Has Your Network Aged Out?
I am hearing over and over again about how people’s networks have “aged out”. Several years ago, I was working on a brand story with one of the members of the Career Pivot community 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.
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.
If I was talking to her today, it would have even been worse as she worked in the non-profit industry. The COVID-19 pandemic would have exacerbated her situation.
I have spoken with a number of resume writers in the last year who have told me that they are seeing a lot of senior roles opening up in the non-profit space. It has been predicted for years that senior leadership in this industry was aging and would eventually retire. The pandemic has pushed many to call it quits.
Unfortunately, this also means her network would have aged out and they may no longer be in a position to help.
Has Your Network Retired or Aged Out?
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.
Is Your Industry Shifting and Has Your Network Aged 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 to see what the adverse effects the pandemic has created.
The first thing to look at is how has the supply chain been disrupted in your industry. Has this caused people in your network to switch industries or retire?
How have customer purchasing habits changed that will have adverse effects on your industry? What has this done to your network?
Look for disruptive innovation and who in your network is involved in the implementation. Has this disruptive innovation caused people in your network to retire?
Start tracking your former managers, mentors, and colleagues for shifts in their careers. Has the pandemic caused some to retire or even worse have any of them passed on?
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 are 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? Check out the podcast episode How to Switch Industries from Executive Search Consultants Perspective.
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?
I like my friend Thom Singer’s philosophy of speaking to a smart person every day. Thom works on scheduling a call with someone in his network every day to seek advice. Check out my discussion with Thom in the podcast episode 2021 Update – Pivoting a Speaking Career in a Time of Pandemic [Podcast].
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.
It is this consistent outreach that will keep your network from getting stale.
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?