It’s not your age, it’s old thinking

“It’s my age, that’s what it is”, Joan lamented. “I need to come to terms with the fact that I’m just of ‘that age’. No-one wants a person of my age in the workplace!”

Joan is wrong. Sure, if she wants to be an actress in a teen comedy, yes that’s probably true. If she wants to be a top-level fashion model, it’s probably true too. But a retail manager of a fashion store? A real estate agent? Just about any supervisory or management role in a range of industries for which she is highly qualified? Of course she has the same chance as anyone else with equal skills and knowledge.

It’s not so much Joan’s age that’s holding her back from securing a new job, it’s her outdated way of thinking.

Using antiquated job search methods, believing in truisms that were outdated thirty years ago, and then complaining of age discrimination when you’ve done everything possible to reinforce people’s ideas about what it means to be “old” is an exercise in self sabotage.

Let’s look at some outdated job-search beliefs that may be holding you back.

Outdated Language. Reinforcing your age by talking about “the young girls in the office” or “of course, back then we used to use [insert antiquated piece of technology], or “in my day…” is going to widen the divide between you and younger people with whom you may work. Just as you no longer wear leg warmers, a headband or do Jane Fonda workout videos, don’t live in the past in the way you communicate either.

Pouring over the classified job ads. Spending hours examining classified job advertisements is old-fashioned and one of the most difficult ways to get a job. Hours can be wasted while you find a job and prepare an application only to find you’re one of hundreds who have applied. Sure you have a chance, but putting yourself in that pool of candidates means you’re fighting a losing battle from the start. Of course job boards and classifieds have their place, but your professional network can influence and fast track these engagements if you nurture it well. Don’t scoff at social media; it’s not a young person’s game. It can be a savvy candidate’s ticket to a job offer. Ignore it to your detriment.

Resumes must be [insert number] pages. At some point you heard some sage advice and it stuck with you and now you believe it. It may have been true when you first started looking to join the workforce, but it’s no longer true now. By sticking to this outdated piece of your own advice, you’re limiting your potential for scoring an interview. Just how many of your achievements and experience do you want to sacrifice so you can reach an arbitrary number of pages? I’m not giving you carte blanch to create a 50-page resume, but adding half a page to a two-page resume to tell your whole story and create a compelling value proposition for your services, needs to be considered.

Mature job seekers don’t need to put on the fake persona. No-one likes someone trying to recapture their youth by wearing inappropriate clothing and hairstyles or trying to be “cool”. In fact, it can be downright embarrassing for everyone in the workplace. But reinforcing your age by stubbornly clinging to outdated ideas and methods of the past, may very well have potential employers re-thinking your candidacy. After all, will you show those same antiquated ideas in a young and vital workplace?

It’s not your age that gives people pause for thought, it’s your inability to move with the times.

I’m thrilled to be part of the Career Collective, a group of professionals who meet monthly to blog about a certain topic. Please return in the next couple of days to read some other articles on this theme and look for #careercollective on Twitter.


  1. Gayle Howard

    Updated my blog! It’s not your age, it’s old thinking: “It’s my age, that’s what it is”, Joan lamented. “I need …

  2. Rorybaust

    good advice your only as old as you allow others to perceive you to be

  3. Hannah Morgan

    I blogged about “old fart” job seekers recently. You’ve touched upon the really critical things, such as the words and phrases we use when we communicate and letting go of past beliefs.
    There are plenty of 50+ job seekers landing GOOD jobs because they are contemporary in their thinking and what they do!
    Thanks for addressing this!

  4. Meg Montford

    Love this post, Gayle! One more thing I’ll add is technology skills. Even those over 50 can be tech savvy, and they need to be to stay current in today’s world or work.

  5. Jhanlon

    Love the article, but the photo with the computer from 2001 made me laugh.

  6. Anonymous

    Oh, so true, Gayle! Those of us with gray hair (visible or not) too easily assume it’s our age, rather than our approach and demeanor, that make people ignore us. “Age-ism” does exist, unfortunately, but not to the extent that we often assume. It’s just easier, often, to blame age than to look any deeper.

  7. Megan Fitzgerald

    Great post Gayle! Drop the classifieds and embrace social media – a great message for all. And I absolutely agree that your resume should efficiently and effectively communicate your value – however many pages it takes.

    It’s great to be a part of this wise group of career professionals!


  8. Gayle Howard

    haha… that was kind of the idea! Mature people with outdated beliefs… I thought it fitted in with the theme somewhat!

  9. Octopus Job Search

    Thank you for this post, teaches us not to look down on ourselves, if you have the right attitude and job search approach, you will be able to touch success

  10. Dawn Bugni

    Gayle –

    Excellent info (as I always find when I visit).

    If age is roadblock in the job seeker’s mind, it becomes a roadblock in every career conversation going forward. I wish I had a dollar for every “older” job seeker who made it a point to tell me they look good “for their age.” I work virtually with my clients. I seldom meet them or even see a picture of them, yet early in the conversation, they’re “justifying” their youthful appearance. It makes me wonder if they don’t “drop and give a hiring authority 20” at the beginning of an interview to “prove” they’re really not that old.

    If job seekers make age a focal point, guess what? It becomes a focal point. That’s not to say age discrimination does not exist; it surely does. But a job seeker can’t help propel ageism with their own beliefs and actions.

    Good stuff!!

  11. WalterAkana

    Dont self-select for irrelevance: It’s not your age, it’s old thinking by @GayleHoward #careercollective

  12. WalterAkana

    Hey Galye!

    This is a terrific post!

    I think that as we continue to see the ongoing revolutionary impact of social media on career management, the outdated thinking you point to is going to stand out even more among people who want to cling to old notions.

    Coincidentally, in a recent discussion, I shared my observation that many people self-select for irrelevance! It’s true, unfortunately. I’ve seen it countless times! I do agree with Susan that “Age-ism” does exist; and also that it’s our approach and demeanor can often lead to people ignore us.

    Frankly, it’s up to us to take charge of our thinking and behaviors to change our situation, and you wonderfully reinforce that idea here!

  13. John Groth

    The after 50 job hunter can get the biggest bang for the buck by getting
    a complete physical. Start an exercise and diet program. The worst showing
    of age is a candidate who shows up for an interview in a suit that
    does not fit, and they are huffing and puffing after walking up
    one flight to the conference room for the inteview. As a recruiter
    I don’t expect everyone over age 50 can run a marathon, but being as
    fit as they are able tells me a lot about the individual.


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About Gayle Howard

If you are interested in working with Gayle Howard—an executive resume writer, Certified Master Resume Writer, multi-award-winning resume writer, and Master LinkedIn profile writer, drop her a line now using the contact form at the link above. Gayle can help you get interviews for your dream job and bring the world of business to you by maximizing your exposure and connections on LinkedIn.