The truth is, we’re sometimes judged by things that are beyond our control—this is true in all facets of life, including the world of work. One of the biggest workplace reversals in recent decades is the perception of age. At one time, age was looked at as a valuable commodity among employees—an indication of experience, wisdom, and know-how. While this is still true in some industries and companies, in many others age has become a perceived weakness of sorts—an indication of decreasing relevance, energy, and understanding of how the modern world (including current business needs and consumer demands) works.
In years past, companies felt the need to have older, experienced employees in positions of power and decision-making; now, they’re increasingly allowing fresh young minds and perspectives at their helms to steer them towards success in our rapidly evolving, techno-centric world.
So, where does this leave aging and older employees? The truth is, the general outlook isn’t black and white—many older employees will figure out how to avoid age discrimination and find professional success, while others will struggle and face a variety of challenges along the way. Ladders discussed the issue of age discrimination in a recent article that included some helpful advice on how to face this tricky topic.
Which side of the fence will you be on? While it may be impossible to completely control how the professional world perceives you as you get older, there are things you can do to hopefully avoid age discrimination—whether you’ve been on the job for years or are job hunting for your next position. Use the following strategies to avoid age discrimination in your professional life.
The world of work is quickly evolving, and those of us who work to stay relevant are much more likely to have a place in it—those who chose to endlessly bemoan these changes and remain stuck in the past will have a much harder road ahead of them.
Regardless of your age, fight to stay relevant—master the current technology used by your office and industry (take classes if need be), get flexible and comfortable with a new agile and lean workplace environment (this may mean working remotely at a work share facility instead of having your own office), and even follow current styles of professional behavior and dress so that you fit in (get casual and ditch the tie or blazer if you’re the only one wearing them). Bottom line—if you want to seem relevant, make sure that you don’t stand out for the wrong reasons and show that you’re more than ready for whatever changes are on the horizon.
Simply put, everything is changing—the old rules and ways of doing things are being tossed out the window and replaced by new approaches and innovations. By not only staying on top of these changes but embracing them, you’ll continually reassert your professional relevance and value and increase your chances of being viewed as an asset, not an outdated fossil waiting to be put out to pasture.
Demonstrate that you’re not only the kind of employee who can handle change, but can also thrive when change happens, and can even lead the charge forward. For example, think of ways your company can take advantage of current and emerging innovation and show the powers that be that you can help steer your company to future success. It’ll be hard to deny your value as an employee if you’re constantly offering bold new ideas for how your company can face the future.
When all else fails—assert your rights.
If you’re doing all you can to remain a current and valuable part of the modern workplace but are still facing seemingly insurmountable hurdles, the truth is that age discrimination is illegal. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers over the age of 40 from discrimination on the basis of age. If you feel that you’re being unfairly discriminated against on the basis of age, know your rights and options and don’t be afraid to take action.
The bottom line
While getting older does present new challenges for navigating the work world, you don’t have to let your age wholly define you as an employee or job candidate, and you shouldn’t allow yourself to be a victim of age discrimination. Use the strategies and advice presented here to avoid age discrimination and remain a valuable professional commodity. When the wave of change hits your industry or company (and there’s a good chance it already has), will you sink or swim? Take charge of your professional future.