Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

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fnmix
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Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by fnmix » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:06 pm

Hi All,

I find myself back in the job market a year after I started my current role. I am 46 and in a business (middle-management) role at micro-cap tech company in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately my company hasn't been doing well lately and has had two large rounds of layoffs. New management has come into the company and are evaluating their options. Best I can tell, my role was valued higher by the previous management (most of whom are no longer around) than the new management. So it is time for me to proactively look for a job before the axe falls.

I interviewed with one mega-corp over the phone and got rejected. I thought that I had done quite well in the phone screen and was looking forward to going onsite. The younger sounding interviewer on the other end obviously thought otherwise. Post-rejection I am realizing that I may come off as "old" and "not with it" to the average interviewer (at such a firm) 10 or 15 years younger than I am.

I have another phone interview coming up with a similar mega-corp whose demographic also skews young. If I clear the phone screen, there will be onsite interviews.

Question: What can I do to come off as more "with it" and "not obviously old" - both on the phone and in-person. What have you done in the past that seems to have helped? (I am male if that makes a difference).

PS: I do have gray hair which I will be getting colored over the weekend (have never done that before so this will be an experience). That is as far I have gotten in thinking through options. Clearly, I need your help!
PPS: Whatever my next job is, I need it to last atleast 1.5 years (at which point my wife will be ready to go back to work as a teacher). After that, I am ok with leaving the tech industry and finding something else to do.

livesoft
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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by livesoft » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:14 pm

I've always taught young people and hung out with young people. That also means being physically active in a big way, but not going out drinking all the time. So in essence, spend lots of time with young, physically active people. Now that might offend some people, but there it is.
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Jags4186
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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by Jags4186 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:17 pm

Change up your resume a little. Take off the year you graduated college. Jobs you had over 15 years ago. Are you in good shape/do you "look" 46 years old? I find most older people in good shape can pass for anywhere between 30 and 50. Don't give meaningful details about your family.

123
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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by 123 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:18 pm

Drop your graduation date from your resume if it's there. If possible drop earliar jobs from your resume so you'll have less experience (and seem younger).
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

fnmix
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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by fnmix » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:35 pm

Thanks for the replies thus far

- I owe meetings to a couple of former directs (younger folk) that I informally mentor. I will be getting back to them!
- I don't have graduation dates on my resume, but a couple jobs go back before 2008. I will be dropping them from the resume.
- Unfortunately I do look mid-40s. I am in ok shape, but not awesome shape. I returned to running a few weeks. Will be stepping up the time/distance/frequency.
- Will not be discussing family in any of the interviews.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by HongKonger » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:47 pm

Take a good hard look at your clothes and the colours you wear. Why not go in a store and ask an assistant to make suggestions for you to try on a new look - tell them you have a new younger woman. Speak to you wife about concealer/highlighter or go to a male 'grooming' counter/store. Get an updated haircut when you get the colour and get your teeth whitened if they need it - teeth and hair are the quickest way to knock years off.

quantAndHold
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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by quantAndHold » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:51 pm

Not every job is right for everyone. If you have to be something you aren’t to get the job, actually doing that job for months and years isn’t going to be very much fun.

I just updated my resume today in response to a recruiter contact. I still have my grad date and the dates of every job (mid 50’s, and have not worked, by choice, for over a year). I would never be able to pass myself off as younger than I am, and why should I? I earned every grey hair I have, and I bring a lot of useful knowledge and experience with me to every job I do. I embrace my role as the den mother, and the young guys love and respect me.

There are companies where there are more older people, where it’s easier to be ‘old’, if that’s what you want. Or if you want a younger, hipper company, embracing and selling the maturity you have to offer is probably a better way to go.

fnmix
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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by fnmix » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:02 am

quantAndHold wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:51 pm
Not every job is right for everyone. If you have to be something you aren’t to get the job, actually doing that job for months and years isn’t going to be very much fun.
I am actually ok with the job not being fun for the next 18 months. I know that after that I will have a choice - of not working such a job as my wife will head back to work and that will be enough for us to meet expenses.

The above said, I think a part of my problem is that I don't consciously thinking of "looking good" or "looking young" or "keeping up with what's new". If I need to do a bit more work on this front to look more current, I won't mind it.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by Mudpuppy » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:19 am

You've narrowed in on your age as an issue, but are you sure that's it? How are you keeping your skills up-to-date? Have you been going to relevant professional society meetings or social gatherings to network with people in your area of specialization and to stay up-to-date? Can you talk with passion about your specialization in tech and even your own personal tech projects (e.g. your home LAN)? Have you researched the major projects of the company that you're interviewing at? Can you name what their competitors are doing in those areas?

Showing a weakness in any of these areas are more likely to torpedo a job interview than your age. Mid-40s is not ancient, particularly not for a management role. But if you haven't researched the company and their competitors (asking me basic questions you could have discovered from the website is a red flag), if you can't talk about recent trends in your specialty (someone in hardware security better be able to talk about Spectre and Meltdown or it's a red flag), if you can't answer basic knowledge questions (I've had people interview for a senior Linux sys admin role who didn't know what inodes are... big red flag), and if you don't show some level of spark or passion for tech (someone applying for a network admin job let their ISP set up their home LAN... also a red flag), you're not going to do well at the interview. Hair dye and new clothes aren't going to solve any of these issues either.

Do you have someone who can give you a mock interview and an honest assessment of your performance on these points? Perhaps someone from the previous management that valued your role in the company before the merger could provide you with some feedback? Another possibility... I assume they have also moved on to new jobs, so perhaps it could be as simple as reaching out to see if there might be a place for you at their new places of employment.

Edit: Typo

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by davidsorensen32 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:22 am

I’m in the same boat as you are and have realized that the ONLY solution to this problem is strict anti age discrimination legislation. Let me know if you want to start a crowdfunding page.
fnmix wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:06 pm
Hi All,

I find myself back in the job market a year after I started my current role. I am 46 and in a business (middle-management) role at micro-cap tech company in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately my company hasn't been doing well lately and has had two large rounds of layoffs. New management has come into the company and are evaluating their options. Best I can tell, my role was valued higher by the previous management (most of whom are no longer around) than the new management. So it is time for me to proactively look for a job before the axe falls.

I interviewed with one mega-corp over the phone and got rejected. I thought that I had done quite well in the phone screen and was looking forward to going onsite. The younger sounding interviewer on the other end obviously thought otherwise. Post-rejection I am realizing that I may come off as "old" and "not with it" to the average interviewer (at such a firm) 10 or 15 years younger than I am.

I have another phone interview coming up with a similar mega-corp whose demographic also skews young. If I clear the phone screen, there will be onsite interviews.

Question: What can I do to come off as more "with it" and "not obviously old" - both on the phone and in-person. What have you done in the past that seems to have helped? (I am male if that makes a difference).

PS: I do have gray hair which I will be getting colored over the weekend (have never done that before so this will be an experience). That is as far I have gotten in thinking through options. Clearly, I need your help!
PPS: Whatever my next job is, I need it to last atleast 1.5 years (at which point my wife will be ready to go back to work as a teacher). After that, I am ok with leaving the tech industry and finding something else to do.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by HornedToad » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:36 am

Maybe I'm naive, but I'd argue that a good portion of the problem with being older is more that your skills might be dated. Over time, as you work on projects, its natural to not be as fluent with new technologies and trends as you would have been when you were younger and learning in school, had more time to explore, were more hands on with projects, etc. Look at the area you are in, and ask yourself whether you can speak coherently on the relevant trends and technologies in that area. If you need to get a cloud account or git account to try them out, that also can work because then you are showing initiative to explore the technologies, even if you haven't used them in a project.

As a first level manager, I'd say this is even more important, because you have to be 100% a manager and 100% a technologist. Only once you get up a few levels can you afford to have your technical skills atrophy and just manage. You don't have to code, but you should be conversant on the relative tools of your trade and when you would use each one to solve business problems.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by anoop » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:48 am

I would be curious if any of these strategies to appear younger actually work out.

It's a tough market in IT. Most mid-career folks that I know find jobs through professional contacts, not by a regular application process. Those that do find positions through regular channels usually take a step down.

Usually they will ask what your salary expectations are and that answer is typically a give away for the number of years of experience at which point the expectations of the employer go up. Any chance they asked you that question in your last interview?

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by Bengineer » Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:03 am

OP, an alternate thought: It's not your age, it's where you're interviewing.

You have experience and skill in managing the mayhem at a small start-up. I'd think that would resonate most strongly with similar organizations.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by Leemiller » Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:28 am

I interviewed a bunch of people lately and what I wanted from older candidates was a clear demonstration of sigficant substantive experience. In your field, keeping up to date on the latest thing also sounds key. When I interview, I can talk through time periods of change that together means I have great experience to deal w the now - not sure if this works for tech.

On the appearance side, I think not looking frumpy - for a guy that means no pleated pants, stuff that fits well. A nice dress shirt maybe blue with a subtle texture. I think white can sometimes wash people out in overhead lighting. Good shoes, spend some money here. Stuff that is in style now. My co-worker tends to favor pleated khakis and scruffied shoes .... he’s not talked about well. I have a co-worker who does the suit w no tie look well, I just think a blue shirt would be better. I get that you’re in tech though. Maybe just I’m saying you can be the guy whose been through it all and all that new stuff I’ve done is just the next step in what I already knew so you have that confident/expert air.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:01 am

fnmix wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:06 pm
Hi All,


Question: What can I do to come off as more "with it" and "not obviously old" - both on the phone and in-person. What have you done in the past that seems to have helped? (I am male if that makes a difference).

PS: I do have gray hair which I will be getting colored over the weekend (have never done that before so this will be an experience). That is as far I have gotten in thinking through options. Clearly, I need your help!
PPS: Whatever my next job is, I need it to last atleast 1.5 years (at which point my wife will be ready to go back to work as a teacher). After that, I am ok with leaving the tech industry and finding something else to do.
What do you recommend for those who have a few extra pounds or have lost all of their hair early? Get over yourself, it's not your age or your manner of dress so long as it is clean and presentable, it's the companies you are interviewing with...... You struck out on one interview, so what, try interviewing at 10 different companies, if you strike out at all ten maybe it means something or nothing at all. You can dye your hair, but once you start you have to continue or that will be something to really talk about at the new place when your color bleeds out......

As far as the other comments on wearing pleated pants or shoes that aren't "in".......wow! just wow! inferring a person is not spoken of well because of dress? That one is just over the top.......
"One should invest based on their need, ability and willingness to take risk - Larry Swedroe" Asking Portfolio Questions

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by mouses » Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:12 am

Mudpuppy wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:19 am
You've narrowed in on your age as an issue, but are you sure that's it? How are you keeping your skills up-to-date? Have you been going to relevant professional society meetings or social gatherings to network with people in your area of specialization and to stay up-to-date? Can you talk with passion about your specialization in tech and even your own personal tech projects (e.g. your home LAN)? Have you researched the major projects of the company that you're interviewing at? Can you name what their competitors are doing in those areas?

Showing a weakness in any of these areas are more likely to torpedo a job interview than your age. Mid-40s is not ancient, particularly not for a management role. But if you haven't researched the company and their competitors (asking me basic questions you could have discovered from the website is a red flag), if you can't talk about recent trends in your specialty (someone in hardware security better be able to talk about Spectre and Meltdown or it's a red flag), if you can't answer basic knowledge questions (I've had people interview for a senior Linux sys admin role who didn't know what inodes are... big red flag), and if you don't show some level of spark or passion for tech (someone applying for a network admin job let their ISP set up their home LAN... also a red flag), you're not going to do well at the interview. Hair dye and new clothes aren't going to solve any of these issues either.

Do you have someone who can give you a mock interview and an honest assessment of your performance on these points? Perhaps someone from the previous management that valued your role in the company before the merger could provide you with some feedback? Another possibility... I assume they have also moved on to new jobs, so perhaps it could be as simple as reaching out to see if there might be a place for you at their new places of employment.

Edit: Typo
I'm really tired of advice to older, highly qualified people, that assumes they don't keep their skills up to date. That's part of ageism, assuming that if someone is older, they're ignorant and/or too tired to work well.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by fposte » Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:28 am

davidsorensen32 wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:22 am
I’m in the same boat as you are and have realized that the ONLY solution to this problem is strict anti age discrimination legislation. Let me know if you want to start a crowdfunding page.
The OP is over 40 and thus is covered by age discrimination legislation already. Since he's in California, there are additional state protections that may be even more effective than the federal law.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by jimmyq » Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:34 am

Honestly, I think that coloring your hair is the single biggest thing you can do to help remove some age related biases. Both my brother and I have premature gray hair (started going gray in my early 20s). My brother lost his job at age 44 and searched for 8 months, had what he thought were excellent interviews but was never selected. Then he decided to color his hair to get rid of the gray. Within two weeks he had an offer. Now this could have just been pure chance that it happened this way, but I do believe that looking younger helped him land a job quickly. I believe that many interviewers are biased against older workers, perhaps even subconsciously. In certain fields, like tech, I believe it definitely helps to look a little younger during the job hunt. My hair is almost 100% gray, and I plan on coloring it immediately if I have to start looking for another job.

Good luck with your job search.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by Hulu » Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:38 am

Clothes that are colored to fit your complexion, not having a hotmail.com account, younger friends, being excited about change, swagger, a smile and a good haircut. Maybe play some Fortnite and listen to Kanye. Basically relate to your coworkers...makes everyone's day go by faster.

As a vote of confidence my 60+ yo former director at a young, non-technical company was hired without being able to open email attachments. She had the smartest wardrobe on the team and a great attitude. We can always practice being young hearted.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by TN_Boy » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:42 am

jimmyq wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:34 am
Honestly, I think that coloring your hair is the single biggest thing you can do to help remove some age related biases. Both my brother and I have premature gray hair (started going gray in my early 20s). My brother lost his job at age 44 and searched for 8 months, had what he thought were excellent interviews but was never selected. Then he decided to color his hair to get rid of the gray. Within two weeks he had an offer. Now this could have just been pure chance that it happened this way, but I do believe that looking younger helped him land a job quickly. I believe that many interviewers are biased against older workers, perhaps even subconsciously. In certain fields, like tech, I believe it definitely helps to look a little younger during the job hunt. My hair is almost 100% gray, and I plan on coloring it immediately if I have to start looking for another job.

Good luck with your job search.
I always find this an interesting topic. I think ageism is real. But I think sometimes what the "victims" call ageism is a legitimate lack of being *really* up on needed skills. I know a lot of 50-somethings making a living in the tech industry. Granted, from what I read (haven't personally experienced) some areas/types of jobs seem to have more of a "youth" bias than others.

On the hair color, personally I would never color my hair (I'm older than the OP and my hair is really gray). But then again, hair color doesn't affect MY perception of how "old" a person is. It may be more important to other people. I look at things like how they move (briskly or slowly) how they talk (ramble or to the point :-)), what their interests are, and so forth. That tells me, though I actually don't care in terms of job qualifications, how "old" they are. Hair color doesn't tell you much.

I will say I like to put hobbies like "running" on a resume ..... stuff that sends the message "hey, I'm active and in good health!"

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by TN_Boy » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:46 am

mouses wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:12 am
Mudpuppy wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:19 am
You've narrowed in on your age as an issue, but are you sure that's it? How are you keeping your skills up-to-date? Have you been going to relevant professional society meetings or social gatherings to network with people in your area of specialization and to stay up-to-date? Can you talk with passion about your specialization in tech and even your own personal tech projects (e.g. your home LAN)? Have you researched the major projects of the company that you're interviewing at? Can you name what their competitors are doing in those areas?

Showing a weakness in any of these areas are more likely to torpedo a job interview than your age. Mid-40s is not ancient, particularly not for a management role. But if you haven't researched the company and their competitors (asking me basic questions you could have discovered from the website is a red flag), if you can't talk about recent trends in your specialty (someone in hardware security better be able to talk about Spectre and Meltdown or it's a red flag), if you can't answer basic knowledge questions (I've had people interview for a senior Linux sys admin role who didn't know what inodes are... big red flag), and if you don't show some level of spark or passion for tech (someone applying for a network admin job let their ISP set up their home LAN... also a red flag), you're not going to do well at the interview. Hair dye and new clothes aren't going to solve any of these issues either.

Do you have someone who can give you a mock interview and an honest assessment of your performance on these points? Perhaps someone from the previous management that valued your role in the company before the merger could provide you with some feedback? Another possibility... I assume they have also moved on to new jobs, so perhaps it could be as simple as reaching out to see if there might be a place for you at their new places of employment.

Edit: Typo
I'm really tired of advice to older, highly qualified people, that assumes they don't keep their skills up to date. That's part of ageism, assuming that if someone is older, they're ignorant and/or too tired to work well.
I don't believe Mudpuppy is saying the OP lacks skills. Mudpuppy is saying (I think) "It's hard for a person to objectively rate themselves, let somebody you trust give you feedback." Seems like a good suggestion to me.
Last edited by TN_Boy on Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by randomizer » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:56 am

fposte wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:28 am
davidsorensen32 wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:22 am
I’m in the same boat as you are and have realized that the ONLY solution to this problem is strict anti age discrimination legislation. Let me know if you want to start a crowdfunding page.
The OP is over 40 and thus is covered by age discrimination legislation already. Since he's in California, there are additional state protections that may be even more effective than the federal law.
Does the OP really want to get into suing a bunch of companies he got rejected by?

The discrimination is real, but I don't know if I could be bothered fighting it in the legal arena. Easier to just work on being even better at your job, or suppressing some of the things that signal your age.
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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by fnmix » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:16 am

OP here. Many useful responses upthread. Keep them coming. I am learning from each one.

I am collecting my comments to the points above in one (long) post:
  • Haircut and hair coloring: I am going to take care of this in the next couple of days by going to a somewhat more upscale place than I usually go to for a hair cut. I know that this matters. I have had some gray hair since I was 15 and the density has increased significantly since. Enough that when I was interviewing a few years ago at a place where I knew a few people, one acquaintance met me informally after my interviews and remarked "man you look old". A different acquaintance at my previous job remarked one day over lunch "I am as old as you but I don't look it because I color my hair".
  • Clothes: I updated my wardrobe ~3 years ago. I think these clothes are still current, but I am going to get an opinion from my wife and a younger former (female) colleague that I will be meeting in a couple days.
  • Prep for the interview where I was rejected: I put in about 30 hours of work over 3 weeks to prep for the phone interview. Maybe more. This included listening to podcasts on the company's technology, reading all recent press releases and blog posts, informational interviews with people at the company that I already knew (one of whom had gotten the recruiter to call me), reading two books on interviewing at this (and similar) companies, and outlining (writing out) the content of the answers to some of the more standard questions that such companies asks. I was confident going into the interview and really thought I had good answers for all the questions the interviewer threw at me. The interviewer acknowledged some of my answers with "that looks like an interesting project", "that's a good question" etc. It is not always easy to read tone on the phone, but I really did think that I was on the right track.
  • Prepping better: The two things I did NOT do that could have helped: a mock interview with a friend and practicing voice delivery by using a voice recorder. I will be fixing this. The friend I have in mind (similar age as me) is also in the interview process, but for a technical manager role. So there is motivation on both sides to improve. Perhaps a third thing is revisiting the content of my answers and revamping the ones that don't have enough oomph.
  • It's the company, not me: That's possible. I feel strongly that I can do the job (at this and similar companies). These (new-line) companies have technology and a business that interests me. I am ok with bending my delivery style, appearance and other interviewing skills to get a crack at working on interesting stuff for the next 18 months. The end of my tech career is in sight. If I can, I want one last swing at the cutting edge of the technology spectrum in a business role. I am ok with working hard and "keeping up appearances" for that duration.
  • How do I know it was my age: I can't be sure ofcourse. But given past comments from other people, I know that appearing (no being) young of mind and looking/sounding it will help.
  • Other companies: I am reaching out to old-line tech companies as well. But because there is less growth with such companies, roles are harder to find and are less interesting even if the role (once identified) is easier to interview for, for somebody like me. (I know I can't have everything. My primary goal is to be employed in tech for the next 18 months and save as much of what I make as I can).

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by gotester2000 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:18 am

Grt2bOutdoors wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:01 am
fnmix wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:06 pm
Hi All,


Question: What can I do to come off as more "with it" and "not obviously old" - both on the phone and in-person. What have you done in the past that seems to have helped? (I am male if that makes a difference).

PS: I do have gray hair which I will be getting colored over the weekend (have never done that before so this will be an experience). That is as far I have gotten in thinking through options. Clearly, I need your help!
PPS: Whatever my next job is, I need it to last atleast 1.5 years (at which point my wife will be ready to go back to work as a teacher). After that, I am ok with leaving the tech industry and finding something else to do.
You can dye your hair, but once you start you have to continue or that will be something to really talk about at the new place when your color bleeds out......
I could not stop laughing over this one :D - Being natural is your best bet.

Your appearance is trivial compared to whether you have the passion left for the role.

People think years of experience should easily land them a job - unfortunately you need current skills and passion for the work.

Every product has an expiry date. You can scale down expectations and take a lower role or a contract - there are many people who do this and enjoy their lives. Remember getting a job is 50% of the part - as you age the rest 50% is that it does not affect your health with the stress in a role which you cannot handle.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by Pajamas » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:25 am

It would be better to try to look like an up-to-date mid-40s tech professional. You aren't going to fool anyone into thinking you are 25 and will come across as inauthentic, desperate, or ridiculous if you go too far. Ditch the pleated Dockers but don't replace them with skinny jeans and super slim shirts that cling to your spare tire. Get new glasses but not ones with purple frames. If you are balding, maybe shave your head instead of combing over, but don't dye your graying hair so black so that it looks like a toupée. Maybe the person hiring is looking for an experienced adult instead of some new grad who asks about getting three hours off in the afternoon for volleyball practice and texts during the interview.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by TravelGeek » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:37 am

fnmix wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:16 am

[*] How do I know it was my age: I can't be sure ofcourse. But given past comments from other people, I know that appearing (no being) young of mind and looking/sounding it will help.
Was it an actual telephone interview, or a video call? In other words, did the interviewer actually see you?

I personally hate telephone interviews and always try to use video calls (I am the interviewer). But I don’t pay attention to hair color, pleated pants (can’t see them), or other things that I know aren’t relevant (I wear shorts or sweatpants to work most days since I work from home).

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by oilrig » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:01 am

I interviewed a guy presumably in his 50's a few months ago. It was quite obvious he dyed his entire hair black and got a noticeable fake tan. He looked ridiculous. I understand maybe a slight dye job on the sides, but not the entire head. Natural is better.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by mayday23 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:10 am

fnmix wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:06 pm
Question: What can I do to come off as more "with it" and "not obviously old" - both on the phone and in-person. What have you done in the past that seems to have helped?
Show up 5 mins late to the interview
Complain about your parents
Immediately ask about work/life balance and if the company schedules meetings before 10a
Ask when a face to face interview is and if you'll need to wear a suit since you'll have to rent one. Be clear that your definition of a suit does not include a tie

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by queso » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:11 am

mayday23 wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:10 am
fnmix wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:06 pm
Question: What can I do to come off as more "with it" and "not obviously old" - both on the phone and in-person. What have you done in the past that seems to have helped?
Show up 5 mins late to the interview
Complain about your parents
Immediately ask about work/life balance and if the company schedules meetings before 10a
Ask when a face to face interview is and if you'll need to wear a suit since you'll have to rent one. Be clear that your definition of a suit does not include a tie
lol.. also, check your phone multiple times during the interview and ask how many days a week you can work from home/remotely.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by iamlucky13 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:14 am

fnmix wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:16 am
It's the company, not me: That's possible. I feel strongly that I can do the job (at this and similar companies).
This is good that you are finding jobs you know you can do. Keep in mind also that there's others competing for the same work, probable including some of your current coworkers, considering the circumstances you describe.

I had that realization recently when reviewing an interview I did. I was feeling fairly good about it, until I remembered I was one of several dozen people with nearly identical skill sets to my own that had been laid off, and the interview was with one of largest companies hiring in our field. I was probably competing against multiple former coworkers, and I knew some of the others who got axed were sharper than I am.

Also keep in mind that it's often difficult to make hiring decisions solely based on a resume and interview. Even when that's the only options a decision maker has, it's difficult to fully understand the scope of skills a candidate is describing. Hence why it still is supposedly true that most hiring decisions are based on referrals. Our state unemployment office puts on a lot of different job search skills workshops, and in one that I recently attended, the instructor claimed the rate was something like 90% of hiring decisions were referral-based or inside hires.

I suspect his claim was influenced by his personal experience in the specific sort of work he'd done more so than any rigorous, cross-industry data, but the past experience he described suggested he'd probably had a fair amount of exposure to a wide range of hiring practices. My own experience has involved more hiring without referrals, but keeping up connections with former coworkers and others you know in your field still has potential to lead somewhere.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by Mudpuppy » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:15 am

TN_Boy wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:46 am
mouses wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:12 am
Mudpuppy wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:19 am
You've narrowed in on your age as an issue, but are you sure that's it? How are you keeping your skills up-to-date? Have you been going to relevant professional society meetings or social gatherings to network with people in your area of specialization and to stay up-to-date? Can you talk with passion about your specialization in tech and even your own personal tech projects (e.g. your home LAN)? Have you researched the major projects of the company that you're interviewing at? Can you name what their competitors are doing in those areas?

Showing a weakness in any of these areas are more likely to torpedo a job interview than your age. Mid-40s is not ancient, particularly not for a management role. But if you haven't researched the company and their competitors (asking me basic questions you could have discovered from the website is a red flag), if you can't talk about recent trends in your specialty (someone in hardware security better be able to talk about Spectre and Meltdown or it's a red flag), if you can't answer basic knowledge questions (I've had people interview for a senior Linux sys admin role who didn't know what inodes are... big red flag), and if you don't show some level of spark or passion for tech (someone applying for a network admin job let their ISP set up their home LAN... also a red flag), you're not going to do well at the interview. Hair dye and new clothes aren't going to solve any of these issues either.

Do you have someone who can give you a mock interview and an honest assessment of your performance on these points? Perhaps someone from the previous management that valued your role in the company before the merger could provide you with some feedback? Another possibility... I assume they have also moved on to new jobs, so perhaps it could be as simple as reaching out to see if there might be a place for you at their new places of employment.

Edit: Typo
I'm really tired of advice to older, highly qualified people, that assumes they don't keep their skills up to date. That's part of ageism, assuming that if someone is older, they're ignorant and/or too tired to work well.
I don't believe Mudpuppy is saying the OP lacks skills. Mudpuppy is saying (I think) "It's hard for a person to objectively rate themselves, let somebody you trust give you feedback." Seems like a good suggestion to me.
Yes, that's pretty much it. Humans as a collective are very good at wearing blinders to their own problems and assigning blame to things that aren't actually the problem. You have to shine an honest flashlight on yourself to identify the actual issues, and that may mean asking others to help. It's important to have friends and colleagues who can give you an honest assessment without you getting mad at them so you can identify and remedy the actual issues instead of chasing down something that is not actually the issue.

Also, I'm not saying the OP is out-of-touch with their specialty area, but asking "Am I up-to-date on my specialty?" when one is not having success at interviewing is part of the process of shining an honest flashlight on oneself. It's a hard question to ask, but it's an important one to ask. It's also not the only question to ask of oneself, but skipping over asking it is not doing anyone any favors.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by MnyGrl » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:17 am

Hi OP, I am in my mid-forties and in tech too. Most of the people I work with are like 10 years younger, or more. Some ideas:

1) I think it's important to stay looking current - reassess your wardrobe regularly and add a few new pieces every season to keep it looking fresh. The young guys in my office are wearing slimmer pants these days, and more color. Hair dye for men seems to be less accepted for men than for women. I think if you have a really good modern cut, you won't have to dye it.
2) Stay in shape if possible. It might not be fair, but as you get older, excess weight seems to be perceived as laziness and lower energy.
3) Keep learning new skills. Try to learn a new skill or tool several times a year.
4) Don't try too hard to be accepted by the younger folk. Just be yourself.

Good luck!

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by anoop » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:18 am

queso wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:11 am
mayday23 wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:10 am
fnmix wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:06 pm
Question: What can I do to come off as more "with it" and "not obviously old" - both on the phone and in-person. What have you done in the past that seems to have helped?
Show up 5 mins late to the interview
Complain about your parents
Immediately ask about work/life balance and if the company schedules meetings before 10a
Ask when a face to face interview is and if you'll need to wear a suit since you'll have to rent one. Be clear that your definition of a suit does not include a tie
lol.. also, check your phone multiple times during the interview and ask how many days a week you can work from home/remotely.
since we're derailing, here's some humor
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo0KjdDJr1c

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by LiterallyIronic » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:32 am

I didn't finish my CS degree until I was 32. I'm only 34 now, but people usually guess that I'm 25. If your hair is gray, absolutely dye it. If it's balding, you're really in trouble. Finasteride, Rogaine, hair transplant? Assuming you're not balding, grow your hair out. Concealer on any age spots on your face and hands. Moisturize your face every day. Clean shaven.

Dress as casually as possible, given the situation. Jeans and sneakers to work.

Stay up-to-date on movies and video games. You should know that Infinity War is coming out later this month and what PUBG and Fortnite are.

Remove graduation dates and anything old from your résumé.

Never mention your spouse and kids; don't wear a wedding ring.
Last edited by LiterallyIronic on Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by 2015 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:36 am

As usual I'm of several minds. I have one relative, mid-60's, only a high school diploma, who not only looks "old", but wears a full grey beard, sports longish grey hair, and is rotund. Despite all this, has worked for, been courted by, and even chased by all of the big tech companies (Google, Dell, Yahoo, etc.). Has walked off jobs in so-called cutting edge tech companies who according to him don't know what they're doing and now works for one of the very biggest/well-known names in tech (no, not that hideous Facebook). Can't put his resume on the web because recruiters won't leave him alone. When he does talk to recruiters he always demands and gets more money. It's obvious his age and lack of ooh aah credentials are absolutely no detriment to his employment prospects. It's all about supply and demand as his background is in cloud security.

I have another relative who doesn't have an ooh ahh degree, but does have an absolutely stellar track record producing results in all manner of tech sales. Has worked a global director of sales for very well known tech organizations. Despite this outstanding track record, still has issues getting into some tech organizations for lack of an ooh aah degree. Yet another relative laid off after over 30 years at a single tech organization decided to relocate and simply change careers for lack of prospects (taking a financial hit in the process).

I'm personally not about to hang out with anyone young or old, in order to make myself appear or feel like something I'm not. I personally love getting older and the best thing about it is it's free and it's one of the few things in life you don't have to work for. I couldn't be a day younger than I am and won't stay in any situation where I have to fool myself by transmuting into something I'm not. To me, that's a soul-killer.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by HomerJ » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:39 am

Hulu wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:38 am
Maybe play some Fortnite and listen to Kanye.
Check on Fortnite. I play with my 15-year old son (but I wouldn't mention him at an interview).

Listen to Kanye? I'd rather be unemployed forever.
Last edited by HomerJ on Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by Hyperborea » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:46 am

anoop wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:48 am
Usually they will ask what your salary expectations are and that answer is typically a give away for the number of years of experience at which point the expectations of the employer go up. Any chance they asked you that question in your last interview?
As of this year, salary history questions are not allowed in California hiring. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/ ... tions.aspx

For the OP, how is your LinkedIn presence? Do you have a decent profile? Are you getting at least semi-regular hits from recruiters? Have you got contacts you can reach out to - old colleagues who moved to other companies, people you know from conferences/standards bodies/working groups/etc, friends - that can give you a recommendation in to a job? Since you are at a micro-cap, how about any VC connections that might be looking for some management to come aboard and help a startup get organized?
"Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by anoop » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:04 pm

Hyperborea wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:46 am
anoop wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:48 am
Usually they will ask what your salary expectations are and that answer is typically a give away for the number of years of experience at which point the expectations of the employer go up. Any chance they asked you that question in your last interview?
As of this year, salary history questions are not allowed in California hiring. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/ ... tions.aspx

For the OP, how is your LinkedIn presence? Do you have a decent profile? Are you getting at least semi-regular hits from recruiters? Have you got contacts you can reach out to - old colleagues who moved to other companies, people you know from conferences/standards bodies/working groups/etc, friends - that can give you a recommendation in to a job? Since you are at a micro-cap, how about any VC connections that might be looking for some management to come aboard and help a startup get organized?
Salary history questions are not allowed, but asking about salary expectations is OK (at least as far as I understand it).

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by celia » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:14 pm

fnmix wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:06 pm
I interviewed with one mega-corp over the phone and got rejected. I thought that I had done quite well in the phone screen and was looking forward to going onsite. The younger sounding interviewer on the other end obviously thought otherwise.
Unless you had a skype interview, how would the interviewer even know what you looked like or even if you had hair? One of my kids just turned 30, started going bald in high school and is now in lower management at a tech company in Silicon Valley. Hair and looks are not important in tech. Being able to pick up on new ideas/skills quickly is more important.

Are you also aware that hair dye makes it's way though your body and comes out in your urine? I read about that before I ever became pregnant and knew that I would therefore never dye my hair. Once you start, you need to keep it up. If you insist on coloring your hair, consider using the semi-permament kind so that you can get your original color back without a sudden, drastic change. Make sure you look natural when done so you don't call attention to your hair.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by investor997 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:23 pm

I'm an FAE in the "tech" industry - semiconductors, to be specific. Mid-40s. Across my customer base I've pretty much seen it all and I have a pretty good idea of the demographic cross section of engineers I call on. I've also tracked many of them from company to company as they've made career changes over the years. From what I can tell, there's little in the way of age discrimination. For example, I've seen senior engineers (you know, the kind that look like George R.R. Martin) land at companies full of millenials. I can only assume the reason they're there is because they possess a skill set that adds value to that particular organization. IMHO, this is what matters.

Throughout my career I've tended to be amongst the younger ones on the payroll. I've always enjoyed working with folks senior to me. There's almost always something I can learn from them that benefits both myself and the organization we're working for. Do the "youngsters" of today really feel differently? I admit that the particular field of "tech" I work in, hardware, has lost some of its sexiness. Software seems to be all the rage these days.

I think OP may have gotten a raw deal with this particular interview but unfortunately, those are the breaks. Interviewing is very difficult and it's impossible to predict what may or may not trigger a thumbs-down decision by the hiring company. We simply have to do our best to prepare and be confident that eventually, we'll get an offer.

BTW: Since OP says they only need 18 months or so of solid "work" until they can turn on cruise control, it may be helpful to try to get a single or double rather than swing for the fences.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by getthatmarshmallow » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:44 pm

DH (early 40s) is in tech, and looks like a guy in his late 30s/early 40s. What's helped is that he's rather new to tech (finished degree at 39), and so his degree year makes him look fresher, and he's very, very good with soft skills which is helping him get promoted quickly. His plan is to work toward a master's, in part for the credential but mostly to signal that he's staying sharp. His hair is thinning so he keeps it very short and groomed. So far it hasn't been an issue.

I'd resist thinking that age discrimination based on physical appearance was the culprit in a phone interview. What's your web presence look like?

I'm not sure about the advice for hair dye for a guy, but a good cut and ensuring that your clothes fit you well is smart. You can get away with looking young and put-together in a t-shirt and jeans when you're 25 but it's harder to do that without looking schlubby in middle age.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by TN_Boy » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:54 pm

LiterallyIronic wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:32 am
I didn't finish my CS degree until I was 32. I'm only 34 now, but people usually guess that I'm 25. If your hair is gray, absolutely dye it. If it's balding, you're really in trouble. Finasteride, Rogaine, hair transplant? Assuming you're not balding, grow your hair out. Concealer on any age spots on your face and hands. Moisturize your face every day. Clean shaven.

Dress as casually as possible, given the situation. Jeans and sneakers to work.

Stay up-to-date on movies and video games. You should know that Infinity War is coming out later this month and what PUBG and Fortnite are.

Remove graduation dates and anything old from your résumé.

Never mention your spouse and kids; don't wear a wedding ring.
Wow. OP is getting different opinions here. For what it is worth, I'd not do anything suggested in this post :-) Well, shaving every day is fine. And causal clothing if company and role permit.

They will know about how old you are. OP, don't try and be a fake 25 year old. Any *smart* interviewer will notice this and be put off. Be a grownup 40's guy that has the skills for the role, enjoys working with younger people and knows how to get the job done.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by Pajamas » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:57 pm

fnmix wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:06 pm
I am 46 and in a business (middle-management) role at micro-cap tech company in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately my company hasn't been doing well lately and has had two large rounds of layoffs. New management has come into the company and are evaluating their options. Best I can tell, my role was valued higher by the previous management (most of whom are no longer around) than the new management. So it is time for me to proactively look for a job before the axe falls.
Since this seems to have been lost in the discussion, I want to point out that you might be better off focusing your attention on your current job. You've already made it through two rounds of lay-offs. Stepping up your game is good, but maybe focus on stepping it up where you are while keeping alternatives in mind. If you switch your primary focus to finding another position, you will become more vulnerable at your current company instead of being a key middle manager that the new management relies on to help with the turnaround.
TN_Boy wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:54 pm

Wow. OP is getting different opinions here. For what it is worth, I'd not do anything suggested in this post :-) Well, shaving every day is fine. And causal clothing if company and role permit.

They will know about how old you are. OP, don't try and be a fake 25 year old. Any *smart* interviewer will notice this and be put off. Be a grownup 40's guy that has the skills for the role, enjoys working with younger people and knows how to get the job done.
I think LiterallyIronic's post is helpful in illustrating that it is not really possible or desirable for a 45 year old to front as a 25 year old. Maybe it was meant to be literally ironic.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by Lynx310650 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:00 pm

getthatmarshmallow wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:44 pm
DH (early 40s) is in tech, and looks like a guy in his late 30s/early 40s. What's helped is that he's rather new to tech (finished degree at 39), and so his degree year makes him look fresher, and he's very, very good with soft skills which is helping him get promoted quickly. His plan is to work toward a master's, in part for the credential but mostly to signal that he's staying sharp. His hair is thinning so he keeps it very short and groomed. So far it hasn't been an issue.

I'd resist thinking that age discrimination based on physical appearance was the culprit in a phone interview. What's your web presence look like?

I'm not sure about the advice for hair dye for a guy, but a good cut and ensuring that your clothes fit you well is smart. You can get away with looking young and put-together in a t-shirt and jeans when you're 25 but it's harder to do that without looking schlubby in middle age.
Your DH's experience and also another poster above that got their degree at age 32 does sometimes make me wonder if tech has an age bias or an "experience bias". A 40 year old with a more "traditional" path has 18 years of work experience. This might carry a bias regarding salary expectations (expensive) and maybe a certain degree of inflexibility towards newer technologies or a new company's culture. A 40 year old that just got their degree and is starting fresh in the industry and applying for more entry level type jobs may not have these obstacles to overcome.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by rebellovw » Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:04 pm

Coloring your hair? :oops:

Not the answer. I've worked with gods that have completely shaved heads - or crazy hair.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by celia » Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:22 pm

rebellovw wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:04 pm
Coloring your hair? :oops:

Not the answer. I've worked with gods that have completely shaved heads - or crazy hair.
Half and half on the same head? :oops:
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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by TN_Boy » Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:36 pm

Pajamas wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:57 pm
TN_Boy wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:54 pm

Wow. OP is getting different opinions here. For what it is worth, I'd not do anything suggested in this post :-) Well, shaving every day is fine. And causal clothing if company and role permit.

They will know about how old you are. OP, don't try and be a fake 25 year old. Any *smart* interviewer will notice this and be put off. Be a grownup 40's guy that has the skills for the role, enjoys working with younger people and knows how to get the job done.
I think LiterallyIronic's post is helpful in illustrating that it is not really possible or desirable for a 45 year old to front as a 25 year old. Maybe it was meant to be literally ironic.
Hopefully you are correct and I missed the point of LiterallyIronic's post!

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by getthatmarshmallow » Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:38 pm

Lynx310650 wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:00 pm
getthatmarshmallow wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:44 pm
DH (early 40s) is in tech, and looks like a guy in his late 30s/early 40s. What's helped is that he's rather new to tech (finished degree at 39), and so his degree year makes him look fresher, and he's very, very good with soft skills which is helping him get promoted quickly. His plan is to work toward a master's, in part for the credential but mostly to signal that he's staying sharp. His hair is thinning so he keeps it very short and groomed. So far it hasn't been an issue.

I'd resist thinking that age discrimination based on physical appearance was the culprit in a phone interview. What's your web presence look like?

I'm not sure about the advice for hair dye for a guy, but a good cut and ensuring that your clothes fit you well is smart. You can get away with looking young and put-together in a t-shirt and jeans when you're 25 but it's harder to do that without looking schlubby in middle age.
Your DH's experience and also another poster above that got their degree at age 32 does sometimes make me wonder if tech has an age bias or an "experience bias". A 40 year old with a more "traditional" path has 18 years of work experience. This might carry a bias regarding salary expectations (expensive) and maybe a certain degree of inflexibility towards newer technologies or a new company's culture. A 40 year old that just got their degree and is starting fresh in the industry and applying for more entry level type jobs may not have these obstacles to overcome.
I suspect that's most of it. He doesn't hide his age, but when the degree is 2016, even with previous work experience listed, it probably upsets whatever biases might be in play. It also probably helps that he's not working for megatech, but a mid-size non-coastal employer.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by HongKonger » Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:44 pm

People still wear pleated pants :shock: I nearly spat my coffee through my nose.

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Re: Mid-40s in tech - how to pass off as acceptably young

Post by raveon » Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:46 pm

Sorry to hear your predicament. Instead of focusing on how to look younger, consider the following:

1. Look at your technical skills: Are they aligned with today's needs? Are you good in python, data analysis, artificial intelligence / deep learning algorithms, data analytics etc? If not, spend some time learning new things so they are relevant with today's skill set.

2. Look at your management experience: Looks like you are have good experience here. What else can be added? Can you emphasize mentoring/coaching young/junior engineers? Can you highlight managing big teams? Or managing teams spread out across geographies? What is unique about your abilities with the rest?

3. Think about how you can help your future boss and his boss. At the interview, ask about what it would take to make your future boss / and his boss successful. Tell a narrative on how can you contribute there. I find this usually gets hiring managers interested. At the end of the day, if I don't know my boss/his boss's goal and how to make them successful, I may not be adding significant value.

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