The IT job market isn't always kind to professionals of a certain age. Use these strategies to improve your odds.
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Make age an asset If you've read InformationWeek's ongoing coverage of age discrimination in IT, you know it's a real and sometimes heated issue. If you're a person of a certain age -- say, on the wiser side of 40 -- there's a decent chance you've encountered ageism, often subtle in nature, in your IT career.
In fact, roughly 70% of IT pros who participated in a recent InformationWeek poll said they've either witnessed age discrimination in their workplace or been victims of it themselves. In her breakdown of the poll's results, Susan Nunziata posed some tough questions about, among other topics, the relationship between age and salary. Here's a hint: that whole "you make more money as you get older" thing isn't necessarily true. Rather, median salaries peak around age 46 before flattening for staffers and actually declining for managers, according to InformationWeek's 2014 Salary Survey. That's not scientific proof of ageism, mind you, but it's also not a ringing endorsement for the perks of experience -- not to mention that it kind of belies the idea that we should all shuffle our middle-aged feet into middle management as quickly as possible.
Age-related discrimination can be a particular problem for IT pros that hit the job market later in their careers, all the more true if you do so abruptly and unexpectedly, which is typically the case in an involuntary layoff or unforeseen personal event. The job application and interview process lends itself well to the quieter, difficult-to-prove types of ageism -- "we're looking for someone who really clicks with our culture," etc. This can be particularly true in startups, mobile app development, and other environments that often attract young workers -- if not bona fide brogrammers -- in herds. The "old guy" might kill the game room mood, bro.
Still, it's not doomsday. Lots of companies want the "old guy," as one IT veteran told us last year. There are plenty of steps you can take to make your age an asset rather than a hindrance in your job search.
And it should indeed be an asset. Experience brings with it critical traits for any employer: the kinds of skills that can only be developed on the job, the ability to spot -- and solve -- problems before they occur rather than when it's way too late, the efficient knowledge that it's not how many hours you work in a given week but what you get done while working that really matters to the bottom line, and so on. Then there are less tangible advantages of a well-balanced, diverse team that includes people across generations. Just as Mother Nature doesn't typically favor a monoculture over time, nor does the business world.
In the tips that follow, we outline some ways in which you can make your age a plus. It's not always easy, especially if you're out of work and feeling the considerable stress that often accompanies unemployment. But the ideas, drawn in part from our coverage and conversations with IT pros who have been there, recruiters, executives, and attorneys, can help frame your search, whether planned or unexpected, in a much more positive light.
In turn, they help frame you in a more positive light. For example, instead of branding your experience with a number -- "22 years in IT" -- why not brand it with the bottom-line results accumulated during those 22 years?
Read on for more. Have your own tips from a recent mid- or late-career job search? Share them with us in the comments. I'd also love to hear about your age discrimination stories via email.
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