I greeted a new client in my reception area one afternoon. There he was, dressed in a Fedora hat, white t-shirt and a pair of tight, black jeans. I extended my hand to greet him; he stood up and towered over me while telling me his name was Graeme. Tall, firm handshake. I guided him to my office for our consultation. He followed closely, with long, confident strides, making interesting small talk. Energetic, I thought.
I didn't think about his age until we sat opposite each other in my consulting room and he removed his trendy hat. I noticed his well tanned, weather-beaten face etched with interesting lines that suggested an outdoors life well lived. I guessed his age to be about 58.
I needed some details from Graeme for my New Client Form and he said: "I should let you know I'm 72." I nearly fell out of my chair! How could this fit, vibrant and confident man be 72? He didn't fit my preconceived ideas about 70-year-olds.
Too many of us have preconceived ideas about age. The Australian Human Rights Commission released their Willing To Work inquiry into age discrimination in the workplace. According to Australia's Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan: "The right to work is a fundamental human right, but one that far too many older people and people with disability in Australia do not enjoy." This inquiry found that at the beginning of 2016, there were 80,000 unemployed Australians over the age of 55. That's 12 percent more than 2015. This number is believed to be partially due to age discrimination in the workplace.
The Australian Government is taking steps to encourage older workers and employers to embrace age and maturity as a positive and provide the opportunity for those who are in their sixties and even seventies, should they choose to work, to have an equal chance of securing a role for which they are well qualified. However, it'll be a long process.
So, what are we to do if we are part of the ageing workforce? I believe that rather than waiting for an employer to 'pick you', you should 'pick yourself'.
Yes, pick yourself to contribute to the community -- set up a new business, buy an existing business, buy a franchise or leverage your years of experience, knowledge, technical expertise and well-cultivated network to create your own venture.
It won't be easy and it won't be for everyone, but it is an option. It's not the easy way; it's an exciting, challenging way and a darn sight better than sitting at home blaming ageism in the workplace for your sorrows.
You're probably wondering what happened to Graeme. After I recovered my composure when he told me he was 72, I mistakenly mentioned the words "retirement options". He put his hand on the table, looked me straight in the eyes and said: "Jane, my dear, do I look like the retiring kind?"
With his energy and attitude, he most certainly didn't. If you're at a career crossroads and wondering what to do next, consider entrepreneurship -- it's the one place where age knows no barriers.