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Tips for overcoming age biases

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It’s hard to say where telling people your age is a bigger issue: Hollywood or nursing! Trying to be taken seriously as a fresh-faced new grad can be just as aggravating as being passed over because you’re over 45—even though you have twice the experience necessary for the job! Here’s some advice on how to battle the age bias at every phase of your career.

 

AGE RANGE: 21–26
If you’re fresh out of nursing school, continue your education. If you have your AAS in nursing and have passed your NCLEX, take a few courses that can be used toward your BSN or a course through your local Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), which can give you skills in phlebotomy or IV access. Many hospitals have IV access teams, and knowing how to draw blood or access an IV may help you get your foot in the door and get that job quickly. Additional training shows that you have a vested interest in your profession and tells potential employers that you aren’t ready to quit learning.

Dress code
When you get that all-important interview, dress as though you’re going to meet with the president of the company. This may sound like tough love, but unfortunately it can make a huge difference. Keep piercings to the ears only; remove all facial piercings. Cover any exposed tattoos.

Men:
Get a haircut.
Men should wear clean and pressed shirts and ties with dress pants.
Be clean-shaven or at least keep your beard meticulously groomed.

Women:
Wear a dress that’s not too short or too tight, and wear pantyhose, even if you hate it!
Keep the color of your attire basic, nothing flashy.
Polish your shoes or buy a new pair. No sneakers, flip-flops or uncomfortable shoes.
Keep jewelry to a minimum.

AGE RANGE: 35–44
When over the age of 35, be sure to stick with age-appropriate clothing and hairstyles. Tidying up your look in certain cases doesn’t hurt, either. If you have mousy colored or graying hair, color it a soft hue that’s a shade lighter than the natural hair color of your youth; harsh hair color can age you.

Check out current fashions and refresh your wardrobe with a few new items. Go to your local makeup counter at a major department store. Get a facial. Keep your look soft and, again, age-appropriate. If you’ve been thinking about losing a few pounds, it’s time to start. Eat healthfully, drink plenty of water (it brightens your eyes!) and get enough sleep. It’ll all show up on your face!

AGE RANGE: 45 and up
If you’ve been a nurse for a very long time or are just starting a new career after the age of 40, it may be difficult to find a nursing job or even change your field. Use your life experiences to enhance your resume. Did you care for an ailing family member, or a child with a chronic disease? Sharing this information could land you your first job.

Don’t get desperate and apply for jobs that aren’t realistic. You have to remember that the job you could do in your 20s and 30s may not be the job you can do in your 50s and 60s. A good rule of thumb: Look at your potential job as one you may have until you’re 65 or beyond. Try to stay away from nursing jobs that require a lot of heavy lifting or repetitive work.

Keep up your nursing skills. Try taking a few certification courses that will enhance your resume and make you more marketable.

And a last word of advice: If you’re 40 years old or older and have proof of age discrimination, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

AT ANY AGE
When you go to an interview, never mention your age or verbally compare yourself to the age of the staff. Your experience and what you have to offer your new employer is all that matters. Dress to impress, but don’t overdo it, and don’t wear heavy perfume or cologne. Once you have that job, keep your attire age- and size-appropriate. When choosing work apparel, always remember that you’re a professional.

Whatever age you may be, stay positive! While some people get the job of their dreams on the first interview, there are some who must interview multiple times. Think of interviewing as your job. Be prepared for your interview, do your homework and stay optimistic. Sensing an age bias can frustrate anyone. Don’t let other people’s opinions bother you!

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Candace Finch, BSN, RN

Candace Finch, BSN, RN is an orthopedic and bariatric nurse. Candace began her nursing career after the age of 40 and recently completed her BSN from Empire State College Distance Learning. She is a firm believer that it is never too late to reinvent yourself. As a mother of two children with Type 1 Diabetes, she has learned that whatever God gives you can be used to benefits others. She enjoys quiet time with her husband and family, reading non-fiction books, listening to contemporary Christian music and traveling with her daughter to Disney World.
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