Did you know that the average age of the startup founder is 42? Great news, right?
Yet most women over 40 say they’ve experienced ageism in the workplace. And studies show that women experience ageism at work earlier than men in midlife.
From our work with women in their 40s, 50s and 60s we get it. Age discrimination can hold you back from making a change whether you’re:
returning to the workforce
asking for a promotion
Ageism feels like the last acceptable “ism”. But more and more, companies are realizing that it needs to be included in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, which is a sign of progress.
At the same time, women in midlife are a growing demographic and represent a talent pipeline for organizations looking to fill gaps with experienced professionals.
How can women capitalize on this growing attention? At EvolveMe, we know there’s a positive edge to being in midlife!
In a recent Ellevate + EvolveMe Midlife Career Change Roundtable session, we spoke with Candance Chow, co-founder of NextGroup, a recruitment firm for mid-career talent, for an honest interactive conversation about tips to tackle gendered ageism head-on in the workplace (the conversation you can’t have at work!) or when you’re making a change -- starting with what’s inside of you!
Check out NextGroup’s five actionable tips below for how you can best position yourself for a change in midlife. You can take back control! You’ll also gain insights into what employers are looking for in mid-career talent like you.
EvolveMe: What tips do you have for women to age-proof themselves as they prepare for new roles and opportunities in midlife?
Candance responds with 5 tips below. Trust us -- you can’t google this advice!
1. Shift to a consultant mindset and/or become a subject matter expert.
Your years of experience in a field or subject area are assets to leverage -- not a moniker to be ashamed of! I spent years in the management consulting industry and never did we shy away from touting the 20+ years of experience of our senior partners.
These years bring wisdom, courage and adaptability. The same applies to women! So, position yourself in roles where you can utilize your institutional or functional knowledge in a field or company. Age = Value
2. Never Stop Upskilling.
Change is a given in every field, in every role, in every workplace. Demonstrate that you’re committed to staying at the forefront by taking on new technology or trends and absorbing the value and application in your work. It is not ok to lean on the fact that “someone else did that for me” or “I never had to touch those tools directly before.”
The workplace has flattened and is especially flat in more high-growth industries where employment opportunities abound. So even if you’re guiding the work, you need to know how to do the work. Companies like General Assembly, Google Learning and LinkedIn Learning offer endless opportunities to grasp new concepts, learn new technology, and better understand the trends that will most impact your career. Invest some time and there will be a return on your investment.
3. Show your value in a multigenerational workplace.
I participated in a panel about the Great Resignation recently and learned there
are 5 generations currently engaged in the US workforce. This is the first time in history we can make this claim. And, in such an age-diverse workforce, having experienced
many stages of life is invaluable. Yet some may subscribe to the narrative that those in midlife are out of touch with the youngest workers among us.
I prefer to stress a 50+ woman’s ability to mentor, coach and guide colleagues as they mature in their careers. You don’t have to be a direct manager to contribute to a coaching and learning culture. In fact, now more than ever, mid-level managers who hold this responsibility are stretched thinner and thinner. You can bring tremendous value by offering your informal counsel and support.
"Your years of experience in a field or subject area are assets to leverage -- not a moniker to be ashamed of!" - Candance Chow
4. Demonstrate your ability to innovate, be curious and adaptable.
One of the “risks/concerns” I’ve heard from hiring managers regarding hiring women
(or men in some cases) who are in midlife is the perception that they will be more “rigid”
or unwilling to approach problems in creative ways. They typically will pull up an example of one hire who just couldn’t break the mold of how he did it for years….and thought he was always right.
You need to combat that false narrative head-on. Share stories in your interviews that showcase your ability to pivot, respond to new challenges, and remain agile in your decision-making. Make sure accomplishments and/or skills on your resume spotlight your curiosity and adaptability - two traits almost every employer I have worked with is seeking right now.
5. Focus on your network and tap the hidden job market.
When you’re looking for a new role, the best way to tackle the myths of gendered
ageism is to have someone in your corner from the outset. Your network can advocate for your skills and accomplishments. They can dispel concerns or biases due to your time out of the workforce (if that applies) or time in a single role, company, or industry.
Plus, we all know that many, many opportunities never make it to the job posting phase. They evolve and professionals who are well-networked gain access before they are even official. It may not be fair but it happens. And if you’re hiring. you want as much information on the candidate's track record as possible. Make sure yours is top of mind.
With these tips in hand, you’ll gain more confidence to position yourself for opportunities you deserve. Firsthand advice from a recruiter who meets with companies interested in hiring experienced female candidates is priceless!
Which tip can you take action on now?
Don’t go at it alone! Coping with ageism at whatever age and stage you’re in can make you feel like you’re the only one. We’re in this together.
EvolveMe is thrilled to partner with NextGroup and Ellevate to prepare women to take on roles that help them get closer to their potential in midlife. Learn more here: www.nextgroupus.com; www.evolveme.work; www.ellevate.com.