Breaking the Job-Search Age Barrier: Attitude Sells

Last Updated May 12, 2010 5:32 PM EDT

Of all the career-management subjects we tackle at TheLadders, the surest way to provoke a response from readers is to address the issue of age discrimination and the challenges older job seekers encounter. Every day, I read e-mails from seasoned experts in their respective industries who are frustrated by what they perceive as a systemic failure to recognize the worth of candidates older than 40.

What's behind hiring companies' reluctance? In a recent piece for TheLadders titled "Is It Your Age or Your Attitude?" Joe Turner looks at a recent study David DeLong & Associates conducted for the MetLife Mature Market Institute on "the new realities of the job market for aging Baby Boomers."

The research found that most older respondents felt financial pressure to continue working into their 60s, and many of these older workers said they're delaying retirement longer than they'd planned two years ago. The reason? Sixty-seven percent said they needed to rebuild their financial resources for retirement, while only 15 percent responded it was because they "enjoyed working."

As a result, the study suggests, employers are concerned they may hire employees who are less passionate about their work than their younger counterparts.

The solution, according to columnist Turner: Convince the hiring manager about your own passion -- after convincing yourself. "If you no longer have passion for your current work, maybe it's time for some self-examination," he writes. "While you've accumulated experience in a number of areas over the years, it may be time to redefine and refocus your story."

And when it comes to telling that story, remember to push the monetary value your years of experience have created, not the years themselves. "Not too long ago, you could win a job just by talking about your skills or the 15 years you spent working at a particular job," Turner writes. "Hiring managers today are looking for results, not years. Talk the language an employer understands and appreciates: return on investment. Instead of citing 20 years of experience, identify your benefits to the employer and put them into monetary terms. Support your accomplishments with facts that are benefit-based. Sell them on the way your work has helped your employers realize value."

  • Matthew TheLadders

    Matthew Rothenberg is editor-in-chief for TheLadders, the world's leading online service catering exclusively to the $100K+ job market. In addition to traditional job search services, TheLadders.com also provides a host of specialized career development resources. Previously he worked at Ziff Davis Media, ZDNet, CNET, and Hachette Filipacchi.