Many people around my age are starting to think seriously about retirement. Some are planning an “encore career.” Yet I feel like I’m still in the third or fourth act of my working life. And I don’t know how many acts there are. In certain respects, I feel like I’ve had a reverse career. I opted for self-employment early on (probably too soon, in retrospect). Only later did I embrace the possibility of working for someone else. And I find myself now as a full-time employee, and happily so.
That’s why I chafe when I hear “experts” anoint younger people as the future of organizations. That’s why I won’t remain silent when I hear people dissing people over 40 years of age. Not so fast, I say. Many of us so-called “Baby Boomers” are still going strong.
A conference presentation I heard in 2016 epitomizes this perspective. The speaker called on 40-50 year old audience members to make way for the 20-30 year old attendees. This younger cohort would lead the organization in next phase of its evolution. The older group’s best work apparently laid in the past.
I’m by no means ready to turn anything over to anyone. No one is going to push me aside at this stage in my life. I have more energy than I did 10 years ago and I am ready to put it to good use for as long as I can. So, the speaker’s comments irked me then, and still do.
We’re individuals, not people of a certain age. We can no more afford to discard people based on their age than we can based on any other criteria. Age brings experience, no doubt. But experience by itself won’t suffice. Valuable experience leads to wisdom. That’s a quality we cannot get enough of in our organizations. We need to tap into it wherever and in whomever it exists regardless of their age.
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