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Q: Dear Mildred, In interviews, employers let me know Im qualified. Then two things generally happen.
The employer either does the math and figures out that Im 50-something or the sweet young thing sitting across from me realizes shell have to supervise me and I know more than she does. You cant prove age discrimination.
A: Dear Rattled, Age discrimination is difficult to prove, but you can take steps to minimize it.
Keep from sticking out by interviewing in companies where other people over 50 work. Theyre everywhere.
Next, do an internal makeover (aka attitude shift). Think about the sweet young thing as a daughter, younger sister, cousin or next-door neighbor. Youll appear much warmer to her. Youll also be less likely to create distance between the two of you.
That will help convert your distance-creating attitude about knowing more (of course you do) into one of being able to help in certain ways. It will also remove some of the competition your barrier sets up.
Obviously, age discrimination is a real problem. Be smart about where you look and how you respond to others to make working together more possible.
Q: Dear Dr. Culp, In my time qualifications mattered. I was a classical school graduate. This was a passport to a career. I applied for a teaching job and my uncle took initiative in his own a paternal way by calling for the results.
He decided I was not going to the Academy and declared on his own I was not accepting the offer. And how am I going to find a job? I asked him. When I couldnt, I took a secretarial course and became a secretary. I later earned a law degree and today Im a published author.
A: Dear Retrospective, Being motivated from within, as you were, provides the strongest foundation for a career. Its tempting to seek work relatives think you should seek or avoid opportunities they want you to bypass because they often project their values onto your situation.
The secret to finding joy in a career is knowing what you want and going after it. You were extremely young to act with such insight and maturity in the face of authority, particularly at a time when job-hunting wasnt a required skill. People absolutely must stick to their guns, even in the face of career adversity.