How Old is Too Old for Corporate Employment?
“What age is too old?’ As a Recruiter who specializes in the placement of Corporate Executives for private and public companies I get asked this question quite a bit from candidates who are in between jobs or equally concerning, worried about the future of their current employer and their continued employment.
While there are laws in place that prohibit employers making employment decisions on the basis of age, it is and remains a concern for individuals approaching the ‘grey hair years’; professionals who have spent the greater half of their lives in a corporate career and are approaching the traditional retirement age of 65-years of age. And, let’s face it, employers are fearful of hiring a person they think will retire soon after they are hired even if it is more than just a couple or several years away.
One of the biggest fears of a professional executive as they grow older is reaching a point of obsolescence - meaning they no longer have skill sets that are deemed valuable, or worse, they weren’t able to keep up with new technologies that their younger counterparts seem to have mastered.
I watched a complete change in my own company as I hired young workers in the early 2010’s who quickly adapted to the latest search technologies that were becoming available at that time while the older recruiters for the most part stuck to their old tried and true ways of recruiting. It wasn’t long before the younger recruiters were taking over the business as they were able to react more quickly and significantly to our clients’ needs, essentially beating out the older recruiters who eventually left my company to pursue other careers.
However, here’s how you can avoid becoming obsolete in your discipline. First, if you produce revenue for your employer as a sales professional is supposed to do, you will never lose your worth assuming you are a top sales producer/rainmaker. I would counsel you to stay up with technology such as any CRM software your company is using, and certainly if you are in sales, you should be actively engaging in social media, especially LinkedIn. Note: studies show that 70% of today’s Influencers, the people in companies that make purchasing decisions for their employers, are between 25-and 45-years of age – an age group that is social media savvy and is more likely to text than to make a phone call. So, it would only make sense to be up to date in social media and texting.
Plus, engaging in the Social Media venues like Facebook or Instagram is a great way to stay top of mind with your clients and prospective clients.
If you are not in sales and in a position that doesn’t directly affect your employer’s revenue like Accounting, Operations, Logistics or Human Resources I suggest you do several things like getting involved in your industries associations or your disciplines associations. Think outside of your industry or discipline as well at ideas such as your school’s Alumni local chapter, your children’s school groups, charities you have an interest in, church groups, sports communities like Masters Swimming, fishing clubs or Cycle groups – essentially anything that will gain you exposure in your community.
Being involved in outside communities and organizations is something you can control. What is out of your control are things like your company closing or being sold off to a larger entity that sees your position as a redundancy. When this happens, having spent time building and cultivating a network within your industry and local business community can and will pay off in finding employment.
The worst thing you can do during your career is what I call, ‘Cocooning’. In-other-words, secluding yourself in your office of employment and not being involved with any resources outside of your employment. As a Recruiter, I continually meet with senior executives like a CFO or an Operations VP who has found themselves out of work. During the interview and through questions of their activity I can see they have “cocooned” themselves and have not spent much or any time maintaining or cultivating a network outside of their workplace.
Don’t let this happen! By becoming involved with your industries associations such activity will allow you to create and cultivate a network that might prove valuable when you find yourself out of work. The same goes for associations specific to your discipline – you never know who you might meet and need later.
By being involved in local charities or even your children’s sports and school boards where you will get exposure and gain recognition is a good thing, and again, has the potential for future employment. Even better strive for a leadership role in any of these activities.
Also look to create additional value for yourself and become your employer’s external asset by being “out and about”. Imagine if through such associations and external efforts that you were able to create or uncover a business opportunity for your employer thereby creating a source of revenue for your company? Your employer’s competition or similarly structured businesses should know who you are and want you on their team.
The better you work at face and name recognition through exposure will better ensure you plenty of avenues to explore if ever you find yourself out of work or as we recruiters euphemistically say, “in between careers”.
So, staying relevant in your skill sets, keeping up with technology, creating additional sources of revenue for your company and being involved in the community will keep you from being “too old”.