Just like the Circle of Life, there used to be a Circle of Work, in the corporate middle management world at least – you got your qualifications, you joined a big company grad scheme, you worked your way up the organisation until you reached your level of incompetence, you got past 55, you wound down, you retired.
Of course, that’s all changed now – it’s all about short term contracts, entrepreneurism in the workplace, getting in, nailing it, getting out and moving on. The guys who stuck around to pay back their company’s investment and build their pension are today’s dinosaurs.
And as companies slim down, outsource and offshore services, there are more dinosaurs emerging, blinking, into the bright sun of the jobs market, slightly stunned and clutching their severance packages in their tiny Tyrannosaurus hands. (I have no proof there are more – I doubt there are any statistics for this, as dinosaurs don’t generally register as unemployed – but I have plenty of anecdotal evidence).
They’ve scarcely recovered from that shock and started looking for jobs when they realise that the bright sun isn’t a bright sun at all, it’s an asteroid, and it’s headed straight for the Yucatan.
For they have re-entered the jobs market with a resume which states that they are over 50, they have worked for the same large company for 30 years, and they have a bunch of finely honed management skills but few specific technical ones.
They can swallow all that PR stuff about valuing a diverse workforce, then just sit on the porch and listen to the sound of all those automated searches whizzing straight past their CV.
Before we start feeling too sorry for them, let’s think about their motivation. Some will still have major financial commitments, and for them it can be heartbreakingly tough. But for others, it’s not really about the money – the mortgage on the porch was paid off long ago, all the little dinosaurs are making their own way, and they’ve got that fat dinosaur defined benefits pension to look forward to in a year or two.
They are back in the jobs market because they want the intellectual challenge, they want to carry on making a difference, and, okay, some pocket money would be nice. But the jobs market doesn’t like underselling either – another reason not to take on one of these beasts.
So, dinosaurs, why fight it? Take the pension, write a blog, work shifts at the local theme park if you need the pin money: there’s plenty who would envy you what you’ve got.
But what if we look at these dinosaurs from a different perspective, forgetting all that recruitment received wisdom?
We are talking about a large pool of valuable skills and experience which will be lost when these people drop out of work. With increasing life expectancy, it’ll be lost for a long time, and with a growing dinosaur population, this loss starts to become noticeable.
Received wisdom is that you’re unlikely to get the same return on a dinosaur as you would from a younger candidate with more current skills and varied employment history, but how about if you could invest in their skills to a level that did give you a good return?
Speaking as a dinosaur (you’d guessed, hadn’t you?), I’ve tackled this at a personal level by becoming a freelance consultant in my particular areas of expertise, with a flexible business model that reflects my skills and the market.
Because I offer generic management and consulting capabilities rather than specific technical skills, I’m happy to go into a business, identify where I can add value, and be remunerated specifically based on what value it turns out I can add and on what the company can afford to pay.
If I can’t add value, I don’t get paid. Best case I get some pocket money, worst case I learn more useful stuff. There’s minimal risk and hopefully maximum return for the business, and my skills don’t get lost to the economy.
I see this as a valid, scalable model as we move increasingly to a fluid, flexible work economy – highly skilled and experienced managers offering insight and support on a ‘gig’ basis, paid according to the value they add.
Granted, this starts to sound a lot like plain old-fashioned consultancy, but I believe there’s an important difference. This isn’t about bringing in a bunch of specific, transformational, high value, high cost consulting skills. It’s much lower level – getting someone who has been there to come in and help with the practical, day to day management ‘stuff’.
So I live in hope of packs of dinosaurs roaming the business parks, helping businesses in practical and cost effective ways – a Jurassic Perk for everyone.