A good friend battled for four years with cancer before finally succumbing. In his last months while in palliative care I tried to visit him as often as possible. During these visits we would chat about all sorts of trivia – current affairs, sports, the weather etc.
We didn’t talk about his condition apart from a general “how are you feeling today” question which always elicited a “Not too bad, thank you” response. Nor did my friend get reflective with me and talk about his life’s regrets and achievements. Except, on the last day I saw him when he asked after our “how are you feeling today, not too bad thank you” ritual:
“Do you know what my biggest regret is?”
“No what?” I replied
“I didn’t have the courage to chase my dream job when I had the chance!”
My friend had worked in the Procurement function of a large organisation for 27 years. Eventually he rose to a very senior position. Then, when the organisation experienced a lean period, he, along with a number of others, was retrenched. He was 52 at the time.
After a short break he attempted to find a similar position in other organisations, but to no avail. Eventually he picked-up work in a variety of casual and part-time roles – bus driving, working in a hardware store, general maintenance etc.
He went on to explain:
“You know I love cooking. When I was put off by (xyz company), I should have seized the opportunity, formally trained as a chef and then opened my own restaurant. I just didn’t have the courage to do it, played it safe and have regretted it ever since.”
That conversation took place just over three years ago and I was prompted to think of my friend again last week when the Government released the Intergenerational Report 2015
Some of the key points of the Report are that, as a nation, we can expect to live longer, work longer and have relatively less to spend.
The initial media response was predictable and involved stopping supposedly under-employed 50+ people in the street claiming no one will employ them full-time because of their age AND as the Report tells us things are only going to get worse –
” …there are more of us flooding the market, we have to wait even longer to claim a pension and we now have to fund a longer retirement”– Whoa is us!
Watching these people and the patronizing interviewer I was tempted to channel my late friend and shout at the TV:
“Please!! Believe the world needs your special expertise. Don’t stick it in a cupboard. Have the courage to share it with your community!”
As the workforce ages we cannot simply blame younger employers hiring employees of their own generation. That is a feeble excuse. Older workers have a wonderful advantage and that is experience and the time to hone a particular expertise. In a perverted way, the economy is throwing many of us a lifeline via restructuring and changing workforce patterns and the development of enabling technology platforms. Have the audacity to grab it with both hands.
Let’s not die like my friend regretting a lost opportunity.
If you fall within this demographic and have taken up this challenge share your experience in the comments below. It may just serve as a tipping point for others on the brink of taking action and allowing their personal light to shine.
By Chris Gandy – Chris is the founder and a director of Cause & Effective. We help not for profits deal with pressing problems by introducing them to great subject matter experts.