For anyone over 50 (i.e., the Baby Boomers), the depressing reality is that a job search will likely prove significantly more challenging than for younger people. No matter what anyone says, ageism remains a problem in tech. In 2018, a survey of startup founders from First Round Capital suggested ageism in tech starts to kick in around age 36, which is just… freaky.
Our 2018 Dice Diversity and Inclusion Survey told us that ageism is prevalent in the industry: 29 percent of respondents reported “experiencing or witnessing” age-based discrimination in the workplace, outpacing gender discrimination (21 percent), political-affiliation discrimination (11 percent), and bias based on sexual orientation (six percent). No wonder there are lawsuits filed by hundreds of applicants over ageism; the Baby Boomers are angry, and they’re pushing back.
In the wake of each new rejection, the Baby Boomer candidate is left wondering whether they are too old, overqualified, or out of negotiable salary range. But rather than dwell on why you didn’t get the job, you should focus on what it’ll take to succeed next time:
First and foremost, it’s a highly competitive market in tech, which means Baby Boomer candidates must do everything possible to score a full-time job. And we mean everything: work with a recruiter, stalk job boards, interact on social media, and build a network of professional contacts. If you need to update or add to your skill set, investigate and act on viable opportunities to do so.
For those over 50, it’s necessary to make your skills look current, especially if you graduated college or grad school many years ago. “Do not include every job you have had since you have been working,” advised Randi Bussin, a certified career-management coach. “Most résumés should be no more than two pages. Hiring managers are reading them on smart phones and tablets, so keep it tight and short and only go back 10-15 years.”
Maggie Graham, another career coach, recommends a strategic approach to all of your marketing materials. “You’ll never see a job description that says 20+ years of experience, so don’t list that in your summary on your résumé or on LinkedIn,” she said. “At the most, say 15+ years, and that’s only for senior, C-suite positions. For professional positions, go with 10+ years.”
Graham also noted that, for any Baby Boomer seeking a job in tech, it’s okay to leave off the dates you earned your degrees, and eliminate positions from early in your career. However, be intentional about why you’re choosing to cut specific information. “It’s more important to match the specifications of the job you’re seeking,” she said, “than to polish your image. It’s about fit, not minor details.”
Look the Part
While it’s not necessary to look a decade younger than you are, it’s in your best interest to appear contemporary: Photos on any networking sites should be current, professional looking and absolutely not a selfie.
“Dress for success,” Bussin said. “This includes updating your haircut, glasses, if you wear them, makeup, if you wear it, and business attire. You need to look energetic; like someone who can handle the daily stresses of the job and the hours that are required.”
You’re Not the Boss
“You can bet that if you’re being interviewed by someone younger than you, that person is wondering whether you’ll undermine their authority,” Graham said. “It’s important that you address it by strategically inserting comments related to questions being asked in the interview.”
Graham emphasized that an experienced Baby Boomer candidate’s ideas and contributions still need to be a seamless fit with an existing IT team and management hierarchy. You should be able to openly address any concerns about your technology skills (which should be current), as well as your willingness to stay in any given position for quite some time.
Bussin believes that Baby Boomers must “be and act flexible” and demonstrate that, despite being older, they are able to work with colleagues and management who are younger. To that end, accept that your age may not make you the smartest or most experienced person in the room. Being teachable and open-minded can be a substantial asset, especially during an interview with a baby-faced hiring manager.
Define Your Worth
If an employer knows you’ll add value, your age will be much less of a factor in hiring. “Get clear in your own mind about the skills, experience, and value you offer a team,” Graham said.
To that end, research what a potential employer needs from its workers, as well as its overall strengths and weaknesses. With that knowledge in hand, you’ll be able to fluidly convey how your knowledge and capabilities will contribute to the company’s overall success.
“If you’re a boomer and have been out of work caring for family or ‘consulting’, be realistic about what you expect to make,” Bussin said. “If you made six figures in the past but have been unemployed for a while, be realistic about the level/salary at which you need to re-enter.”
Even if you’ve kept up-to-date on your skills, or added new ones, you may end up back in a midlevel position, at a salary lower than you might have enjoyed before. If the position is engaging and it’s work you want, take the plunge: Job satisfaction and benefits can go a long way in easing the pain of lower pay.