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No matter how old you are, there is always a label attached to your age -- especially in the workplace.
Younger workers are often viewed as inexperienced, incompetent and sometimes even entitled. Middle-age workers can either seem restless in their careers or too comfortable. But perhaps baby boomers get the most grief, as they are often considered old-fashioned, inflexible and retirement-focused.
"Perceptions about older workers often dominate the hiring process," says Jean Erickson Walker, Ed.D, author of "The Age Advantage: Making the Most of Your Midlife Career Transition." "Today's 60 is yesterday's 40. People aren't checking out Sun City. They are healthy, energetic and competitive and determined to remain productive well into their 70s. They aren't going anywhere near that rocking chair on the front porch if they can help it."
Unfortunately, job seekers and employees experience age discrimination every day. In 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported more than 19,000 allegations of age discrimination in the workplace, according to its Web site. They resolved 16,134 allegations and recovered $66.8 million in monetary benefits for people alleging discrimination and other individuals (not including money obtained through litigation).
Rather than give in to age discrimination and the social stigmas attached to age, Walker says older workers should embrace their maturity and start selling their experience for what it is: an advantage.
"Older workers save companies time and money. Their experience and expertise means they avoid blocks and go right for the opportunities," she says. "They identify options quickly, have the interpersonal skills to bring people together to get the job done, and bring time-proven strategies to do it quicker, cheaper and better."
Additionally, Walker notes that a few of the apprehensions employers may have about older workers are arguable:
· Health concerns. Employers worry that older folks may ultimately cost more as their health deteriorates. Walker says that people older than 50 tend to take fewer sick days than younger people, and that it "takes a gurney to get them off the job."
· Technologically inept. "The concern about people at midlife being technically [incompetent] is an old saw that holds very little merit," Walker says. "Although they didn't grow up with computers on their desks, they've been using them for over 20 years now. There is very little they don't know about common usage."
· Younger bosses. Bosses do get younger every day, but Walker says that the relationship between someone with experience and someone who is ready to experiment and take risks can be outstanding. "Once they get over the initial adjustment, they often develop a relationship based solidly on mutual respect and each learns from the other," she says. "The key is a leadership philosophy based on collaboration rather than top-down authority."
If you're an older worker who is looking for a job where people will have faith and trust in your wisdom, here are five jobs where your experience and expertise are an advantage:
1. Health care professional
Why age is an advantage: Though young people in the medical field are more than capable of providing exceptional medical care, some people simply don't feel comfortable having someone their daughter's age in charge of their life. Older health-care professionals exude good judgment and breadth of experience; people believe you are less likely to be wrong or make a mistake.
Annual average salary*: Salary will vary depending on your position in the industry.
2. Financial adviser
Why age is an advantage: Older workers hold a lot of credibility with stakeholders, Walker says. There's a natural assumption that someone older knows what he is talking about, which is important when talking about finances. People will believe they can trust your opinion because they come from having been "been there, done that."
Annual average salary: $66,242
3. Career counselor
Why age is an advantage: It's doubtful a college graduate is going to feel comfortable getting career advice from someone who graduated the year before her. People want career advice from people who actually have depth in the work force. Older workers have a great work ethic, as most of them came into the market when they remained at one company until earning a gold watch. That type of commitment will be useful when others need help landing a career.
Annual average salary: $47,074
4. Brand manager
Why age is an advantage: Older workers usually have a clear commitment to company goals, which means they believe in what the company is selling. "Their knowledge and experience in the global marketplace creates a frame of reference to understand 'why' and to recognize the place of the company within that marketplace," Walker says.
Annual average salary: $60,706
Why age is an advantage: The good thing about being a consultant is that you can consult for almost anything. As someone older, you probably have more than one area of expertise; consult for them all! Your knowledge will make clients believe you will commit fewer errors, identify the best opportunities and find the clearest path to results, Walker says.
Annual average salary: $152,423; salaries will vary.
*According to CBSalary.com
Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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