7 ways to mitigate age discrimination in your job search

Age is just a number -- but it's a number that can hurt your ability to land a great job in the IT industry, where youth is equated to innovation, efficiency and success. Here's how to make your age an advantage, not a deterrent.

avoiding age discrimination
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There's no good reason your age should hinder your job search. But that doesn't change the very real perception, especially in the IT industry, that age is an impediment to innovation, efficiency and, ultimately, success. While you can't do much to change the widespread unconscious biases against older workers, you can take steps to mitigate their impact on your own job search.

Look for a cultural fit

Whether you're 24 or 64, finding a good cultural fit is imperative for success and for your own happiness in the workplace. To that end, research companies that are known to be friendly to mature, seasoned workers - you'll have a much better chance landing a job, says Ford R. Myers, career coach, speaker and author of "Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring."

"You won't fit in at a cutting-edge, new-age, groovy Internet ad agency if you're 67 years old; you have to be smart about where you're looking. There are plenty of companies out there that really want -- and need -- 'adult supervision,' and a more mature perspective and wisdom to counterbalance the millennials they're also hiring," Myers says.

Make sure to focus on a cultural and environmental match in your job search, otherwise, you're tilting at windmills trying to get into a startup tech firm that doesn't hire anyone over the age of 26.

Stay physically fit

Sure, you're just as sharp, insightful and intelligent as ever, but make sure your physical abilities are on par with your mental acuity, says Myers. Staying physically fit allows you to take on challenging projects, keep up with the fast pace of business, and get things done efficiently.

"There are 21-year-olds who act like they're 94, and vice versa. You have to project an aura of energy and vitality and bring a sense of urgency to everything you do. So make sure you exercise to stay fit, show up early, move fast throughout the day and work hard.

Don't be the old codger in the corner who's slowing down the pace," Myers says.

Pay extra attention to your personal appearance

First impressions count, so make a deliberate, consistent effort to present yourself in the best light. Take an honest, objective look at your appearance and the way you dress, and then adjust as necessary to be more contemporary and stylish.

"I've had clients who come to me and they're wearing a suit straight out of Saturday Night Fever -- you have to look in the mirror and say, 'Do I look like I belong in this era?' I'm not talking about spending thousands on a new wardrobe, or getting a facelift or hair implants. But you have to update your image, within reason," Myers says.

It's easy to lose perspective as we age, and become so comfortable with our own status quo that we don't understand how our appearance can work against us, Myers says, especially in a job search. While you shouldn't go too far to the other end of the spectrum and wear clothing or a hairstyle that's too young for you, make sure you're stylish and age appropriate; otherwise, you'll be rejected before you even begin, he says.

Leverage technology skills and stay current

Now that appearance is taken care of, make sure you're also current on technology and skills needed in the current workforce, says Myers. Employers are much more likely to hire mature workers who can demonstrate strong computer skills and possess a demonstrated comfort level with technology. If your technology skills are lacking, now is the time to get additional training, he says.

"When you walk into an interview and you're over 50-years-old, it's automatically assumed that you don't have tech skills. Your first job is to dispel that myth. You're guilty until proven innocent, so you better have the killer skills that will put those concerns to rest, immediately," says Myers.

Even as a digital immigrant, not a native, take advantage of tutoring, classes and training that can boost the skills you already have or add new ones to your repertoire. Especially in technology, there's no excuse for not knowing and understanding topics and skills that are relevant to your work.

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