I admit I am 66 years old and have been semi-retired for several years. I made the choice to retire after I was let go from my last company and I tried to find a new job. In short order, even though I had years of valuable experience, it was made very clear to me that I was not wanted.
In fact, I got the feeling that I should put myself on a shelf somewhere, gather dust and, at the earliest convenience die.
I have a next door neighbor who is much younger than me who is in a similar situation. He is a computer programmer with years of experience. His skills are on a par with many of the younger programmers, but because he is over fifty, no one wants to hire him. He is considered “too old” for the current state of technology.
Whether this is fair or reasonable doesn’t matter. It’s the current attitude in the corporate world of business and even in smaller companies. Top sales people suddenly get bad reviews and their territories given to younger, less experienced people. Managers with years of experience and a list of valuable contacts are pushed aside.
The question, then, is how does an intelligent, capable, highly qualified professional stay relevant in a business environment where, because of age, they are in a world of diminishing returns.
One solution a friend of mine came up with was to become a contractor. Once the shock of being fired wore off, he remembered that his company contracted a lot of their work to outside vendors. He also remembered that the fees paid to those vendors were considerable compared to the salaries paid to employees doing the same type of work.
Next, he did an honest assessment of his skills and found a way to tailor them to the current needs of his former employer. Then he hired a young sales person to represent his newly formed company (rapport is important in closing sales) and two younger professionals whose work he would supervise. Once he got his first contract, he worked to get a second and third project.
After a year of effort, he had a company with six full-time employees, two full-time sales people and contracts from a half-dozen companies. Not a corporate giant, to be sure, but enough business to keep him involved in a field he enjoyed.
Not everyone has the talents, skills or temperament to build this kind of business, but, for those who do, the financial and professional rewards can be considerable.
The keys to building this, and almost any other kind of business are:
1. What you know and how you can tailor it to the needs of the business environment.
2. Who you know, what they need and how the two of you can create a strong business relationship.
3. Who knows you by reputation – in particular, your ability to say what you will do and do what you say.
4. Finally, using this powerful network to remain relevant, while creating a dynamic balance between your personal and professional life.
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