Older or Younger? How Age Bias Doesn’t Have To Affect You In The Workplace

age bias in the workplace

“We have a youth culture in this country, where younger is better than older,” says Tom Osborne, senior attorney with the AARP Foundation in Washington, D.C. It doesn’t matter how good you are at your job or how much experience you’ve acquired over the years.

If you’re a Baby Boomer rounding the corner toward 50-plus, you’d be smart to start looking for signs of age bias in the workplace. On the other end, if you are young and just starting out in your work life as a Millennial, being perceived as inexperienced can be just as challenging.

The best way to fight age bias in the workplace is by creating the perception of your relevance, energy and activity – not your age. “Perception is reality” right? If you act and appear old and passe, that’s how you will be perceived or treated. If you act and appear current, relevant and fresh, that’s how you will be perceived and treated – no matter what age you are.

It’s not so much about age. It’s more about the attitude, persona, language and culture that we stay in tune with in today’s work and business world.

When you use the most active platforms, play in the playgrounds and speak the current language no one cares or will focus on your age, just what value you bring to their day.

There are 4 key areas where you can update and cultivate your relevance – where people focus more on you and what you bring rather than how old you are:

Your Persona, How You Look

As much as we hate to have to deal with this it is important. We are a visual world and society.

Seriously look at your personal and professional image. Invest in a style update and makeover, with regard to your hair, grooming and clothes. Get some professional current pictures taken that flatter you.

Take the 20-plus year date references off your resume, LinkedIn profile and marketing materials. Quit talking about what you did 30 years ago, or what you haven’t done yet.

If you are a Boomer, focusing on the last 10 years is recommended. Or for a Gen Y’er, what you have been doing the past year is good.

Create a ‘younger image’ by looking, acting, and speaking more current. Bring your essence out in a fresher way. Build your communication skills and a bold persona by joining Toastmasters, volunteering to speak, teaching a workshop, or take an acting class.

Your Expertise, Accomplishments and Professionalism

Make sure you do a serious evaluation of your personal, professional, technology and social skills! Invest in some classes from your local adult education programs, or chambers and professional organizations.

Check out the Small Business Development Centers or other small business centers in your county. Get up to date on how people communicate, where they are gathering on and offline, and get out and network and meet more people.

Your Process and How You Operate

People watch and observe how we do things. Be committed and consistent with your social media, online and in person networking and email marketing. A friend of mine recently emailed me and said, “I’m watching you do good work. Keep it up.” That really made me feel good.

People watch how we go through and handle our challenges and triumphs.  How we operate says a lot about us.

How do you operate? Are you in the game or on the sidelines?

Networking, Engagement and Activity

It’s NOT negotiable anymore to say, “I don’t do social media.”

If you’re networking online, job or career searching or in business, social media must be part of that communication system.  It’s actually kind of ridiculous. You should have a fully developed LinkedIn profile and start using your Facebook account more.

The benefits of using the social platforms are far reaching. Ask a friend or your children to sit down and help you. Make the time. It’s an investment. You do realize people are checking you out by “Googling” you right now?

If you are not linking yourself to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or YouTube you are not going to be considered a player. You don’t have to be on everything but you do need to be committed on one or two.

Your persona, skills, process and platforms impact your image. They all work together to put you out there, make you available and accessible and give you a much broader reach to make the important connections that just may lead to your next big job, sale, break, or lead!

Update your profiles, increase your activity on them and watch what happens.

Young and Old Photo via Shutterstock


Deborah Shane Deborah Shane has been recognized as a Top 100 Small Business Champion and Top 50 SMB Influencer (Dunn and Bradstreet 2015). She is a career transition author, personal branding and social media specialist. Deborah's book "Career Transition: Make the Shift" is available through all major book sellers.

3 Reactions
  1. Age should not be an issue in the workplace. Sure, age will always generate some stereotypes but the work should still speak for itself.

    • It shouldn’t be an issue and the work should definitely speak for itself, but unfortunately it is. So the best defense is a strategic offense. Upgrade, update, and be ready to self market!