start a gallery

Are you trying to fit into the wrong career box?

  What do you do when no one will hire you because of your age?

Yesterday, I was speaking with a client who recently retired and wants to do something totally different from her previous corporate job. She called me because she’s considering starting a small business. She was thinking about opening a gallery or co-op and knew I help people do that.

But here’s what bothered me: She said she’d been looking for a part time job but no one would hire her because of her age.

I told her self-employment is not a default if you can’t get a job.

You need to want it more than you ever wanted any job because at least initially, you’re going to work harder than you ever did at any job.

   I hear this age discrimination comment a lot, even from freelancers.

And it may very well be true. When a thirty-year-old screens your resume and sees that you graduated college in the 1970s, she immediately thinks “old” and moves on to the next candidate.  Both mature men and women have told me they color their hair or have cosmetic procedures when they’re job hunting so that they appear younger. Some even try to model their children’s vocabulary so they don’t sound old to an interviewer.

With roughly 30% of the US population over age 50, there’s obviously a huge market of people who speak our language.

I’m reminded of Judi Dench’s character in the film “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” who lands a job advising the call centre staff on how to interact with older customers in a way they can relate to.

Whether you’re in the job market or thinking about starting a business, why try to fit into a world where your talents are not valued when there are so many areas where your wisdom is a treasure? You may need an app that a twenty-something develops but does she fully understand the experience of the older end user?

Why not start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What can I bring to the world that a younger person lacks?
  • What is missing that can only be filled by someone with my experience?
  • What products or services do I want to have access to as I age?
  • What experiences have I had that would have been made easier by someone more my peer?

Instead of trying to fit into the same job slot as a younger person, think about the gifts you bring because of your age, not despite it.

Some things that come to my mind right away:

  • A market research company that has products for older adults and needs to recruit a panel of product testers who are in the demographic that will use the product.
  • A rent-a-granny business. When my son was a toddler, we lived in a community with many over 55 adults who missed having their grandchildren nearby. They all wanted time with Todd and he enjoyed the attention because his grandparents lived across the country. As people are more mobile in their work and move away from their birth families, there are opportunities for services that bring the generations together.
  • Peer tech trainer. My 83-year-old aunt received an iPhone as a gift and signed up for a class at
    the Verizon store. She said the young trainer talked so fast and assumed everyone already knew the terms he was using. A clever retiree could start a business teaching older folks how to use their technology. They recognize that they may have to explain things differently than they would to someone who grew up with the terminology.
  • Typing teacher. Have you noticed that manual typewriters are now trendy? Like vinyl records and turntables, these “vintage” tools of our youth are hot items with those too young to have ever used them. Have you seen how baffled kids are when you set a Royal or Remington down in front of them? What other items did you use that you could demonstrate to younger people?

These are just a few ideas of how the experience and wisdom acquired with age can be an asset in the work world rather than a detriment. Rather than beat yourself up over lost youth and how it affects your earning ability, why not look for possibilities to use age to your advantage?