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More recently, Sex and the City producer Darren Star's new show, Younger, is about a 40-year-old woman who claims to be 26 to get ahead at work. In the spring, Pitch Perfect star Rebel Wilson—who was claiming to be 29—was outed as 35. And a 43-year-old artist recently told Salon.com that she keeps her age under wraps because she doesn't want to be perceived as "old, tired, or running out of time to do my best work."
According to human resources expert Keri Spooner from the University of Technology in Sydney, age discrimination against women kicks in at around age 45. Lisa Finkelstein, professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University, says older workers fear being judged. "They worry that people will think they don't know how to use technology, or that they're not able to adapt," says Finkelstein. "When people advertise for certain positions, they'll use buzzwords like ‘energetic' that we associate with younger people, and that can trigger concerns about disclosing age." Older workers can also be considered more expensive than new hires, thanks to their additional work experience and raised expectations.
To deal with such age-related concerns, Dr. Jennifer Newman, a Vancouver-based psychologist and workplace expert, has some suggestions.
- Start with your résumé. "Noting that you have a lot of experience isn't always persuasive," says Newman. "Put your relevant skills front and centre, and focus on what you've learned."
- Ensure your professional look is updated, including haircut and wardrobe, come interview time.
- Pay close attention to what's said. "If you sense that they think your skills aren't current in a particular area, like technology, talk about your tech skills," she says. "If they seem worried that your working years are limited, talk about your commitment to the role and your passion for the industry."
Despite negative preconceptions about aging and the workplace, midlife can be an empowering time for your career. Kim France—the founding editor of Lucky magazine—was fired after nearly three decades in the publishing industry. "I was a 48-year-old woman with skills that were verging on obsolete, and I worried that I wouldn't be anyone's first choice," she says. France decided to take the opportunity to not only embrace her own age but also create a resource for her peers. She started the website Girls of a Certain Age, which chronicles fashion, beauty and design through the lens of a "grown-up."
At age 51, France is now exactly where she wants to be. "It's gratifying to be visible," she says. "It's validating and it sends a message that there's something inherently desirable about being your age."
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This story was originally part of "Career Tool Kit" in the October 2015 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!