Sunday, November 18, 2012

Age is no guarantee of efficiency!

I turned 38 recently. Well, some say 40 is the new 30, so by that standard I am yet to begin. But, there are others (including me) who want Sachin (39) to retire. For those, who are about to tell me the difference between physical vis a vis mental condition, you didn't hear about 100 year old Fauja Singh yet.  Won't be surprised if he is Sachin's inspiration. 

Till now there was at least one vocation where even being 40+ was considered to be youth or good enough to begin, yes, politics. Alas! even there, we see some 30+ making waves and reducing the average "youthful" age. Sigh.

We even saw 'young' SRK (47) playing 25 year old Samar Anand in Jab Tak Hai Jan, but if I discuss Bollywood here, we'll digress.

My point is what's the professional shelf life of a human in an average corporate job? These days corporates start hiring directly from the campus and one may start his/her professional career at as young as 20. Now if Gladwell is to be believed all it takes is 10000 hrs to be be an expert - that makes around 4-5 years of practice. So, 5-6 years in a job are good enough to make you expert. 

I very well know that in corporates there isn't a specific task to be performed, yet, even if one does "Boss Management" for 5 years, he gonna master it by 26-27. So, who needs a 35+ or a 40+ guy in any new job!

Ok, every thing else being same, if you have to hire a 28 year old guy with 8 years of relevant experience and 38 year with 18 years, why would you hire a 38 years old guy? What extra benefit that experienced guy would bring to you?

Somehow, I think, after a point, age (read experience) doesn't bring much value, rather, it makes people difficult to unlearn. Forget the new job, even in the existing job, times are changing and 'being young' is no more a disadvantage for that promotion or getting a corner office.

I agree that there are ways and means to Botox yourself by continuous learning, up-skilling and being the 'known devil' yet, it's like Rani Mukherjee learning bike-racing and other stunts to compete with Deepika Padukone for a role in Dhoom 3. (Apologies to Rani's fans, if any).

Even that 20 something Quartermaster in Skyfall (Q) told much older Bond, "Age is no guarantee of efficiency". 

Focus has changed, isn't it?
So, how many of you think that age brings a disadvantage in a corporate job?


amreekandesi said...

Quite thought-provoking, though if you had a 28 year old and a 38 year old, they'd be applying for different roles. I think experience brings along the softer skills - negotiation, people management, conflict management etc. And these are the skills that are more relevant higher up the ladder. So dont chuck the senior citizens (38+ :P) yet.

Interestingly, saw another ToI report, perhaps the same one motivated this post as well, but it said that techies have a 'shelf-life' of 15 years, which is an interesting statement. What after that? I say that as your experience grows, your view keeps getting broader. 100 ft to 1000 ft to 10000 ft and so on. Till you escape the atmosphere/rat-race.

Vikas P Goel said...

Comment by Aashish

In India, organizations expect everyone to construct a pyramid as one ages. This pyramid can be organizational or it can be based on metrics like revenue. That is a function of the industry and the specific corporate. Conversely, it is also true that if you aren't at a particular age, your chance of constructing such a pyramid will be minimal.

In this sense, age plays both ways. There are jobs which you cannot do until you attain a given age, irrespective of the merit you bring in. Also there are jobs you cannot do after a given age, irrespective of the passion your bring in for the job.

For roles that are mainly individual contributor ones, clearly the employers may prefer younger candidates - more energy, less baggage, no encumbrance. And of course 25 to 35 can mean a 3x salary jump.

What several individual contributors in India have not recognized is that they will not get paid the "pyramid leverage" if they continue to do just their work - unless of course the work is such that commands a premium. Sveral folks working in individual roles expect salary movement but aren't interested in that pyramid, which is self-defeating.

Overall, it may be more useful linking organizational responsibility to organizationl relevance rather than looking at just age vs. relevance.

Vikas P Goel said...

Thanks Amreekandesi and Aashish for reassuring comments and not writing off a 38 year old.

Amreekandesi: But, I think 8-10 years are sufficient to even obtain softer skills, negotiation etc. 28-30 year old can lead large teams, for older subordinates it may be challenging yet that's more about mindset than anything else.

Aashish : would like to know what kind of job you are referring to which can't be performed till a particular age. In corporates, CEO, COO, even function needing experience like Legal, Compliance have no age bar.