Has Your Network Aged Out?
I am hearing over and over again about how people’s networks have “aged out”. I was working on a brand story with one of the members of the new Career Pivot community (look to hear a lot more about this in the coming weeks) who told me that new positions always came to her. She never needed to look because her mentors and other leaders were always looking out for her.
What has happened to her in her 60s is her network has aged out. The people who had her back for so many years have either retired, are not in a position of power, or are in the same boat she is in – underemployed or unemployed.
This post was originally published in October of 2017 and was updated in January of 2020.
When she was telling me the story of her career, it was pretty obvious that she did nothing to cultivate or care for the network. Rather, it was always there for her and she never paid attention to it.
On the other hand, she is mentoring a lot of young professionals and her connection to them is strong; but they are not nearly as influential as the people who had mentored her over the years.
Her network has aged out and left her abandoned.
Network Has Retired
I had a similar discussion with a gentleman who is now in his late 60s. He was forced into retirement and has since formed a consulting group with 5 or 6 of his former colleagues.
Throughout his career, opportunities just came to him through his network. He never really needed to find work and he did little to cultivate his network or even grow his network. He did not see the need to grow his network as it was feeding him and his family just fine.
That was until he hit his 60s – and his network either retired, became unemployed, was downsized, or passed away. His contacts within his industry greatly diminished. It did not help that he was on the manufacturing side of the business, which had been shipped offshore for cost savings.
He now needs to reinvigorate his network but this is not something he is comfortable doing. At the same time, he is not social media savvy.
His network has aged out and left him abandoned.
Strategically Examine Your Network
For those of us in the 2nd half of life, our next job will come through a relationship. That relationship may be an existing one, a dormant one that you will reinvigorate (weak ties), or a new relationship.
You should carefully examine your existing relationships or network.
How many are of a similar age? How many are much older? Will they still be around to assist you in 10 years?
Zero in on those who are connectors. Connectors are those people who know lots of people and enjoy making connections.
If you were let go from your job today, who could you depend on to help you? Will those same people be in a position to help you in 10-15 years? If not, you need to replace them NOW!
You want to examine your network NOW to see how much of it will age out.
How stable is the industry where you are currently working?
If you are in a shrinking or dying industry now is the time to make the shift.
I want you to look at your industry through two different lenses.
- Automation, AI or Robots – Is your industry and skill set replaceable and vulnerable to automation?
- Creative Destruction – Will creative destruction either eliminate or greatly shrink your industry.
Automation, AI or robots will continue to break down and eliminate jobs. I recently had a client interview with a company that will be using deep learning to replace thousands of service personnel. The chatbot they were developing will be able to answer 95% of all customer service questions.
Creative destruction is accelerating. Think of the industries that have been affected by the creation of the iPhone just 10 years ago. Just imagine what drones will be able to do in 10 years and what jobs and industries will be eliminated.
Are You Age Segregating Your Network?
When I interviewed Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, we discussed how we naturally age segregate ourselves. We tend to hang out with people who look, taste and smell like ourselves. When our network is shrinking we need to network with people who are younger than ourselves.
I gave a presentation at Launch Pad Job Club last March on the topic of Ageism. I discussed how as we age we need to expand our network to younger demographics. Afterward, a gentleman came up to me and told me that he had volunteered for the Beto O’Rourke for Senate campaign. He volunteered with hundreds of young Millenials and was totally impressed with their intellect and passion. This is a natural example of networking outside of your comfort zone.
The odds of you working for a younger manager is highly likely. Check out my interview with John Tarnoff when we discussed this topic in the podcast episode called – John Tarnoff Teaches How to Work for a Millennial [Podcast]
Our society naturally drives us to age segregate. As your network ages out you will have to form new contacts that will be significantly younger than yourself.
Once you have examined your network and industry, you will want to create a plan to replace and/or augment your existing network.
If you need to shift to a different industry, who do you need to develop relationships with? How are you going to garner street cred within that new industry?
If you’re in a stable industry, who are the ‘up and coming’ individuals that you need to develop relationships with NOW – such that your network will not age out?
If you are in your 50s today and plan to work until 70 or beyond (yes, that is a large percentage of the 50 somethings) you need to plan on your network to age out.
I am now into my 60s and many of the people I worked with at IBM in the 1980s and 1990s are no longer in the workforce. Many of the people who I worked with after the dot-com bust are still working but are no longer in a position of power or influence. My network has aged out.
Has your network aged out? What are you going to do about it?