. Breaking Through the Gray Ceiling | Meetings & Conventions

Breaking Through the Gray Ceiling

How to get a new job when you're 40-plus

• In your cover letter and résumé, avoid divulging information that would allow prospective employers to guess your age.

• Project yourself as someone who is vigorous and tech-savvy.

• During an interview, engage the other person, and emphasize your skills over your years of experience.

• If need be, consider another career entirely. Aim to do something you enjoy that has market potential and you can afford to pursue.

Polls show that 70 percent of executives believe age bias in the workplace has increased over the past five years. In fact, job seekers are reporting age discrimination as early as their mid-30s.

When job hunting, many have found that 40 is the new 60. People in the Pepsi Generation (the ad campaign was launched in 1963) are not as attractive to many employers as younger candidates, who are perceived as more tech savvy. Experience, once considered a positive attribute, might now be an albatross around your neck.

So what can you do to address age discrimination and promote your candidacy for employment?

Tools and Methods
•  Lean on your network. Use business contacts to get your foot in the door. Hiring officials will be more open to you if they have received a recommendation from someone they trust.

•  Be careful in cover letters. Avoid listing the number of years you have worked. Avoid terms like "seasoned professional." Emphasize related experience, adaptability and technical skills. Be specific.

•  Revise your résumé. Don't stress length of experience in your job/career objective. Limit your employment history to the most recent and relevant 15 years. Don't include your college graduation date. Consider using a functional résumé or a mixture of functional and chronological.

•  Include tech and social media skills. List the latest programs you have some facility in. Include your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles. Also include a VisualCV (visualcv.com). This shows you are comfortable with social media. Avoid a "YouTube-umé" or video résumé -- you'll look old before an interview is offered.

The Interview
•  Don't patronize. The gatekeeper might be much younger than you; show respect.

•  Engage the interviewer. Talk about something that might be pertinent to him or her. Don't talk about your children, grandchildren, aching bones, quilting or knitting. Paint a picture of yourself as someone energetic, youthful and active.

•  Emphasize your capabilities. Focus on what you bring to the table, not how long you have been bringing it.

•  Be money-wise. If compensation is mentioned, talk about acceptable ranges, not past salary history.

The Follow-Up
•  Email a thank-you note. Use one of the many smartpad apps, like ThankYouPro or Sincerely Ink. Also send a handwritten note, which is never out of style. Do not text a thank you unless a quick response is urgent.

Action Plan
•  Keep current. Learn and be comfortable with the most recent technology. Know what is happening in the industry now, via sources such as M&C.

•  Update your wardrobe and appearance to look fresh.

•  Consider a new career. Most of us fell into this industry by chance; we didn't aspire to plan meetings and events. Is there something else you'd really like to do? Can you monetize it? Look at your budget. What schooling would you need? Create a plan, and share your ideas with a friend. It's never too late for a fresh beginning.

Dawn Penfold, CMP, is a meetings-industry career expert and the president/owner of Meetingjobs LLC (meetingjobs.com), a national search firm.