Older Workers: Your Career is Not Dead

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA’s protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training.


According to Fortune.com, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that the number of age discrimination charges has increased with the recession, rising from 16,548 charges (21.8 percent of all claims) in 2006 to 22,778 (24.4 percent of all claims) in 2009.


While age discrimination may be alive and well, workers from 40-70 are still highly marketable.  Seasoned recruiters and hiring managers know that older employees bring qualities to the table that younger ones simply don’t: things like dedication, commitment, insight, stability, and maturity.  Because they have so many years of experience until their belt, they have seen every business scenario play out at least once and know how to handle themselves effectively.  And whether virtual or hard-copy, their Rolodexes are forces to be reckoned with.

Another plus is that older workers have lived long enough to understand what they really want out of a job, and will be more likely to infuse it with personal meaning and passion.  Far from being one foot out the door to retirement in Boca Raton, they see work as a critical part of their identity that will be around forever.  Smart employers know this about the Baby Boomers (1945-63) and Generation X (1964-79).

Where the Jobs Are

So if you’re a worker in your prime, where should you look for jobs that are less likely to discriminate against you?  I’d start with industries that count older individuals as their key customers – like healthcare and financial services – because employees that can relate one-on-one to this important demographic are very valuable.  You should also target fields  that are growing in general – like engineering and information technology – because even if you don’t have industry-specific knowledge, transferable skills like project management, sales, finance, and marketing, are relevant and useful in many roles across large organizations. And you’d be surprised how easy industry expertise is to pick up – in some cases you might be a few online classes away from the credentials you need.

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