Ageism, like other forms of group discrimination, is despicable, ignorant, and illegal. Yet it’s commonplace among business leaders, especially in the tech sector. And it is, as Bill Maher has pointed out, “the last acceptable prejudice in America.”
Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, told the New York Times in an interview that he was “trying to build a culture specifically to attract and retain Gen Y’ers,” because, “in the tech world, gray hair and experience are really overrated.”” Mark Zuckerberg has been quoted saying, “Young people are just smarter.”
Substitute a term like “white people” in place of Gen Y’ers or young people and just imagine what the backlash would have been. But because the bigotry was age based, it elicited barely a peep.
The average age of employees at Facebook, LinkedIn, and SpaceX is under 30. It’s under 35 at Tesla, Google, Amazon, Apple, Salesforce, Adobe, Intel, and Microsoft—among others.
Yet as Tricia Lucas, CEO of Lucas Select, has written, there are numerous benefits to hiring those over 50: they are flexible and dependable problem solvers, they make great mentors, they usually have large professional networks, and, most importantly, “they are ethical.”
A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research “found that workers over age 40 are only about half as likely to get a job offer as younger workers if employers know their age.” After 50 or 55, finding a new job becomes even more challenging.
What to do? Fortunately, Wendy Marx has just authored a book that provides a lot more than just hope for those over 50 seeking new opportunities—it provides a roadmap to achieving financial stability and personal satisfaction.
Thriving at 50+: The 7 Principles to Reinvent and Rebrand Yourself details the steps needed for those over 50 (or even in their 40s) to transition their career and life for the next stage. It’s written to help those with two decades or more of work experience to “learn how to confront ageism in a society that doesn’t always value older people.”
Here’s the story of Thriving at 50+ from author, branding and reinvention coach, Wendy Marx ,who practices what she preaches having reinvented and rebranded herself five times and along the way acquired three master’s degrees (MSW, MS in journalism and an MBA).
Webbiquity: What inspired you to write this book?
Wendy Marx: Serendipity and reconnection to an old passion. I had commented on a post a Georgetown professor made on LinkedIn. About a month later, the professor reached out to ask me if I knew any recent college graduates who would want to join a book writing program he was starting. I didn’t know of any but asked if he would consider a “mature” student.
About a month later, I was part of his book writing program and probably at least twice the age of most of the people in the program. I had no idea initially what I would write about but the program put me in touch with an earlier passion: personal branding and reinvention.
For many years I had blogged about personal branding for Fast Company and in my PR business did a version of personal branding by turning virtually unknown executives into thought leaders. The whole process reinforced a principle I talk about in my book: that action leads to insight rather than the reverse as we usually think.
Webbiquity: Who is the book written for (other than just people over 50)?
Wendy: Anyone seeking to reinvent and rebrand himself or herself will find the book valuable. Today in our changed world, we all need to reinvent and rebrand to some extent to say relevant.
Webbiquity: We’ve all seen the grim statistics on professional life after 50 and the pernicious, though ignorant, effects of ageism. One of the most disturbing is that only one out of 10 people who lose a high-paying job in their 50s will ever earn as much again. What’s the biggest obstacle—within a person’s control—to being more resilient after 50?
Wendy: Having a fixed mindset. It’s easy to think at age 50+ that you’ve been successful and acquired so much experience and credentials that anyone would be lucky to hire you. You’re so tied to your old identity that you can’t let go.
As I say in my book, “If you believe that you can’t change, that your talents are fixed, your self-talk becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don’t or won’t grow and change.”
Instead, people need to adopt a growth mindset. This is a term coined by Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, who has spent years researching the concept of mindset and how it influences behavior. People with a growth mindset embrace change. They challenge themselves and grow.
Webbiquity: What do you hope people will do differently after reading this?
Wendy: Learn that the path to reinvention is not a straight line, but it’s doable and life-transforming. You don’t become a new person but a better version of your past selves, seasoned with new skills, moxie and knowledge. My book through its 7 principles offers a framework for people to thrive in their next act and beyond.
Webbiquity: What has been the response to the book so far?
Wendy: I’m gratified that the response has been very positive, with all five stars reviews on Amazon. I was excited to be teaching a class on personal branding the other night when someone spontaneously said she had read my book and that it was “terrific.” Hearing that makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Wendy Marx is a marketing and branding authority sought after for her ability to turn virtually unknown people into brands of distinction. Over the course of her career, she has taken 100s of business people from anonymity to industry icon. Her insights draw on her over 30 years of experience in marketing, journalism, public relations and counseling — providing a unique mix of marketing and PR savvy blended with psychological wisdom. She is the author of Thriving at 50+: The 7 Principles to Reinvent and Rebrand Yourself. She has had multiple rebrandings and reinventions, and in her quest for knowledge, has acquired an MSW, MS in journalism, and an MBA.
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