Combatting Ageism in a Job Search

Two-thirds of workers aged 45 to 74 say they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, according to an AARP study.  So it’s no surprise that older workers—even professionals with stellar careers and credentials—often find it harder than their younger counterparts to find a new job, especially after becoming unemployed.

Strategies for overcoming ageism:

Lead with your value proposition: Potential employers want to know if you can solve their problems; they are less interested in how many years of experience you have. Be able to talk about how you tackled challenges in previous jobs and the results of those efforts. Think through how to articulate—on resumes and in interviews—your accomplishments rather than responsibilities. Use numbers to quantify your successes whenever possible. Your mission as a candidate is to connect the dots so that employers understand how your skills and track record are relevant to their needs.     

Show energy and confidence:  Too often people don’t realize how impressive their accomplishments actually are.  Ask friends and colleagues to describe your qualities and skills so you can look beyond clichés for words to use on resumes and in interviews. Be prepared to answer the common interview question “Tell me about yourself” with a short, polished and on-target response. Practice your responses to potential interview questions over and over—ideally in front of other people who can provide constructive feedback—until they flow naturally.

Network, network, network: Look for ways to connect with professionals at organizations you may be interested in. Ask your immediate contacts for people they can connect you with, and then ask those people for suggestions for who else you should talk to. Schedule short (20-minute) informational interviews as often as you can. Then when a job opens up, you may already have a foot in the door.


40Plus of Greater Washington was founded in 1953 to help unemployed professionals land new jobs and get their careers back on track. The all-volunteer nonprofit organization offers an intensive four-week training class aimed at giving people the confidence and knowledge needed for a successful job search. The group also hosts a free meeting every Monday at 10 a.m. (now via Zoom) featuring a different expert speaking on job search and related topics. Visit for more information. 


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