Are my age and lack of experience holding me back?

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John from DeVry University asked:

I’ve had issues finding a job in the IT field, and I’m concerned my age may be a factor. I am a 46 year old graduate with an Associate’s degree in Applied Science and Cisco certifications. Companies state that there is no age discrimination, and I want to believe that, but I can’t help but wonder if my age and lack of experience are holding me back.

Thanks for your question, John –

I won’t lie to you; ageism does exist in the work place. Older applicants can have a harder time finding work in a new field, but there are protections for job seekers and employees over 40 who are being discriminated against.

Don’t fret, there is hope! By knowing your field and your market value, highlighting your strengths, and allowing your qualifications to define you, you can help employers focus more on what you offer as a candidate and less on your age.

Know your market value!  It’s usually a wage issue, not an age issue.

More often than not, an employer’s judgment to hire one candidate over another isn’t based solely on age. Mature job seekers sometimes overvalue their experience or expect a level of pay they were accustomed to before changing fields. A younger applicant who is willing to work for what the company can afford is the logical choice over an equally qualified applicant demanding a higher wage.  Employers will pay what the market will bear, and not a penny more, so understanding your market value is really important.

Know what other professionals with your skills and experience are earning and demonstrate that you understand the “going rate” when wages are brought up. Do this and you show employers that you’re knowledgeable of your field and willing to work at a reasonable and competitive level of pay.

Advertise your Strengths – Tighten up your resume

Depending on how long you’ve been in the workforce, your resume can become quite lengthy and draw attention to your age. Don’t let that happen!

When changing careers, it is an important, difficult, and often humbling task to edit your 20 year work history down to a relevant, focused resume. Every detail of your work experience may be important to you, but a future employer is only interested in how well you’ll meet his or her needs.

Research the positions you are targeting and qualifications required.  How well do you match up? Lead with your certifications, education, experience and skills that meet what the employer is looking for, and remove irrelevant or dated information. Make it easy for future employers to see how well you fit into their business

Be sure to seek the assistance of the advisors in your university career services office , who can offer more hands on guidance on rebuilding your resume for IT.  You can also download our Resume Guide and review the examples in our Resume Gallery to explore other formats.

Remember: Your age does not define you

Never apologize for being you. You are who you are, and your age is not, by definition, a liability unless you make it one. If you start an interview with something like –  “Now, I know I’m already 46 but…” –  you have made your age an issue. If it’s a problem for you, it will be a problem for employers. Don’t make that mistake.

Rather, lead with your strengths, highlight your value, and demonstrate your knowledge.

Good Luck!


About the Author

Esme Smith

Esme received her M.A. In Counseling from St. Edward's University, and worked with students at Concordia University Texas' Career Center. She developed a passion for Career Counseling after leaving undergrad without much guidance, and grappling with unsatisfying work. She strives to help others bridge the gap between graduation and "the real world."

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