There are four kinds of professionals that our guest author Shouvik Roy has encountered in the past few years...
Yes, it is true that forties is the defining decade for everyone’s career – barring exceptions who made it really big much earlier by either a stroke of luck or a stroke of genius. But let’s face it – that’s not most of us.
If, like me, you are in your late forties and have work to do in an industry inundated with young talent, like, for instance, the advertising industry – there is a lot to be thankful for. Having lived through the 40s with all my friends and colleagues – and just a little more than a year away from that decade where everything begins to finally slow down for almost everyone. (Again, there are some exceptions, and that’s most probably not too many of us.)
There are four kinds of professionals I have encountered in the past few years who I have named ‘The Forties Warriors’. This classification, like any other, is not boundaryless and shades of one will be found in the other.
1. The Blazing Warriors – This is the driven forties’ professional, who is purely focused on goals and has usually set his/her eyes on a long career, full of energy, passion and drive. They make great leaders in task-oriented organisations that are led by one focal point – the enhancement of shareholder value.
These are the same people who have told everyone and themselves the story of how successful they are and will be. They work best with people who are equally driven or share their vision. Typified by their ability to span work done across departments – all by themselves, in crunch situations.
2. The Networking Giant-killers – A large number of professionals, by the time they reach their forties, have realised that they have no real unique skill or, at best, they are above average talent. They are the hardworking people who have made it to a place beyond which it is very hard for them to progress.
They work very meticulously around networks and usually know a lot of people in the right places. Very employable during their forties as they bring in their network to any organisation they work with. However, their real struggle begins in their late forties – there are soon challenged by network warrior in their late thirties, who are able to wield as much power as they do – at half their cost. So, they end up working with one hand – the other one holding on to their chairs.
3. The Hesitant Achievers – There is a growing tribe of professionals who have had very successful careers, but began questioning everything once they entered their forties. Some of them carry on for very long, dealing with work as a means to an end. Some keep hopping and hoping, while others, who are convinced about the futility of everything work, begin to slowly plan their exits, or try to find meaning in newer, not so professional pursuits.
There is a distinct correlation between the gratification of material pursuits and the levels of questioning their careers, or the lack of it. They make great bosses and the most generous clients.
4. The Lone Wolves – Raging on with only the end in sight, they do not wish to make friends during their ‘mission’. They have lost most of their colleagues and coworkers en route. They are handy men when it comes to driving numbers, change and focus. Their experience of dogged pursuit comes in very handy, and their maturity makes everyone else stand back and watch or clap.
There is usually no other option. The others are always waiting for them to get tired and fail. As they are themselves tired of being driven so hard. A lone warrior usually exits the professional world in their late forties to their early fifties for many reasons – one being that they get totally exhausted and feel uninspired to go on. They can follow-up with the follow-uppers, like no one else can.
Surviving the forties at work is not easy. As it is in the thirties or in the twenties. The only difference is – you are far clearer about why you’re working and what it means to you. And like I said, there are exceptions – and there is a reason why they are called exceptions.
(The author is president and head of office at Ogilvy.)