One of the strategies suggested to mature workers looking for work is to disguise their age by not including their date of birth on their resumes. In a recent ABC report, Tim Hickner, who faced considerable barriers getting work beyond age 55, said you don’t need to include your age on your CV. An article on Big Think takes the question of age even further by suggesting people who don’t feel their age should be able to change it! With age comes experience and this has significant value for organizations so why is it something we feel we should conceal.
Yet this is often the kind of advice that workers 45+ receive. Apparently you also should “think twice” about indicating that you have “decades of experience” on your resume because it can be a red flag to employers that you are outdated or overqualified. You also need to be careful about how you include your academic credentials in case that gives your age away. This advice suggests disguising your age on your resume requires a bit of dodging and weaving as you consider how best to discuss your employment history. This can make the task of resume writing more stressful and complex.
While these are tips to help experienced professionals avoid ageism and remain in the workforce, they do nothing to challenge thinking about why age is a “red flag” in the first place.
Under Australian employment law, asking your age is not a question you are likely to encounter in an interview if you leave it off your resume, but it is still often the elephant in the room. Perhaps it is time
for us to confront the elephant head on in order to start debunking the myths and misconceptions about older workers to change employer perspectives. A good place to start is to question the employer about their attitudes to having an intergenerational workforce. Intergenerational researcher, Henry Rose Lee
suggests that putting different generations together to work on projects, with a younger person and older person co-leading would create a dream team for organizations.
Others are also starting the conversation that challenges what Lee describes as the invisible “ism”, ageism. Ashton Applewhite (watch her TED talk here) promotes “age pride” and suggests that when the age question comes up “tell your truth” but then “ask why it matters” and what shifted in the mind of the asker when they had their answer.