My Field Notes About Ageism At Work
Field notes about ageism from your image consultant: Claim the ownership of your own image and turn your age into a competitive advantage rather than a liability.
Ageism means stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. In practice it shows as systematically giving the most challenging projects to younger employees or overlooking older staff over salary increases or promotions. It can also show in the language that’s being used at workplace or in everyday practices such as who is invited to brainstorm and who is being sent to conferences.
In many countries people are protected by law against discrimination by age, gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, disabilities etc. Sadly there are sneaky ways to go around the law. Also there is insufficient information available about recognizing and dealing with ageism at work.
Discrimination at workplace and during hiring process can be difficult and time consuming to prove. I discuss this topic often with my clients and can assure you that it has to be taken seriously. That’s the reason why I am sharing my field notes about ageism with you today.
Let’s begin with an unpleasant scientific fact. Global studies show that especially women are facing persistent age discrimination at the workplace as they get older. This Financial Times article quotes Professor Lynda Gratton:
“Ageism at work began at 40 for women and 45 for men”– Professor Lynda Gratton, co-author of “The 100 Year Life: Living and Work in an Age of Longevity”
Field Notes About Ageism: Do We Have An Expiration Date?
A wonderful line of spectacular women who I am proud to call my friends, clients and business partners are now +40. You might be the same age, or approaching it wondering what will change. Somehow 40 feels shockingly young and I am certain that there are big differences per industry. But still, it’s a depressing statistic that we need to live with.
For me it feels impossible to imagine that these amazing, witty, multi-talented, highly educated and very experienced women are approaching, or actually already past, a point in their life where they are no longer considered valuable, desirable or worth investing in.
I am sad to acknowledge that ageism is a real problem for women, and men too, in the workplace. Empowering women over (and below!) a certain age, mothers, ethnic minorities is an absolute must in order to prep your business for the new era.
Women have never been more capable than they are today. Reducing them to a product with an expiry date is just an utter waste of fabulous resources. The richness of a workplace comes from diversity and recognizing different skill sets. Those skills don’t magically vanish after a certain age. On the other hand, a young person can have amazing talent that can be nurtured and evolved into something truly magical with a little patience.
How Do I Fit In This Picture?
My job as an image consultant is to help you to be the best possible version of yourself at all ages and in any situation. I will help you to put your best foot forward and to stay relevant, regardless of your age -or size. A lot of it comes down to confidence and owning your life.
There are a lot of unexpected advantages of hiring an image consultant and having a second opinion on things is definitely one of them. Later in this article I will give you practical examples on how to get started on your own already today. Hang on and read further.
Confidence Over Botox
My clients often ask for a fresher, younger and more dynamic look. They have come to the right address because I love to create strong signature looks that work for them. You too can achieve this with me, and without any invasive tricks.
I consider your body unique shape, your naturally radiant colors, your lifestyle and style preferences. I won’t make you look like someone else, I promise that! My approach is kind of an anti-thesis to the current youth-admiring status quo that forces people in a narrow box where they don’t necessarily feel comfortable in.
I am myself unapologetic about my age: I am turning 45 later this year and won’t keep it a secret. My life has been great and I have learned a lot over the years, especially after starting my own business in 2015. I am now more capable than I ever was before. Lucky for me that I can’t be discriminated at work since I am the only staff and the owner.
Your Age As Your Asset
I always advice to be open and honest about your age, just as you would be honest about your skills. Think about you the courses you have taken, seminars and conferences you have attended, things that interest you so much that you find yourself wanting to read more and more about the topic.
These are all great assets to have and you may have not have had them when you were 20. Certainly you didn’t know then everything that you know today. Every year you can grow to be a bit wiser and more experienced. But don’t get cocky about your age. Just because you’re older doesn’t automatically mean that you’re wiser.
You need to continuously keep yourself up to date on what’s going on in the world and in your industry. Just settling down and claiming that your personal brand is ready is not enough. It’s not a race, it’s a lifelong journey. In my opinion it’s a journey worth taking because it gives so much in return.
Work On Your Personal Brand
Stay curious and keep that spark going on. Strive to educate yourself regularly by taking courses and attending workshops. Read a lot and refrain from ready chewn opinions. Try to meet new people outside of your immediate circles by attending networking events and meetups. Abundance of life doesn’t come to you. You need to actively search for it and invite it to you.
As a result of your continuously increasing experience and life-long learning you are an improved version of yourself today. This is the image you want to show to the outer world regardless of your age. Best personal brands are always deeply authentic and have a personal narrative. That story can be a series of events, a growth story or one life changing event.
Always remember that these things can happen to anyone at any stage of life. You too have a story to tell. What’s your personal narrative? That you have learned, grown, developed? Or that you are still a victim of circumstances? The latter shows that you’re not owning it, whereas the former is where your story is. Bring it out and tell it to the world!
Work On Your Digital Presence
Your digital presence consists of all your social media profiles, your website, all photos of you that have ever been posted online and everything you have ever written or that has been written about you on online. It sounds massive but in reality it’s not. Most people don’t need a huge online presence. You too can easily work on your personal image from the comfort of your own home.
Managing it all in a cool way can feel like a daunting task but luckily we have been blessed with a myriad of easy-to-use tools that put us right on the edge of the latest technology without actually being incredibly tech savvy. I know I am not but I am still rocking the show. It’s just too easy nowadays!
Use your online presence in your advantage and success. Utilize the best of all features that your relevant social media platforms offer. Many of these features are available for free or at low cost. Have a professional business head shot taken for your socials or play around with your phone for a nice DIY profile photo.
I Can Help You To Cultivate An Online Presence
Many succesful people have dedicated professionals to keep up their social media channels so don’t compare yourself to them. For you it might be enough to have a clean presence that reflects your authentic self in a professional manner. Sometimes my clients get really excited about professional presence on social media and want to learn more on their own.
I can help you to decide what type of image you want to project to the outer world. You can tell me how you want to be perceived and I will plan your online presence around those wishes. I can also help you to get started and give you advice on how to make it work for you. It’s nothing to be ashamed of if you’re not interested in doing it on your own.
Work On Your Personal Style
Regarding your personal style, allow yourself to live a little of your dreams. If you love a certain style or item, go for it. Life is too short to think if you can pull it off. If it makes you heart skip a beat, it’s probably the right item for you.
Add in your wardrobe a couple of statement items that are a logical part of your narrative. These can also be accessories. I find that less is often more and you don’t need to change a lot to make a big impact.
I give online style advice based on body shapes and best colors. Very often I notice that women already know what suits them. They just unsure on how to incorporate it in their every day life. Some women also lack confidence and would profit tremendously from having an unbiased style consultation.
Many clients also ask if they can wear certain items past a certain age. REPEAT AFTER ME: We wear what we love to wear. Increased confidence is one of the best things about aging and it’s the key to your natural charisma. This works also the other way around: Younger women can develop their confidence from early age to appear stronger and more professional.
Your personality is what people will initially find the most fascinating about you. Your age is really just a number, and the world is about to see what you are made of. You just need to step up and claim the ownership of your personal image. Remember that aging (un)gracefully is more fun!
I would also like to encourage you to educate the people around you to wake up and see what is going on. Help your friends and peers to learn about their rights. The more people know about their rights, the better for everyone.
Stand up for those who are being discriminated. Be a catalyst for change in your organization. You can start by sharing these field notes about ageism with your peers.
Educate also people above you to learn the value of a diverse workplace because everyone will profit of this in a long run, including yourself. Buy from companies that are actively driving change by recruiting people of all ages. Diversity is abundance!
Give your peers of all ages positive feedback and share their success stories in social media. One easy way to start is to share this article and see what kind of discussion it will spark. The process of starting actively conversations is called being a thought leader. You can be a thought leader on the matter of ageism.
Read some other really great ideas on keeping your personal brand up to date and challenging the status quo in this Forbes article: “Age Discrimination And Women In The Workplace: How To Avoid Getting Pushed Out”
In the end of the day, age is just a number. What YOU make out of it counts more than anything else. I am delighted to help you to navigate this transformation with ease. You don’t have to do it all alone.
Learn More About My Way Of Working
You can read more about my female-friendly, age and body positive approach to image consulting and personal style in my blog archives:
I hope you found these field notes about ageism helpful and encouraging. I would also like to hear from your experiences and views on ageism. Together we can make a better world!
This article was originally published on 20th March 2016 and updated on 26th March 2021 with improved image consulting advice and updated links.