Your New Year’s resolution Don’ts

When it comes to defending against ageism in the workplace—in particular, inviting unwanted attention to your possibly advanced years—here are some resolutions you can make and keep.

Resolution #1: Resolve to look forward, not back

The past is past. Most people, recruiters especially, want to know:
* What have you been up to lately?
* What can you do for me now?
* What do you want to accomplish in the future?

It’s time to break out of the habit of touting your 15, 20, 25-plus years of experience or more, as though it were a hard-won badge of honor you wish you could frame or take to the bank. Your time in the trenches is so First World War.

Do you really want to come across as an oldster in this competitive a job market where, as a Boomer, say, you’re vying with Gen Xers, Yers and Millennials? Drop any mention of this stuff in your cover letter and résumé. Do it now.

Resolution #2: Never let ‘em count your candles

Face it, there’s a good chance you’ll be working for a younger boss when you land your next job and with colleagues who are younger still. Or maybe you already find yourself in this position. Recognize that ageism is pervasive even though few will openly admit to its existence. Do you want to be subject to unfair stereotyping through your own careless missteps?

Resolution #3: Don’t do anything to stereotype yourself as an old fogey

No catnaps at your desk, either. Nor do you want to come off as the know-it-all eminence grise. Or the technophobe. Or the person who’s made fun of for tapping out messages on your BlackBerry using your index finger. Or, worse yet, checking your clunky old wristwatch when you want to know the time? Perish the thought.

Resolution #4: Don’t lead with your experience or patronize

Why risk threatening younger bosses or co-workers with your deep well of knowledge? You want to make friends, not enemies. Before you start mentoring or coaching them, make sure they have clearly expressed a sincere willingness to learn from you and see your offer of assistance as well-meaning, not merely an opportunity to show them up.

Resolution #5: Don’t be dismissive of new ideas because you think you know better

You may be senior in years and experience but not in seniority. Keep in mind that curmudgeonly phrases such as “I remember when” or “we used to do it this way” won’t endear you to your listeners or impress them with your forward thinking. More likely they’ll be perceived as a real turnoff, labeling you as even more of an outsider, and an unwelcome naysayer at that.

Now for some Do’s

Appear open to new ideas and enthusiastic about embracing them.

Stay current by seeking out professional development opportunities.

Keep up with industry, technology and social trends, as well as popular entertainment, even slang, by regularly combing the Internet.

Narrow the age gap by dressing in contemporary fashion. Don’t shop your closet if your wardrobe dates back to the 1980s.

Most important: remember that age is only a state of mind, so think young(er).

Judy B. Margolis, MA
Business Writer and Editor,
Marketing Communications, and
B2B Specialist