Ageism in the workplace is a pervasive issue that affects many older workers. Despite the fact that older workers bring valuable experience and skills to the table, they are often overlooked or undervalued due to their age.

Ageism can manifest in many ways, from subtle biases to outright discrimination, and can have a significant impact on an older worker’s career prospects and overall well-being.

We will explore the topic of ageism in the workplace and provide tips for older workers to navigate this issue. By recognizing the signs of ageism, developing coping strategies, and advocating for change, older workers can overcome ageist attitudes and behaviors and thrive in their careers.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out in your career, this article will provide valuable insights into navigating ageism in the workplace.

Recognizing Ageism in the Workplace

Ageism can be difficult to recognize, as it often takes the form of subtle biases or microaggressions. However, by understanding the common signs of ageism, older workers can better prepare themselves to navigate this issue. 

Examples of ageist behaviors and attitudes:

  • Stereotyping: Older workers may be stereotyped as being less adaptable, less creative, or less productive than their younger counterparts. This can lead to assumptions about their abilities and potential, which can be damaging to their career prospects.
  • Exclusion: Older workers may be excluded from certain opportunities, such as training programs or high-profile projects. This can make it difficult for them to develop new skills and stay competitive in the job market.
  • Disrespect: Older workers may be treated with less respect than their younger colleagues, such as being interrupted or talked over in meetings. This can be frustrating and demoralizing and can make it difficult for them to contribute their ideas and expertise.
  • Ageist language: Ageist language can take many forms, from casual jokes about retirement to more overt comments about an older worker’s abilities or appearance. This kind of language can create a hostile work environment and contribute to a culture of ageism.

By recognizing these signs of ageism, older workers can better prepare themselves to navigate this issue and develop effective strategies for coping with ageist attitudes and behaviors.

Strategies for Overcoming Ageism

Navigating ageism in the workplace can be challenging, but there are several strategies that older workers can use to cope with ageist attitudes and behaviors. Below are eleven tips for coping with ageism in the workplace.

1. Focus On Your Strengths 

Emphasize your years of experience, valuable skills, and notable accomplishments to demonstrate your value as an employee. By highlighting what you bring to the table, you can challenge ageist stereotypes and show that you are still a valuable asset to any organization.

2. Stay Up-To-Date 

In today’s rapidly evolving world, it’s crucial to stay current with new technologies, industry trends, and best practices in your field. Continuously learning and adapting will not only keep you competitive but also showcase your willingness to embrace change and contribute to the growth of your organization.

3. Network Strategically

Building a strong professional network is essential for older workers. Attend industry events, join relevant associations or groups, and leverage online platforms to connect with colleagues, mentors, and potential employers. Networking can provide you with valuable insights, job opportunities, and support from like-minded professionals.

4. Be Assertive 

Advocate for yourself in the workplace by speaking up and making your contributions known. If you feel that your ideas or work are being overlooked or undervalued, assertively communicate your perspective and demonstrate the value you bring to the team. Don’t be afraid to request opportunities for professional development or advancement that align with your career goals.

5. Consider Alternative Career Paths 

Exploring alternative career paths can offer new opportunities and flexibility. Consider leveraging your expertise as a consultant or starting your own business. These paths can provide greater control over your work-life balance and allow you to pursue projects that align with your interests and goals.

6. Emphasize Your Soft Skills 

Older workers often possess a wealth of soft skills, such as effective communication, leadership abilities, and problem-solving expertise. Highlight these skills on your resume and during interviews to showcase the unique value you bring to the workplace. Employers increasingly recognize the importance of these skills and their positive impact on team dynamics.

7. Seek Out Age-Friendly Employers 

Research and target employers that are known for their inclusive practices and age-friendly policies. Look for companies that value diversity and have initiatives in place to support older workers, such as flexible work arrangements, mentorship programs, or training opportunities.

8. Retrain or Upskill 

Consider investing in additional training or education to enhance your skill set or explore new areas of expertise. This proactive approach demonstrates your commitment to personal growth and professional development, making you a more competitive candidate in the job market.

9. Find a Mentor

Seek out a mentor who has experienced similar challenges as an older worker. A mentor can provide guidance, share their experiences, offer advice on navigating ageism, and help you develop strategies for success based on their own journey.

10. Speak Out Against Ageism 

Share your experiences and insights to raise awareness about ageism in the workplace. Participate in diversity and inclusion initiatives within your organization or industry, advocate for age-inclusive policies, and encourage employers to value the diverse perspectives and contributions of older workers.

11. Contact the EEOC

Contacting the EEOC can be an additional step to consider if you believe you have experienced age discrimination in the workplace. However, it should be a last resort after exhausting other options, such as speaking with your employer or HR representative and seeking legal advice from an employment attorney. Filing a complaint with the EEOC can be a lengthy and complicated process, so it’s important to weigh the potential risks and benefits before taking this step.

By taking these steps, you can overcome ageism in the workplace and stay competitive and successful in your career. Remember to stay positive and proactive, and seek out support and resources when needed.

Key Takeaways

Ageism in the workplace is a significant issue that affects many older workers. However, by recognizing the signs of ageism, developing coping strategies, and advocating for change, older workers can overcome ageist attitudes and behaviors and thrive in their careers. 

The strategies outlined in this article, such as focusing on strengths, staying up-to-date, networking strategically, being assertive, considering alternative career paths, emphasizing soft skills, seeking out age-friendly employers, retraining or upskilling, finding a mentor, speaking out against ageism, and contacting the EEOC, can help older workers navigate ageism in the workplace and achieve success. By taking these steps, older workers can continue to make valuable contributions to their organizations and industries and enjoy fulfilling and rewarding careers.

Find My Profession is an elite career service provider for clients of all ages. We’d love to help you highlight your soft skills on your resume or job search for an age-friendly employer. Don’t let ageism hold you back in the hiring process – give us a call today to see how we can help.