Managing Director at Huddle
Are you aware that October 1 is Ageism Awareness Day?
The most important word in that sentence is not ageism but awareness. It’s a tricky subject and whilst a lot of focus is being put on ageism at the moment the real problem is that no one really cares (or is aware of it) until it affects them.
More than several years ago, I was an up-and-coming exec in my mid 20's. On the fast track to senior ranks, I stupidly thought I knew it all. I found myself working alongside a colleague in his late 40's and I'm slightly ashamed to say that I was completely dismissive. To me, this guy was ancient. As far as I was concerned, he was past his prime and had little to offer. I now know how wrong I was. And he proved me wrong at the time, often running circles around me.
How many times have you wished you could go back and give your younger self some advice?
How many times have you wished you could go back and give your younger self a good kick up the arse?
Unfortunately, back then my view of the world was far from unique. The problem is that in today's workplace the view on ageism remains as strong as ever across many industries. And it's a view not just held by the 20-somethings. It permeates through every department at every level. If it didn't, we wouldn’t need an Ageism Awareness Day to begin with.
I hope we as a society can change this. I hope we can be less dismissive of people because we imagine they're seconds away from lawn chairs and bingo nights. But this isn't a quick fix. It's going to take time and it's going to need everyone from senior management to human resources to make conscious decisions when hiring.
Until ageism is a thing of the past, the best advice I can give is that you have to actively navigate your way through it. You have to get on the front foot and manage your career path and not let yourself become the victim. And that needs to start in your 40's, probably even your 30's. Too many times I've had people tell me they thought they had more time. In fact, I'm going to start selling t-shirts with the quote "I'm 40 and f*cked" because I've heard it so often. Too many people just aren’t aware of the problem until it affects them.
By the way, I love a good bingo night!
Postscript: My 'ancient' colleague sadly passed away from cancer some years ago. I wish I could have sat with him and told him personally of the lessons he taught me. Even if it took me 20 years to learn them.