What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers

For mid-aged IT professionals, especially you are 50 years or older, I have bad news and good news for you. Let's see what's bad about it:

  • (1) Age discrimination does exist in IT industry.
  • (2) IT industry workforce is very young. You've seen fresh college graduates play all sort of hot skills and compete with you. When you get older, you'll see more young kids around you in workplace, and they do put presures on older people.
  • (3) IT industry is a fast-paced changing world. IT experiences are built by continuous learning, but not by time. So your time with the industry does not add much value if you stop learning.

However, on the other side the good news is:

  • (1) Everyone is getting older; you are not alone.
  • (2) You can underplay your age in many ways.

Why you are discriminated

Before we address strategies for handling aging, we need to find out why IT professionals may be discriminated by age. If you were a 50+ IT guy, your boss and co-worker might think you are:

  • (1) Less productive.
  • (2) Over paid.
  • (3) Lack of new skills.
  • (4) Not fit in.
  • (5) Higher cost.
  • (6) Health problems.
  • (7) Less energetic.
  • (8) ...

Whether or not they are true, they are the reasons of age discrimination. Your boss, like anyone else, wants to get more by paying less. One thing for sure, age discrimination is illegal and morally wrong. If you are discriminated, you can always grip the legal weapon to fight, and you may win big money. That's of course beyond our topic here. In the following sections, let discuss some of the easy-apply strategies to avoid age issues in workplace and in job hunting.

Strategies in Workplace

By doing the following things, you can greatly down play your age in workplace.

  • Talk about new, hot, and emerging technologies - Don't talk too much about old school stuff such as mainframes and JCLs; instead, speak Java, .NET, and XML web services, SaaS, big data, cloud computing, and so forth.
  • Keep yourself look young - dye your hair, have new hair style; you have too less hair, have a cool bold like many IT executives. Dress good with some fasion. Speak a little bit faster, move a little bit quickerr. You'll look younger, feel younger, and behave younger.
  • Make friends with young co-workers. Learn their lifestyle and find common language with them.
  • Retain your physical energy level. Do exercise regularly. A can of Red Bull Energy Drink could be helpful too.
  • Learn new skills, catch up the pace. Remember, never too old to learn.

Strategies in Job Hunting

During job hunting, there are many effective ways you can down play your age:

Resume strategies

  • Include only the most recent experience up to 10 years. If your way back experience has specific value, i.e., industry sector knowledge, we can present it in the summary section.
  • Don't show year and date of graduation in the Education section. Only list the name of college and the degree obtained. Include recent trainings and certifications in the Education section.
  • Don't over emphasize old skills such as mainframe, COBOL, JCL, etc. no mater how you are proud of them. Present your skills with focus on new technologies - put a bunch of hot stuff related to your field, such as J2EE, .NET, XML, Web Services, VOIP, Wireless, or whatever.

Interview strategies

  • Make yourself appear younger. A lot of cosmetic stuff available can help you achieve this goal fairly easy. Dye your hair if necessary. If you wear glasses, choose a fashion glass frame.
  • Be energetic. There are several ways to upscale your energy level: have sound greetings, make a firm hand shack, speak on a little bit faster pace, and listen with interest and quick response.
  • Present up-to-date knowledge and skills. Talk about your recent experience; don't refer your work back to 15 years ago.

Best Workplace for Aging IT Pros

If you are a mid-aged IT professional, you should consider finding a workplace that fit your lifestyle and secure your job for the rest of years till retirement. The truth is, you do become less competitive when you get older, so job security becomes more important than career growth.

I found that the best places for aging IT pros are, with no surprise:

  • Federal agencies.
  • State governments.
  • Local governments.
  • Traditional corporations.

I see a lot of old, happy faces there. They always tell me how relax they are and they won't worry about lay-off in bad economy. That sounds great.