I’d been invited to be on a TV show in New Zealand – a show dedicated to innovators and entrepreneurs. I was shocked to be invited. My first thought was ‘I haven’t done anything extra-ordinary, why would people be interested in what I have to say?’
So I reflected on the very best message I could give in my interview given my own life experiences.
I’ve been in and around HR for almost 30 years specialising in working with high performing teams, and one of the saddest things I’m ever asked to do, is to make the 45–50 year old team members redundant, because I know that in a society which values youth over age, these people will severely struggle to get another job.
In the UK, USA and EU alone 6.5 million over 50s are unemployed and according to The Age and Employment Network ‘If you become unemployed in your 50s and remain unemployed for more than a year you are more likely to die or start drawing your pension than ever get a job again.’
How scary is that, and what a tragic waste of talent and knowledge.
As humans we are designed to live for 120 years, so 45 isn’t even half way through our life span. I know some 70 year olds who have more passion and energy than many 18 year olds. Yet companies tend to recruit the 18 year olds over older workers even knowing that the young people have no life experience and may even arrive with that ‘you owe me’ attitude so many young people seem to have these days.
So I want to start a revolution around rethinking ‘age’.
Organisations need to re-evaluate their negativity to older workers and factor in all their wonderful experience. Can an 18 year old manage a team or a project? Can you send them out to chat to angry customers? Can you safely trust them to manage a budget yet? And do we really want a society where all these amazing people are languishing on benefits at the most productive times of their lives?
But our 45-50 year olds need to take some responsibility in this situation too.
I ask them ‘When did you last learn anything new?’ Or ‘When did you last volunteer to take on more responsibility in your organisation? Or ‘How are you ensuring you keep up to date with technology?’ And the big question I ask ‘what are your 5 year goals?’
Sadly a lot of older workers quietly slip into what I call ‘quit & stay’ mode – the body shows up each day to do their job but the heart, soul and passion are elsewhere. Sooner or later that kind of thinking takes a toll: it takes a toll on their health and it takes a toll on their boss’s perception of them as being ‘dead wood’.
So to the 45/50 year olds reading this – here are my thoughts:
- Volunteer for anything and everything
- Develop a ‘pick me’ attitude
- Be totally on top of technology
- Get those 5 year goals sorted and work towards them every day of your life
- Work out what you real passion in life is and if need be – turn that into your very own business because if you own your own business, no-one (except your bank manager) can ever make you redundant again
- Buy a franchise with your redundancy money. It may not be your long term desire but you will be taught how to run a business and given the coaching and mentoring required to make your business successful.
- THEN you will be ready to start your own business
Don’t ever give up hope. Believe in yourself and others will believe in you, because you really are never too old and it really is, never too late.