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Age is not a blocker to your career progression

One thing that often stops people in their tracks from changing careers or exploring new career opportunities is their attitude to age. “I’m too old” or “I’ve left it too late” are natural responses to a highly competitive and extremely difficult job market.

19th Jun 2020
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Is age really a blocker to the next step in your career? I’m asked this question on a regular basis and my response is always the same: age is but a number and what that number means is entirely up to you.

Putting aside the issue of age discrimination and the fact that the job market should offer a level playing field no matter how old you are. What your number means to you often has more bearing on what happens next than an employer’s outdated attitude or prejudicial views.

While some employers have yet to catch up, often the bigger blocker to your career progression is down to your beliefs, thoughts and the action, as a direct result, you’re prepared to take.

If you believe that career advancement or career change opportunities are more difficult at your age, then you’ll think this way and probably take less action. Often our inherent beliefs, if left unchallenged, serve a purpose to protect us from rejection, but also block our path to exciting new opportunities. The status quo prevails and we never find out where some proactive action in the right direction could ultimately lead. 

With age comes experience. This is a fact. The older you are, the more years you will have worked and, therefore, the more experience you potentially have to offer your current or a new employer. Believe this and communicate in this manner and doors will open – you just need to start knocking.

Career change is arguably more difficult, no matter your age. Your value proposition is to a great extent determined by your experience in a given sector or profession. To make a career transition, think about your transferrable skills and target new employers carefully.

A number of years ago I helped a client of mine, who was in his fifties, move out of the US military and into a small commercial entity. He wanted to transition from public to private sector and from a large to a much smaller organisation.

He targeted businesses in the defence sector and pitched his business development and networking skills to land three job offers in 10 weeks.

If you’re a finance professional looking to switch sectors or professions, think about your transferrable skills and try to retain one constant as a bridge to your next position. In my example, this constant was ‘defence’ and served as a platform to move from a large slow-moving bureaucratic organisation to a fast-paced smaller concern.

On the flipside, if you’re looking to move into finance, understand as much about the sector as you can and register with your chosen professional body. Take a step on the path to achieving a professional finance qualification to show a potential employer you’re proactive, committed and serious.

Never make age your excuse and never assume age will be a barrier. What you’ve done in the past has made you who you are today. See this as an asset as opposed to a liability, whatever you decide your next move looks like.

I’m living proof that career change is possible. I started out in finance, moved into recruitment and now have a portfolio career where I’m an executive career coach, non-executive director and have ran or been involved with a number of membership organisations.

In my interview for my role with Invest in Nottingham Club in 2013, I was questioned, “we’re concerned you have no experience of inward investment?” My response was clear, confident and to the point: “that’s exactly why you should hire me!”

I believed I would bring a unique and different approach to this position based on my experience to date, instead of churning out a carbon copy of what a similar organisation might have done in the past. I presented my case and got the job – the rest, as they say, is history.

Age is but an attitude. What you believe, how you think and the action you’re prepared to take are all that matters.

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By ASF
29th Jun 2020 10:44

Whilst I don't disagree with you "Putting aside the issue of age discrimination and the fact that the job market should offer a level playing field no matter how old you are." is possibly THE major obstacle to individuals making job moves in the later stages of their career, so to put it aside does not do the situation justice. Having myself made a major move at 57, proved an interesting experience. I am currently at the stage of trying to reduce my working hours significantly and to find interesting NED roles, and I can tell you, first-hand what a challenge this is proving. There is an informal "club" that operates to try to monopolize the NED marketplace that is making it very difficult to break into that particular arena. So, whilst I fully agree that it is firstly about one's own approach to age, please let's not pretend it is anywhere near so straight-forward as this, and that it is largely how the market perceives us, and not merely about us, alone, that dictates the art of the possible!

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