About 20 years ago, I decided to explore working as a full-time writer within a corporation, and connected with a search firm. I had a decade of solid writing experience gained in Canada and the United Kingdom, and felt marketableand curious. Five minutes into my first conversation with a search consultant, he made the assumption that because of my age, I was a "dinosaur" and told me that I would probably not be considered employable in a corporation due to lack of technical expertise. This was long before the terms "fintech" or "artificial intelligence" were common, but the technological wave was gaining momentum. Following this experience, I chose to build my own business consultancy.
You may have put in many good years at work and earned the respect of both senior management and new hires. Perhaps your boss was recently replaced by a manager who is 10 years your junior. You note that there are fewer people your age than last year in your workplace, and you may feel outnumbered by the growing teams of tech-savvy colleagues who seem to be just out of college or university. Company parties now include more employees who are your children's age, and the conversation around the water cooler doesn't flow as it once did — or is non-existent.
My role as a consultant mirrors that of an employee who is a fellow Baby Boomer and works largely with Millennials and a shrinking number of Boomers. A top priority for me is to build strong relationships with clients regardless of their age. Instead of obsessing about an age gap, I make a point of listening as well as talking. This helps me stay current with technology through self-learning, while staying in close touch with my younger clients. For Boomers working in larger businesses or companies, it can be challenging to build those relationships in an environment where job descriptions and management teams are always evolving.
When sensing that it's time to move on and decide on your future, here are five tips to consider – and the sooner the better.
Ask yourself if you have explored alternative roles within your organization that will better use your skills. If you have a good relationship with your boss and other senior management, and you like working there, be creative and design a new job description.
For example, you might focus on helping new, less-experienced professionals navigate the work culture you know so well. If there is no longer a place for you there, be sure to take advantage of any assistance your employer can offer to help you start the next phase of your career. It can be easy to simply "write off" the relationship with your company when you feel rejected or unwanted. A frank conversation with senior management may quickly reveal they are sorry to see you go, that it is really "all about the head count" and that they may be pleased to offer career counselling or referrals.
If you decide that your time at the company is ending owing to restructurings or the growth of a new corporate culture of which you don't feel a part, ask yourself whether you: want to remain in the industry; want to start your own business; join an existing business in a consulting role.
Figuring out your comfort level with each option will help you define your next steps and the direction your career will take.
Refresh relationships with people who constitute your Centres of Influence (COI's.) Your COI's consists of people you respect for their integrity and quality of contacts within and beyond their respective professions. You will have ideally nurtured your COI relationships over the years, but it's not too late to begin. You may seek their advice on your next steps, their sense of your marketability, and how they are handling their own transition process, which is constant for everyone.
When you feel you don't quite "cut it" any longer, and question your place in the business arena, take stock of your accomplishments professionally and within your community and personal circles. Your self-esteem and personal insights gained from work experience far outweigh your ability to quickly get comfortable with new technology in ensuring your future happiness.
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Ask yourself whether you have the financial resources to retire and pursue other interests you've never had the chance to explore. If that is the case, give your employer plenty of notice to safeguard your reputation, avoid legal issues and increase the chances of beneficial terms. Get a razor-sharp focus on your finances (including any tax surprises down the road) before you resign without having confirmed another income source.
The average age in the workplace is rapidly shifting to a younger cohort, but that doesn't mean you need to feel you havetoleave the business world. It just means you might need to take a different approach — and do it on your own terms.
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