Life After 40

Someone once said “Life really does begin at 40 – until then you are just doing research”.

I am almost 42 and very well “researched” – and I still feel like I am in my thirties. I may look older, sound older (or wiser) but I am far more street smart, experienced and settled in my life than I was a decade or two ago. I am also over the honeymoon and family planning part of my life – which means I am focused and ready to build on my career again.

I run my own business, Green Grass Consulting, and have done so for 8 years now. We specialise in various Human Capital Solutions including Talent Acquisition and Management. One thing that I have come across on numerous occasions is Age Discrimination. The struggle is real - globally!

What is it with the employment world - if you are not in your twenties or thirties, you are not employable or you are deemed too old? Companies are not allowed to hire, promote, fire or decide on an employee’s remuneration package based on how old or young they are? Hard to prove that they do this, but we know its happening.

I recently read an article on the Jobscan Blog (Posted on 5th March 2018 by Jon Shields) that highlighted the following points as possible concerns that lead to conscious and subconscious age discrimination:

  • Energy and Stamina – The company is fast-paced and frequently requires employees to work overtime. This type of energy, stamina, and drive might correlate with young employees eager to make their mark, but exceptions abound.

My view point – I have more energy, drive, dedication and loyalty now than I ever had in my twenties and thirties. Also, there are many forty year olds that have settled in their lives and have chosen to become fit and healthy. How many forty year olds do you know of that are cycling, running, paddling, kite surfing or playing golf? I can assure you, that my circle of friends and acquaintances are doing far more now (physically) in their late thirties and forties, than they did in their twenties.

  • Tech Savviness – The company is using cutting edge technology and the latest software. They don’t expect older employees to be up to date or quick to adopt new and innovative tools.

My view point – in the current South African Market, specifically in the ICT industry, where we specialise in recruitment, we are generally finding that people in their forties are the ones that come with industry knowledge (understanding the history of ICT in the last two decades, which we know has changed dramatically); product knowledge and fundamentals (which cannot always be taught in an induction training session) allowing them to hit the ground running when they start a new job. Lastly, who in this day and age, including my 3-year-old, is not Tech Savvy?

  • Adaptability – The company might want employees to buy in to a system or be quick to adapt to an ever-changing environment. They don’t have the time to prod older employees who might have developed habits or be set in their ways.

My view point – Sounds like they are talking about my grandparents! We are not that old that we can’t adapt to an ever changing environment – do these employers know what it’s like to have a teenager in the house… which many forty year olds would have – that is an ever-changing challenge on its own! And in my case, throw a 3-year-old toddler into the mix! If anything, at 42 years old, I am more resilient, more tenacious and far more flexible than ever before.

  • Money – Understandably, older employees often lean on their experience to demand higher salaries. A younger, less-experienced candidate with a similar skill set can typically be paid less.

My view point – if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys? True. You are paying for experience. You are paying for loyalty. You are paying for commitment. You are paying for someone to hit the ground running. You are paying for a person where you are almost guaranteed of getting a return on your investment.

Just to be clear - I am not saying that you should not employ candidates that are in their twenties and thirties. What I am saying is don’t discriminate because candidates are in their forties. They still have 20 to 25 years to go before they even think about retiring.

We are Generation X – born in the 70’s and raised in the 80’s. Some of the characteristics that define us will make us the hardest working, most loyal employees you will ever hire. We are independent, resourceful, and self-sufficient. We value freedom and responsibility in the workplace. We dislike being micro-managed and embrace a hands-off management philosophy. We aspire to leaders and not managers. We are flexible and loyal.

Generation diversity is a concept we all have to embrace in the work place – both locally and globally. Every generation brings new characteristics and ideas into a team, allowing the employer to have a stronger, diverse and more functional business – what a great combination of talent! Please keep an open mind when employing – look at what candidates can bring to the table, not what year they were born in.