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Patricia, UCSF

Patricia, a native San Franciscan and mother of three, had a solid job until the recession hit. She witnessed her office shut down piece by piece when operations – and her job – moved overseas. Initially, she was not worried; she was a Navy veteran with over 25 years of work experience. But three years later, she was still unemployed.

JVS was her job coach, advocate and connector. Through a training program for UCSF medical administrative assistants, Patricia learned new skills, built confidence and impressed her colleagues during a 4-month paid internship at UCSF. A self-professed “slow and steady” learner, Patricia reinvented herself with strong determination and tenacity. Today she is a proud Senior Secretary at UCSF’s School of Dentistry.

“Life was difficult for me and my boys for a while, but JVS gave me what I needed to lift myself up and find work. My work is so much more than a job — it’s my lifeline.” – Patricia

Thwart Off Those “Old” Stereotypes

Here you are. Your dream job. This one will bounce you back. Twenty years of executive admin experience. A rockin’ LinkedIn profile. Fabulous dress. And your friend in accounting forwarded your resume. You strike the power pose because, you know, you got this.

But, then, the hiring manager greets you, texting as he approaches with stylishly ripped jeans on. Walking to the interview, you note people on couches. Is that a date or a meeting? Your throat tightens. Shoulders slump. The hiring manager looks at you remarking, “Yeah, people work pretty hard around here. It’s kinda fast-paced.”  

The voice in your head rouses.

I recently wrote a blog about deeply disturbing reports detailing hiring discrimination against older women. I don’t question whether it exists. And while I’m somewhat interested in long-term policy and legal solutions to combat it, I’m very interested in how to effect change now. We must empower older women with strategies to effectively battle discrimination – interview-by-interview, job-by-job – and, ultimately, drive societal change. In the words of an insightful JVS colleague, Jesse Golden, “While we can’t avoid discrimination, we can do what salespeople do: anticipate objections.”

What are common, ill-founded objections? Which unsubstantiated labels do hiring managers hold onto, despite countless examples to the contrary? What can you do?

Stereotype: Her tech skills are probably out-of-date.

Strategy: Demonstrate your tech know-how. Acquire new tech skills (for example, learn WordPress or Salesforce). List them on your resume, and talk about how you’ve used them to solve a business need.

Stereotype: She may not get along with the younger staff.

Strategy: Prepare accomplishment stories that demonstrate your successful collaboration with diverse (including those “just starting out in their careers”) colleagues. Choose relevant, current small-talk. Engage with everyone. Avoid categorizing yourself as “other,” or isolating yourself with words like the classic, “Back in my day…” or “You’re probably too young to remember this…”

Stereotype: She may not want to work hard. Or worse, she might not keep up with the pace.

Strategy: Talk about your activities – hiking, yoga, friendly debates, meetups or whatever it is you use to keep active and engaged in your work. Use your body posture, words and interview follow-up tactics to demonstrate energy and action-orientation.

Jesse Golden also suggests using stereotypes to our advantage. According to the Adecco Mature Workers survey many managers believe older workers are more reliable, professional and have good writing skills. If candidates have to suffer from discrimination, it seems fair game to exploit those attributes that work in their favor.

More than anything, though, check your “I’m too old” baggage at the door. How you see yourself, and what you believe about your worth, will be the biggest predictor of success.

Which stereotypes do you see?  What can job seekers do to turn it on its head?

Check our calendar for the next 50+ Job Search Strategy Group that will help you move forward with confidence. The informal group is facilitated by JVS staff and will include topics such as age discrimination and transitioning to new careers.

Digging Deeper: Age Discrimination for Women

If you can remember gas rationing, or seeing the original Star Wars six times in the summer of ‘77, chances are good you’re “of a certain age.”

If you’re also a woman currently looking for a job, economists say there’s a pretty good chance you’re experiencing hiring discrimination.

According to a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), there is robust evidence (based on over 40,000 job applications!) of age discrimination in hiring against older women. And another study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that since the Great Recession ended, older women are comprising a growing share of the long-term unemployed.

Reputable publications all picked up the story: Washington Post. Bloomberg. Forbes. And yet, despite the coverage, no one seems overly concerned with the why. The NBER study offered two reasons: discrimination laws may not do enough to protect older women facing age and sex discrimination, and the natural changes in physical appearance associated with aging may matter more for women than men. Okay. Maybe. But, if we’re going to effect change, it helps to understand the root cause.

What is it about older females?

Kudos to the team at PBS Newshour, who recently came to JVS to ask for our help in better understanding the plight of the older female job seeker. For their piece, “Women Over 50: Help Not Wanted,” we gathered a panel of women between the ages of 50 and 65 to hear their thoughts on why companies discriminate against 50+ women. Their theories about what hiring managers think and assume were astounding:

  • She can’t pick up new technology. (I believe there are assessments for that.)
  • She won’t “fit in” with foosball and beer pong. (Actually, my mom was always the ping pong champion at my house.)
  • She might be too opinionated. (So, what you want is someone without a voice?)
  • She won’t work hard. (Actually, she’ll work really hard, but without a show.)

At JVS, we coach older female job seekers with proven strategies to combat stereotypes, be it age- or gender-related, in the hiring process. Next week, we’ll share some of the best advice from our team, and we’d love to hear what you think works.

What do you believe about why hiring managers discriminate against older women? What should companies do to stop themselves? What are we missing?

Rosanna, UCSF

“I never thought it would be difficult to find another job. I was relieved to find JVS and others like me. We learned to face our challenges together.” – Rosanna

With 20+ years of work experience, Rosanna never expected to be on the brink of homelessness. In 2007 she left a management position to care for her ailing mother and complete her doctoral degree. Then, the economy crashed – leaving Rosanna unexpectedly jobless or underemployed for over five years through the Great Recession. At one point, she had to give up her apartment, put her possessions in storage, and “sofa surf” for over seven months. She found her newly earned doctoral degree – and age – to be a deterrent to employers.

Rosanna is just one of thousands of highly skilled people who are “long-term unemployed” due to their lack of recent work experience. Some of these people never recovered from the Great Recession and are quickly falling out of the middle class. Rosanna received intensive job search support and learned to rebrand herself to employers. Today, she is the Division Manager at UCSF’s Radiology and Biomedical Imaging Center, one of the biggest employers in San Francisco, where she is building her career – and her retirement funds – once again.

John, The Audiffred Building

John is the face of JVS’s clients who are over fifty. He was thankful for stability after dedicating many years to the same job. But at 61 – just five years shy of retirement – he was let go. John turned to JVS in a desperate state: he hadn’t worked in two years and struggled with a lifelong speech impediment. His counselor, Michael, understood these challenges and lit his path. John joined JVS’s 50+ Strategy Group and frequented classes where he learned about resumes, cover letters, elevator pitches and more. Today, John has been working for almost two years as property manager and security for The Audiffred Building. He is forever grateful to Michael, who convinced John’s current employer to give him a chance.