Don't be the dinosaur: Ten rules for the older professional

Understanding and dealing with an ever changing marketing and media environment is challenging. All About Brands’ Michael Willard gives his top tips on how to remain at the top of the marketing game

I woke up one morning, and I was suddenly a 60-year-old in PR. Life is sort of like that Porsche I had long ago that roared from zero to 60-plus in no time flat. The senior years sneak up on us.

However, financial commitments don’t disappear at this yellow leaf threshold, a time depicted in gauzy magazine photos with a smiling grandfather bouncing a grandchild on his knee. The mortgage still comes due every month. I still have to suit up in my rusty armor each morning and go out and joust with very smart youngsters half my age. In the 21st Century, failure is not an option for those of us who have responsibilities stacked like layers on a chocolate cake.

With an eight-year old in the house, my first view of retirement will come, barring surprises, somewhere in the year 2022. My situation, though, is one of choice and is actually fairly common, regardless of profession. Lives are more complicated today than they were a few decades back. We live longer. The divorce rate in most countries is about 50 percent, and the number of second families is consistent with this statistic.

Also, for me, retirement has never been a goal. It is for people who have worked for governments all their lives, or those who landed a position with a giant company, spent 30 years there, and were put out to pasture at the age of 65 or later. I simply did not, and don’t, aspire to retire. Not long ago, I was asked by a public relations professor at Elon University in North Carolina to outline my ten rules for coping professionally when younger PR pros might think I have lost a step or two. Though not in any particular order, and certainly not inclusive, I offer my thoughts:

1. Differentiate the mature brand

Think of yourself as a brand - a mature brand - and then differentiate yourself according to the talents and experiences you have gained over the years. Play to your strengths, whether they be media training, crisis training and management, client relations, or another aspect of our business. And remember, so long as you are a little entrepreneurial, your talents probably work equally well outside a big organization.

2. Broaden your horizon

In other words, step outside your comfort zone. Venture into an aspect of our business that might surprise the younger professional, such as becoming better acquainted with the digital world and digital communications. Spend a few moments with MTV and learn what “you’ve been punk’d” means. In other words, don’t let anyone brand you a dinosaur.

3. Be a risk taker

Great ideas generally carry risk. Be an idea person and accept that risk is part and parcel of the potential success that might come your way. Think in terms of the game, however, and acknowledge to yourself that even the great Ronaldo has an occasional off day on the pitch.

4. Avoid ‘war story’ syndrome

Everyone likes hearing stories, but repeated references to how it was done in the “good old days” is tiresome and rarely relevant in today’s 24-hour news cycle. Make sure that your story is specific to a current problem.

5. Keep up appearances

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet could wear a beanie and still get respect. The famous Wyoming lawyer, Gerry Spence, can wear buckskins - and he does - and carries it off! Most of us in the mature stage of our careers probably have not reached that point. Superstar status has eluded us. Hence, dress as a professional.

6. There are always options

When a career problem does arise (and I can think of at least three life-defining situations in my own journey), remember that there are an amazing number of options available. Live to fight another day. In other words, don’t panic at the first professional ill wind. Relax. Take a deep breath, and review those options.

7. Don’t retreat - charge!

A career path is not that much different from charting a successful war or a political campaign. When inevitable adversity does come your way - and perhaps when others are retreating – charge! My company grew during an economic crisis. A personal job dilemma at an international PR company found me the following year leading my own company.

8. Live a portfolio life

Keep adding to your portfolio of talents by becoming knowledgeable about areas that really interest you. If you like public speaking, for example, find platforms to demonstrate and improve. I took up oil painting when I was 50, and have held several exhibitions where paintings have sold. However, I get better use out of them by presenting them as birthday presents to clients and friends.

9. Be nice

It is amazing how far you can go in your career merely because your clients, your co-workers and your friends think of you as a pretty good guy, not manipulative, but genuinely caring. We all hear about the S.O.B. who clawed his way to the top. There are many more executives who became Fortune 500 CEOs because they are talented - and treat people with respect.

10. Don’t be late for life

In my view, this rule trumps all other suggestions on this list. It has more to do with a philosophy than a success tactic. It comes from a George Elliott quotation: “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” In other words, don’t be late for life.

For more information, videos and advice for SMEs, visit www.freshbusinessthinking.com

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Law Costs

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?