You will love reading today’s guest post on ageing and careers by Ian Brodie who been helping some of the world’s leading organisations with their marketing and sales challenges for over 20 years. Ian has been named as one of the Top 50 Global Thought Leaders in Marketing and Sales, “One of Top 25 Global Influencers in Sales and Sales Management and one of the “resources of the decade” for professional services marketing. His book “Email Persuasion” has been the #1 selling book on email marketing for the last year or so on Amazon globally with over 100 five star reviews. So you can see he really is a superstar!! As well as that, he really has walked the talk…
Life Begins at…
40, 50, 60?
You’ve heard the saying. No doubt many times in many different variations. But how does it play out in reality?
The truth is that many people don’t feel that way at all when they hit a major milestone. In fact often the opposite: it can feel very much like their opportunities just seem to dry up.
The inherent structure and culture of corporate organisations doesn’t help either. As an older employee you’re probably on the highest pay level for your grade and so an obvious target for downsizing. And you probably have more important priorities in your life other than climbing your way to the top of the corporate ladder, so you’ll likely be less willing to make the sacrifices many younger people are happy to make for their employer.
So what should be a major “life begins at” milestone often ends up as a plateauing career or even the end of it in a corporate organization.
And for many people that can feel like it’s the end, rather than the beginning.
When you’ve spent most of your adult life with your self-worth attached to your progress at work, to find that progress halted or reversed can be a hammer-blow to your confidence. It can leave you feeling useless and unwanted. On life’s scrap heap.
I’ve known many people who retire early or are made redundant who just kind of “shrink”. They don’t know what to do with themselves. They feel like they have nothing to contribute. The only option they see is another corporate role just like their last, but that avenue is almost always closed off to them.
But it really doesn’t need to be that way.
I left the corporate world in my early 40s. In my case it wasn’t downsizing or redundancy but a desire to cut down on my travel and get more time with my family that drove the change.
And I must admit, it wasn’t easy initially. I decided that ”now” was the right time to set up my own business in late 2007 just as we were about to enter a global recession. So the timing couldn’t have been worse.
But as an older business owner and independent consultant I discovered I actually had a bunch of advantages over my younger “competitors”.
Firstly, people were actually willing to pay for my experience. Far from my age being a handicap, it was an advantage. Having seen “everything under the sun” (well, it felt like it sometimes) was a huge help to clients who didn’t want to have to try out a dozen different approaches themselves and could harness my experience to guide them to their answers much quicker than they could get to on their own.
Secondly, I seemed to get on with clients better because I didn’t have anything to prove. I didn’t have an inbuilt desire to show how smart I was and I didn’t care about impressing anyone. I just wanted to understand their situation and help them. And my interpersonal skills had become reasonably well developed over the years; something you don’t get from the raw intelligence and enthusiasm of youth.
And I was also in a better position financially than younger competitors. I’d reached the age where we weren’t reliant on a giant salary coming in every month to pay off the mortgage. So I had the flexibility to focus on doing things that would pay off well in the long term rather than needing to hit a certain income level every month.
Now it may seem a bit overwhelming when you start out on your own, especially if you’ve been used to your opportunities and your career path being laid out neatly for you by your employer. But the truth is that there have never been so many opportunities to succeed outside the corporate rat race; you just have to grab them.
If you’ve developed a skill or degree of expertise at anything, or you’re just darned good at what you do then it’s never been easier for potential clients to find you. You don’t need a brand name or to work for a “safe” big firm. You just need to be prepared to spend the time learning the tools and approaches that will get you connected with your ideal clients and to invest in building credibility and trust with them.
In fact, that seems to be the single most important factor in whether someone will thrive or struggle when they leave the safety blanket of the corporate world: are they prepared to invest the time learning what they need to know to succeed in this new world?
When you’re on your own there are no career paths or competency models handed down by HR for you to follow. No mandated training courses or succession plans for you. No mentors other than those you go out and get yourself.
It’s up to you to decide what you need and invest your time (and sometimes money) to get it. Nothing is handed to you on a plate.
For me that’s a joy.
The path I take is down to me. The results I get are down to me. My success is down to me. No one to blame or grumble about.
Liberating. But a bit scary too.
The good news? There are plenty of other people going through the exact same thing. Plenty of knowledge and experience you can tap into. Plenty of people very willing to help and support you.
If you decide to step up, life really can begin whenever you want it to.