The number of Americans age 55 and older will almost double between now and 2030 – from 60 million today (21 percent of the total US population) to 107.6 million (31 percent of the population) – as the baby boomers reach retirement age.
Source: Civic Ventures
As an image and branding consultant, I’m noticing that older workers are more vulnerable to losing their jobs in layoffs or reductions than younger workers. In addition, older candidates are often told that they are not a suitable fit. Another disconcerting observation is that the seasoned executive (over 50) is disappearing from the executive suite.
Without pointing a finger at any particular industry or company, the reality is that in North America, age and experience are not celebrated or valued as in other countries.
So…what’s the answer? Should you invest in Botox? Remortgage your home for a facelift? FedEx your practical wardrobe to needy relatives and hit the Gap? No one has a right to tell you that you are extinct; that your 25 years of tireless commitment were meaningless and that dying your hair on a monthly basis is mandatory.
However, I am often sought out by corporations to work with individuals who are valued, but do not have the right image for their organization. It isn’t always about someone’s age but it comes down to how others perceive your overall package. Are you representing the image of your company? Are you someone who fits in and stands out for your own individuality? Would your senior leadership feel comfortable having you as a spokesperson on their behalf? These are very important questions that everyone needs to ask themselves, let alone when one’s age comes into play.
Whether you are presently employed, not wanting or unable to retire just yet or looking for employment, here are some simple suggestions to showcase your personal best and diffuse the age issue:
- First and foremost, always be authentic to yourself and honor the values and principles by which you live (remember my earlier post in which I talk about “Aligning Your Brand with Your Personal Values Equals True Success”). However, you need to reinvent yourself to stay marketable. Looking like you are holding onto your college look will send messages that you are change and risk adverse.
- Second, seek feedback from trusted friends and mentors on how they believe you come across in a first impression.
- Invest in looking current, regardless of your age. This refers to your hairstyle in particular. If you’ve been going to the same hairstylist or barber for the last ten years, time to move on. Try someone younger for a different perspective. Dying your hair color: let’s put it this way, staying grey or going white will age you. It’s your choice but if youth is valued in this economy, why do you want to date yourself?
- Makeup counts as it accents your features. Update your colors. Seek professional advice. It’s not about using more makeup but the right makeup for your skin type. Opt for looking fresh and healthy, not extreme like for example Lady GaGa.
- Look fashionable, and by that I don’t mean trendy. Update your accessories every season so that you look cool and current. Consider updating your shoes, jewellery, style of pant cut, width of tie, length of skirt, height of your heels, the width of your belt.
- Dress so people can see you have pride in your appearance and like yourself enough to pay attention to detail.
- Look at others in your company to see how they dress, You don’t have to dress like a Gerber but looking like their grandfather won’t serve your best interests either.
Your visual presence will speak louder than words if you look outdated or dishevelled. If you are concerned about employment, look at this investment as an opportunity for creating your bigger future.
And yes, your virtual photo on Facebook and LinkedIn matter! As is what you write, which is something that we will be talking about in an upcoming post because prospective employers do check your social networking sites to gain a perspective as to what you are really like.