Every word of this article resonates with me. Being made redundant in my sixties made me feel awful. After ten years of loyal service to my previous company, I feel betrayed.
My view is that loyalty is bidirectional.
I know that my decades of service and experience in the Armed Forces and in IT companies mean that I have much to offer to any company who chooses to employ me. I could make a very significant contribution to their future success. Yet my value seems to be overlooked.
I shall persevere until I find a company which is enlightened enough to realise my value. Onwards and upwards!
Originally posted by Alan Chapman on LinkedIn
It’s natural.. due to decades of habit, conditioning, false assumptions and nonsense media.
Many people in their 50-60s/older still see work as they did in their 30-40s, and so aim for jobs/work much below their greater ‘higher level’ capabilities.
People in their 50-60s/older can re-position themselves for much more sophisticated work, if they want.
People in their 50/60s/older tend to seek work/jobs/opportunities for which they are hugely over-qualified/experienced/capable.
Like a brain surgeon seeking work as a doctor’s receptionist. Or a multi-national CEO seeking work as a team supervisor. No sensible employer would recruit a brain surgeon as a doctor’s receptionist, or a multi-national CEO as a team supervisor (notwithstanding the vagaries of much modern recruitment/selection).
When we are younger we focus on work/technical/job-specific experience and skills, and we seek such employment, and this is appropriate. We lack the wisdom and life-experience necessary to do the higher-level work. When we are younger we are well-suited to ‘lower-order’ work/opportunities – which of course are crucial in organizations and markets – which tend to be:
- narrowly focused,
- somewhat one-dimensional,
- less considered/sophisticated,
- less cognisant of risk/consequences and human factors,
- less aware of wider context and systemic factors,
This orientation of 30-40s-type work and worker is due to many reasons. Mainly, we are younger, more ambitious, more compliant, mobile, energetic, tech-savvy, recently qualified, recently skilled, and often a bit daft, or even reckless (unintentionally, because we have not learned so many life lessons).
When we are younger, we know relatively little about life, so we tend to be limited to being operators and managers and technicians, or start-up entrepreneurs.
It’s very rare for someone to be able to run a big company or a country properly until he/she is into 50/60s/older. Think about that.
However in later life – especially if we are seeking work and worrying about our age and rejections – we tend to continue to limit our job/work aims to these younger age/work (conditioned) criteria, which means we compete against increasing numbers of younger people with newer qualifications, fresher skills, and other qualities that employers very reasonably seek for such work.
People at 50/60/older are the wisest of all workers. Immensely powerful. These people can do things that younger people simply cannot – and many of these qualties are pivotally important in organizations and markets (although many employers are yet to appreciate this).
In later life we tend to ignore – or not realise our relevance/value to – the higher needs of employers and the work markets, for which older people are much better qualified.
When we are older we are wiser. We are stronger, more patient, more understanding; more caring and giving. Our life experience transcends any sort of job experience. We have a worldly view and strategic appreciation of issues – especially of organizations and people (staff, colleagues, customers, suppliers, stakeholders, etc) – that younger people simply cannot possess (even if they have been through some very tough life experiences and emerge well from them).
Erik Erikson’s Life-Stage Theory refers significantly to the ‘generative’ and ‘integrity’ life-stages of the older person – where qualities of humanity and compassion, wisdom and meaning feature more strongly than in younger years. The Erikson model is a very powerful lens though which to consider the mix of ages that a healthy organization needs. (https://www.businessballs.com/self-management/eriksons-psychosocial-theory-of-human-development/)
Employers and the work markets need these wise transcendent deep human qualities very much. And increasingly nowadays.
These qualities are actually beyond normal value. These qualities can help transform organizations and markets and societies, in all sorts of ways.
Emotional maturity and wisdom, and many related qualities that older people posses, are critical needs and usually big gaps in organizations and markets, especially where big changes are happening. (And big changes are growing bigger, and coming faster than ever.)
Senior strategic transformational roles in organizations and markets – let’s call them ‘vision and wisdom’ roles – in any context, demand people who possess these qualities.
Employers especially cannot find such people/qualities easily, or at all; and this is not made easier because most older people do not position themselves as having these qualities.
Most older people still position themselves as 30-40s workers – rather like children, when employers and markets are desperate for grown-ups, for their crucial high level work – for all sorts of work, where wisdom, vision, and deeper human qualities make differences, enable improvements, and avert disasters, of vast scale and commercial value.
In short, generally people in their 50-60s/older can operate at a much higher and deeper level of organizational/systemic quality than younger people.
In practice this requires a radical rethink of self, CV, and what we might offer to employers and the markets when we are older.
We must also consider when we ‘sell’ ourselves to an employer or market – as when selling anything – that we must educate the buyer, and this applies especially in the way we rethink our personal qualities and what we offer, and present them on a CV or online application, and especially at interview, when older people can help educate younger decision-makers and executives.
The CV of a 50-60s/older person must therefore emphasise his/her higher-order deeper human qualities of wisdom and vision, etc., much more strongly than mere job skills and experience and other common operator-level features found in typical 30-40s CVs and job specifications/adverts.
And at times – especially if the recruiter is less than 50 years old – older candidates probably should explain what happens to organizations if they rely only on young people to understand and manage issues of major scale/risk/opportunity….. something falls over, or a wheel falls off, or an obvious catastrophic mistake is made – obvious to a 50/60s/older person, but hidden to a youngster.
Think about it.. think about if you were recruiting for the most senior work role in any organisation, or market – what qualities in the candidate would you want? Not recent qualifications or youthfulness, or mastery of a particular technical discipline, that’s for sure. You’d want wisdom, patience, human life experience, and all the other stuff that only older people possess.
The start of any change is understanding what you actually have, and what is actually needed.
More than ever, the world’s markets need people who can work in very wise and humanistic ways.
If you are 50-60s/older, looking for new work, and thinking that all the jobs are being given to the youngsters, then perhaps revisit your CV, and your self-image. Markets and employers are desperate for what you have.
So, realise… that if you are 50s/60s/older, you now have these rare qualities to make differences far beyond your the roles of the past, and that the future is more exciting (and much better paid) than you can dream.
My thanks to Lance for prompting and reminding me to make this article available. It’s part of bigger work/writings in progress for the free ethical work/life/leadership educational website Businessballs.com, and The Festival of Life and Death, which is a movement for a world without suicide, and all implied by this (festivaloflifeanddeath.org). Thanks and love to all, Alan Chapman