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Handling Age Discrimination in Your Job Search

by Susan P. Joyce

Recently several job seekers over 40 have written to us with the complaint that they feel they have lost out on job opportunities because of their age. In many cases, they may be correct.

For tips on resume preparation, interviewing, and salary negotiations for job seekers over 40, we interviewed Jan Cannon, author and founder of the Cannon Career Center, one of Job-Hunt's Resume Pros, and a career advisor with over 10 years of experience.

Why does age discrimination happen? Younger hiring managers may feel uncomfortable telling someone older what to do (like bossing around their parents). They may also feel that someone older is not as technically savvy or as physically and mentally "quick" as someone younger. They may even suspect that you'll be out sick more often than someone younger. Frequently, an older worker is viewed as having higher salary expectations and, therefore, being more expensive to hire and retain.

So, how do you handle the situation?

** Keep up to date with your profession and/or industry.

Or, do a lot of research before you launch your job search to get back up to date (the Web is great for this!). This issue often torpedoes women who have taken a few months to a few years out of the job world to care for their children or other family members. Learn the new software and the latest jargon before you send out your resume or apply for a job. Know who the important "players" are (companies, products or services, and people).

** Your resume.

Since you need to get an interview to be considered, Job-Hunt resume pro, Jan Cannon, recommends that you modify your resume:
* Focus your resume on your future and the job you are seeking. Don't make it a laundry list of everything you've ever done. Most jobs that you had more than 10 years ago shouldn't be included because they aren't relevant.

* Change the "Education" section of your resume to "Education and Training" and put your most recent training first. Include the year and the source for each entry. This shows that your skills are up-to-date. List your degrees following the more recent training.

* Be selective if you have had a lot of jobs in the past 20 years. Include only those that demonstrate the skills, experience, and/or industry knowledge you have that are directly relevant to the job you are seeking.

* Limit your resume to no more than 2 pages.  You only want to include the most relevant jobs, anyway. And, a longer resume is much less likely to be reviewed.

* When you must give your salary requirements to be considered, specify a range, and indicate that your salary expectations are appropriate for someone with your experience and "fair in today's market."

** Interviewing.

Next, Jan has several recommendations for that critical interview with the younger manager:
* Describe situations where you worked with younger people on an equal basis or where you followed a younger leader.

* Focus on your experience and excellent attendance record.

* Look peppy and energetic. Walk into the room with a brisk step, and sit straight and alert in your chair.

* Dress for success. Looking competent and confident goes a long way toward convincing others that you are.

* If you are asked what salary you expect, respond by asking for the salary range. When you hear the range, say that you are sure that you fit within the range, even if you aren't completely sure.

** The salary negotiation.

Finally, Jan offers advice for the job offer and salary negotiation:
* Try to postpone salary discussions until you have been offered the job. When they've offered you the job, you are in a much stronger position to explore options and to negotiate your starting salary.

* Don't turn down a job because of the salary range until you've explored other ways to "sweeten the deal."

If the salary isn't high enough, think of how you might negotiate a better "total package" with things of value to you: the amount and timing of your first raise, more vacation time, lower health insurance co-pay, a company car, free parking, spousal travel on business trips, free tuition for your kids, etc.

* Do turn down a job or a salary that doesn't "feel right" to you.

Jan Cannon, MBA, PhD is an experienced career advisor helping clients to find work that they enjoy. She is author of Find a Job: 7 Steps to Success (2004). Jan offers career planning, job search strategies, r�sum�s, bio sheets and cover letters, salary negotiation tactics, and regular coaching sessions.

About Susan Joyce: In 1995, Susan emerged from a corporate career to found NETability, Inc., a Web site development and consulting company, teach online job-hunting skills and grow, the award-winning job search portal. For more than a decade, she has written and spoken extensively on the subject of online job search to groups ranging from the U.S. Department of Labor to local support groups. Susan is truly a pioneer in this field. She has been quoted in TIME Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and countless other publications, both online and offline. Susan has an M.B.A. in Information Systems and a B.S. in Education.