing gig economy.

    • Why are people optimistic about the gig economy? I don’t know when the economy of short term sometimes fear based tasks for money became the “only way”. 1980s?
      Perhaps simultaneusly the “only way” required workers to have a Norman Vincent Peale crazy level of positive thinking. I can’t see corporations demanding anything less from their vassals. Who needs ageism when there’s already a thriving -ism based tyranny that people just can’t seem to see?

  15. People are living longer, and are healthier at more advanced ages. It only makes sense to keep working for as long as you would like. The so-called retirement crisis is due to greater longevity. I am now 55, the age my grandfather retired, and I plan to keep on working – also, I am slowly working to start a business.

  16. For older workers, pandemic unemployment could be career-ending

  17. Great content and discussion points. I have found several new positions since age 52…all at startups / young companies. One piece of advice I pass on is that you have to demonstrate that you are staying up to date with the latest ideas, trends, and controversies in your profession. The last thing that employers want is someone whose only “experience” is implementing ideas from 20 years ago.

    In previous times you demonstrated this with papers and speaking at conferences. Now it is all about relevant social media. Are you contributing articles on LinkedIn? Are you linking to other interesting articles via Twitter? There are still virtual conferences as well. “Younger” companies will look at sources like that and will judge you if you aren’t participating. I know they look. In one case the hiring manager quizzed me about a blog post I’d made related to the job field.

    Stay current and use the tools and communication methods that are current if you want to connect and show flexibility and a deep modern engagement in your profession.