Help Wanted: Getting around age factor in job hunt

Showing you're up to date on job and Showing you're up to date on job and computer skills and social media should help, experts say. Photo Credit: iStock

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Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues. ...

DEAR CARRIE: I have been out of work for more than a year and am becoming pretty discouraged. Although I have gone on many interviews, I have had no luck, and I believe the reason is my age. I am 56. One interviewer asked me how much longer I was going to work, and another wanted to know my age. Not only do older workers have great job experience and work ethic, we also bring fabulous life experience to the workplace. I am a well-respected, dynamic and action-oriented professional with more than 20 years of documented success. How do I navigate the treacherous job market? -- Older Worker

DEAR OLDER: Fortunately, few interviewers display the in-your-face age bias you encountered. When they do, they put their company at risk for age-discrimination lawsuits.

Whether blatant or unexpressed, the bias hurts. The issue is how to deal with it when some hiring managers may consider workers as young as 40 over the hill, said Rita Maniscalco, a Huntington career, life and business coach.

Though older workers may have more experience and a solid work ethic, that's just a start, she said. "It's the ones who have also kept current in terms of skills -- and, like it or not, appearance -- that are most likely to get hired," she said.

How do you prove your skills are rust-free?

"Be able to demonstrate your comfort level with technology," Maniscalco said.

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So update your computer skills, if needed. A basic knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint is a minimum requirement for many positions, she said. Upgrade your smartphone, and become versatile in using it. And demonstrate your comfort with social media; make sure you have a complete LinkedIn profile, she said.

As for your appearance, get a new, more stylish look. Women should update their haircut and color, she said.

"Go to a reputable salon and consult with a stylist," she said.

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Have your teeth cleaned and whitened. Update makeup, too.

"This is not about looking younger -- it's about keeping current," Maniscalco said.

For men, a haircut, shave and well-manicured nails are a must, she said. And follow the same dental advice as above. Eyebrows should be well-groomed, and there should be no visible nose hair, she said.

If you've been a mentor to younger workers, market yourself as someone who brings such extras to the job and is always willing to go the extra mile.

And make sure you aren't a stumbling block to your more positive image.

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"Demonstrate a high-energy level in the way you speak and carry yourself from the moment you enter the parking lot," she said. "Believe in your value in terms of the experience, skills and the work ethic you bring to the table."

Lastly, update your resume so it doesn't call attention to your age. Don't go back more than 15 years for job experience, Maniscalco says. Include just the information relevant to the job you are applying for. And don't list your college graduation date.

DEAR CARRIE: Where can I get information on rules and regulations for part-time employees? I have worked in the same office for 17 years, and my boss has recently been playing by his own rules. -- Definition Please

DEAR DEFINITION: Federal laws leave the definition of part-time to employers, and the standard varies widely as a result. Some companies consider anything less than 40 hours a week part-time. Others consider anything fewer than 35 hours part-time. Whatever the definition, if you are an hourly employee, you have to be paid for all the hours you work. And when you work more than six hours a day, state law says you are entitled to at least a half-hour meal break.

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For more on state human-rights statutes prohibiting age discrimination go to http://bit.ly/1hIXIzE. For more on part-time workers and federal labor law go to http://1.usa.gov/1cx1vw2.

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