Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

"Out with the old, in with the new." That tired adage makes sense in many business settings, but not when you look at this recession's impact on the labor market.

Older employees aren't always the first to get the layoff axe today, despite assumptions about them being more expensive for an employer's bottom line.

If you look at the government's report on unemployment for April 2009, you'll see that the jobless rate for adults aged 20-24 was 14.7%, and 9.7% for adults between 25 and 34. But the rate for people over 55 was 6.4%.

This can be very good news for people who are close to retirement age but nowhere near close to retiring.

But for younger folks it's a reminder that youth isn't necessarily a big asset right now. Instead, focus on experience.

If you're young and want to keep your job — or are looking for a new one — here are a few tips on consider:

  • Highlight measurable results. Make sure you can point to your work accomplishments in terms that are quantifiable (e.g. money saved, traffic generated, new clients won, etc.). This applies to your resume as well as your annual review.
  • Cultivate a professional appearance — online and off. You don't always know if you're being judged as too young or inexperienced, so guard against it by always dressing professionally for work or job interviews. Are you "tagged" in any online pics of your friend's wild bachelor party from last year? Make sure your digital presence on social-networking and community sites is professional.
  • Emphasize your soft skills. Even if you don't have much work experience, demonstrate and emphasize skills like dependability, good communication, problem-solving, or a good work ethic. These suggest maturity and add value for an employer.

For more on this, I recommend the articles "When Young and Old Compete for Jobs, Who Wins?" and "With Jobs Scarce, Age Becomes an Issue."