Timely Career Advice From a Late Friend

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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.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

1 Response

  1. Thanks for the great post, Chris.
    I plan to live a life well lived until I die aged at 110. I may not make it but there are things to do, places to go, people to meet in the meantime. And not a moment to waste, feeling regretful.
    I had the chance to retire early some years ago and initially planned to be a bum. But I needed things to be challenged about, so now I work three days a week as a director, consultant and adviser/coach. I contribute to several social causes and belong to a couple of networks that keep me connected with the world. There’s time for keeping fit, gardening and living more simply and sustainably.
    Some of what I am doing arose from conversations with you, Chris. Thanks again for challenging me and for making so many resources available through Cause and Effective. I commend readers to look at your site and get some ideas!
    We’ll all die having a few regrets but it’s up to us to make it as Frank Sinatra crooned: “Regrets; Ive had a few but then again too few to mention.”

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