Most people say that age is just a number. However, when considering two candidates for a job with roughly equal experience, who would you chose--one who is forty years old, or one who is sixty? Enough said. If you are forty-five or older, employment experts suggest that you attempt to make your age less obvious on written materials that you use to apply for a job. They suggest things such as removing graduation dates, cutting off previous employment that is more than 20 years ago (unless you've had only one job in that time) and the like. It is important not to lie about these things, of course, but it is also important to make these things less obvious so that they are less likely to loom large in the minds of potential employers. You may think that forty years of work experience sounds better than twenty, but most people think it means you are ready for retirement. The bottom line is this: churches and religious organizations are generally held to be exempt from discrimination laws due to the current legal understanding of the First Amendment.
The other thing you need to do, if you are part of the AARP crowd (or if you are beginning to look like it), is try and freshen up your image. Do an online search of yourself and take down or untag any images that are unflattering or that make you look old. On social media sites use a flattering photo that is more or less current for your profile photo. (Some experts say you should have a professional photo for job searching.) If you feel you are a poor judge on these matters, ask your spouse or a stylish friend to help you. Update your hairstyle and get some more stylish (though still conservative) clothes for your job interview. Dress in age-appropriate clothing, of course, but make sure it reflects current style trends. First impressions count a great deal with some people. Consider coloring your hair--even if you are a man, and even if you've never done it before. (If you have never done it before and are afraid it will look fake, get it done professionally. If you are unemployed and money is tight, go to a local beauty school.) If you are a woman, consider getting a makeover (again, a local beauty school can help, or ask a stylish friend who looks young for her age to assist you.) Consider having your teeth whitened, or at least use over the counter whitening strips. If you are lucky enough to get a job interview, make sure you are well rested and exhibit energy and enthusiasm when you first enter the interview. If you tend to have a more low-key personality you can tone it down after the first few minutes. Just pay attention to your posture during the interview.
You may find this advice upsetting. Maybe you feel it is unnecessary. You must understand that you ignore this advice at your own peril. I personally know of a woman who was turned down to replace me because she seemed "tired" to the search committee. She also had white hair. An older friend was told point-blank by a search committee member to disguise his age when applying for clergy positions. The committee had decided to interview him over the objection of some committee members, who were worried about his age. The good news is, once they interviewed him, they decided they wanted to hire him. He learned his lesson through a close call and has been warning other clergy about this potential pitfall ever since.
I blog, therefore I am. If you liked this post and want some food for thought about church ministry, check out http://creativityinchurch.blogspot.com/. If you or anyone you know is looking to hire a new Pastor, check out my professional profile blog at http://dclapsaddle.blogspot.com/.
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