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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How to Handle Age Bias as an Older Job Hunter (2)

Lower your highest expectations

Job seekers at the highest executive levels have to consider the reality of a possible pay cut.

"Folks can find themselves priced out of the market," said Marc Cenedella, president of TheLadders.com, an online job board focused on positions that pay $100,000 or more.

"We do $100,000 to $500,000 jobs, and at the higher end of that ... it's tough. There aren't that many companies that can profitably employ an employee and use their skills at a $450,000 compensation package," he said.

"You've got to realize that, if you're not going to be able to find another SVP or EVP job at a Fortune 500 company, you'll need to take a step back in pay."

Act your age

Make the most of the fact that you're likely to be more confident than the younger competition.

"Confidence is a big, big plus. They're looking for someone like you in many cases," said William Arnone, a partner in Ernst & Young's human-capital practice.

But be careful not to act like you are the boss, others note.

"Sometimes younger managers can feel if there's someone 5, 10, 15, 20 years older than me, reporting to me, are they going to do what I ask them to? Are they going to feel I can teach them as a boss? Are they going to give me some guff about 'when I was your age?'" Cenedella said.

Older job seekers need to "show very clearly that they understand that despite the age situation that this is a boss/employee relationship," he said.

"They might even need to ...go out of their way to show some deference so the younger manager knows he can feel at ease."

Focus on your experience, Cenedella added. "You've got 25 years of experience. That really gives you a lot of insight into the problems any particular company is looking to solve. Focus on that."

Hair dye?

Some say if you're in desperate need of a job and having trouble landing one, and the gray hair is showing, you might consider dyeing your hair.

While she doesn't like telling people to disguise their age, Ward said she felt that, as an advocate for older workers, she had to recommend it "if you really need a job."

Consider an age-bias claim

If you feel you've been discriminated against, consider calling the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at (800) 669-4000. Or visit the Web site.

Be warned that fighting age bias can be a tough haul.

"They can file a charge with the EEOC and eventually litigate, but more often than not they're not going to do that because they don't really have any evidence of age discrimination unless somebody was stupid enough to make some sort of age-related comment," said Laurie McCann, a senior attorney with AARP.

"The proof is going to be someone else was hired who was younger and less qualified," she said. "If they actually filed a case they could get that type of information through discovery, but you don't want to file a case unless you have that ahead of time and most cases don't."

By Andrea Coombes, MarketWatch

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