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Staying Relevant When You’re Over 50


By Robert L. Dilenschneider

In an ideal world, a 50-plus woman should be able to use age to her advantage. But since our culture worships youth, many women over 50, so capable in many ways, face steep challenges staying relevant in the workplace.

If you’re over 50, what to do?

Start by taking a good look at your image. Clothes broadcast everything about you, from where you shop and live to your social status, profession and even politics. If you’ve been wearing the same business attire for more than 10 years, it’s time for a wardrobe overhaul. Invite a younger woman with a good sense of style with you on a shopping spree or enlist a store’s personal shopper. Refresh your wardrobe on a yearly — ideally seasonally — basis. Many women fear that if they’re too on-trend, they won’t be taken seriously. But a youthful wardrobe signals you’re up to date with current styles, not afraid to take risks and in tune with technology and pop culture, which are keys to staying relevant.

Georgette Mosbacher, former head of Borghese, a global cosmetic, skincare and fragrance company, says it’s fine for a women over 50 to wear five-inch heels, but skirts should be no shorter than skimming your knees. For anyone who has had the same hairstyle for 10-plus years, try something new. Call it sexist, but a grey-haired man is often viewed as a fount of sage wisdom, while a woman with grey hair is just old. Find a colorist who specializes in highlights around the face, which give a more youthful look.

A fews more tips: A stylish briefcase or handbag is an essential part of an overall look. Buy the most expensive one you can afford. While your outer image is important, no wardrobe can replace staying engaged by reading newspapers, fashion magazines, and publications and websites that focus on celebrities and politicians. Challenging your mind is important. There is nothing that will keep you younger and more vital. Stay current on the latest TV shows, plays and movies. Follow celebrities on Twitter to see what’s trending. Most of all, never talk about the good old days in your industry. No one cares and it will only date you.

Don’t be seen as someone who isn’t comfortable with technology. No one wants to work with someone who can’t create an Excel sheet or post an article on LinkedIn. Younger people resent older workers who don’t know how to use technology. One of those people may be your boss someday — and the first thing he or she may do is tell you your services are no longer required.

Consider having a younger person as your mentor. Find a young woman at your company who seems destined for great things and ask if she will spend some time with you. Find out what makes her tick, what her interests are and how she views her work assignments. People love it when others ask for their advice and I guarantee you can learn a lot from a younger person.

Sometimes as a women over 50, no matter what you do you’ll lose your job. Don’t wait for it to happen. Recognize the warning signs. If the entire team is off to a weekend retreat and you weren’t invited, it’s time to look elsewhere. Use the network you have assembled over the years, then go out and sell yourself. Take a hard look at what interests you, what you excel in, and what challenges you. There’s no reason for any woman over 50 to feel that time has passed her by. There are great opportunities out there and with a youthful view of the world, you’ll find them.

Robert L. Dilenschneider is founder of The Dilenschneider Group and author of 50 Plus!: Critical Career Decisions for the Rest of Your Life.