Older workers complain that ageism is rampant in tech, and survey data suggests they’re onto something: A recent study by ProPublica and the Urban Institute (a Washington-based think tank) suggested that Americans over the age of 50 face longer layoffs, as well as trouble hitting their previous salary highs when they’re rehired.
Meanwhile, Dice’s own Diversity and Inclusion Survey found that age-based discrimination (or at least the perception of ageism) is far and away the most recognized type of discrimination amongst tech pros, with some 29 percent of respondents saying they’ve experienced or witnesses ageism in the workplace.
Fortunately, there are some ways that older tech workers can mitigate its ageism’s impact on their careers and job hunt.
Keep Skills Up-to-Date
If you’ve worked at the same company for years (or decades), it’s natural to de-prioritize the learning of new skills that don’t factor into your job. However, those older workers who put in the effort to learn up-and-coming technologies can make themselves more valuable on the open marketplace. Carve out the time this year to learn something new, especially if it has growing relevance to your industry.
A few years ago, developer Don Denocourt wrote a still-relevant blog posting about evaluating which skills to keep up-to-date. “Treat this year as if it were your first year as a developer and assimilate everything you can. Reclaim the energy you had in your first year of coding,” he wrote. “Regain the drive you had to prove to yourself and to your employers that you were ‘all that’ for this IT field.” More to the point, think about which skills might prove most useful a few years from now.
Emphasize Your Management Skills
Older workers have one thing that all younger workers lack: real-world experience. This is especially true when it comes to management, where an employee with twenty years under their belt has domain skill and expertise that their younger colleagues can’t hope to match.
If you’re applying for new jobs in 2019, make sure to emphasize your management skills on your résumé, as well as in job interviews. Experience in managing people is something that every company desperately needs, no matter what its size (or the average age of its current employees).
Build a Network
Building relationships with colleagues, business partners, and especially customers is an excellent way to strengthen your position within the company. Through these relationships, you can also build up your institutional knowledge, making you more valuable to the company’s operations.
Strong relationships can help insulate you during rounds of layoffs and cost-cutting: Your boss, and your boss’s boss, are more likely to go to bat for you during a rough period. In addition, keeping your external network (i.e., former colleagues and bosses, casual industry connections, and so on) updated is valuable, especially if you find yourself looking for a new job.
Polish Your Résumé
Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, and you’re happy in your current position, it never hurts to kick off a new year by polishing your résumé (and your online profiles) to a high shine. Eliminate older jobs and irrelevant skills; make your verbs punchier; and update your current position. A big change might come sooner than you think.