You've been fishing for a job for months ...but the recruiters aren't biting.
Someone asked you to brainstorm ideas for a new app...and you were like, "suuuuuure", then quickly googled "what the hell is X app?"
The new PA you hired has a strange number in their email address...and it dawns on you, "Oh my god, please do not tell me you were born in 1984!"
Whether you're in a financial crisis due to lack of work, or a mid-life crisis because you just found out your PA is the same age as your little brother...the underlying doubt is the same.
...Maybe I'm just too old now.
Age Anxiety comes up in almost every single one of my coaching sessions.. aaaand my own life. Duh, of course it does. Our lives as professional creatives literally depends upon our ability to produce fresh content quickly and frequently. With the media landscape constantly shifting, we need to understand where that content will be played. And then we need to keep up with all the technology required to make this new content. When you suddenly feel stalled in your career, it's easy to think that you're an outdated model. Like you forgot to do the software update and you're suddenly obsolete.
My clients range in age from 25-45, . And when I tell you that the "I'm too old!" attack comes up all the time, it comes up with the 25 year olds, too! 45 is too old, aaaaand 25 is too old?
9 times out of 10, we have the age anxiety attack because we have come to the end of the road in some area of our life and it's time to change direction. We already know that somewhere, but we haven't taken any steps to act on that. The anxiety comes from that lack of action.
25, 45, 173...stoppit, you're not too old for anything.
You're right on time to take your next step.
But what is it? That's what I'm going to help you figure out today. Instead of the default "maybe I'm too old", I'm giving you some more productive Maybes to work from.
Spend a little time with each maybe and see what comes up for you. If it doesn't resonate at all, dismiss it. That ain't it. If you feel your spidey sense go off with any of them, pay attention. Pay special attention if you feel intense resistance. Often that's what you really want, and that's what really scares you. (Life is fair like that.
Maybe I need a promotion...
There is nothing like watching co-workers you came up with move up, on and out to bigger opportunities. You all started as PAs and assistants together, paying your dues with the hope of a career that allowed you to meet your potential. Somehow you've stalled out in professional purgatory sitting in a cubicle across from your friend in her new office. How did this happen? Excellent question! How long has it been since you've been promoted? When was the last time you asked your boss about a promotion?
Now do not come over here tell me, "I did and I'm still waiting". No, no, no. You and only you are responsible for your career trajectory. Talk to your boss again and politely ask for an update and timeline for your promotion. If he feels you're not ready, ask for the tasks you need to accomplish in order to prove that you are. And if you still feel like you're getting the runaround, promote yourself and get a new job at a new company with a shiny, new title. This doesn't have to be a combative process, but it does need to be an honest one. Be open about your career goals and expectations. If your current boss can't meet them, no need to take it personally. You just need to take the next step someplace else
Maybe I'm shooting too low...
I've had a lot of clients who are wisely trying to pivot their experience into newer forms of media in an attempt to stay relevant. But haven't gotten a bite yet. They panic and start applying for positions well below their current level. "I'm wiling to learn, so I'll take anything!", which sounds a little, well.... desperate.
Desperation isn't a great look. Imagine a recruiter sees your robust resume with all of your experience, and you're applying for a job 2 or even 3 levels below where you're at. Your intention may be a good one, but this could look like a red flag to someone who doesn't know you. "Why would they want take a pay cut? Did something happen at their last company?" And seriously..why would you want to take a pay cut? You're a grown-ass person who spent a lot time and money honing your skills. Even if you're looking to apply them to a new area, it doesn't make them any less valuable.
Instead, apply for jobs at your level or above, and re-position yourself as an expert. You're no longer an entry level employee who does what their told. You are an expert with a unique set of methods to solve problems. It's crucial you understand how you do it, so you can pitch yourself as the best one TO do it. There are more PAs and assistants, than there are Creative Directors. So finding new opportunities takes a little longer than it used to. But it's far more rewarding in the end.
Maybe I need more money...
Your first house, travel dreams, getting rid of that student loan once and for all...while we are growing professionally, our needs are growing personally. And that takes more money, plain and simple. Money talk is really loaded. It can be terrifying to even admit that to yourself, let alone ask for a raise or leave where you're comfortable for a better paying job. If you don't push past this resistance, it's easy to think that your age is holding you back.
But again, this is on you. You must value your skills accurately, and advocate for pay that reflects your worth. Bottom line: it's The Company's Job to get the best talent for the best price. Therefore, it is YOUR job to get the highest pay for the most efficient use of your time.
Start treating yourself like a little company. You Inc has employees to pay, (YOU!), and you need money to do that. Start negotiating a salary increase at work. If you're freelance, raise your rates. If you're in between jobs, what else could you offer to make money? Could you sell something? Start a side business? Who knows. All I do know is that you are valuable and worth every penny you ask for, as well as the momentary stress you'll feel from an awkward money conversation.
Maybe I don't like it anymore...
If none of the other three are resonating, consider the most terrifying maybe of all..maybe you're not happy in this career. Maybe you would like to try something else entirely? it's natural to outgrow interests, hobbies even relationships... Why wouldn't the same be true in our careers?
(Deep breaths! Here's a paperbag...)
If you know this to be true somewhere deep down inside, you don't have to quit tomorrow! It also may not be 100% true. Maybe you can't tolerate certain aspects of your job, but other parts you could keep. That's all really good information. What you need to do is a thoughtful deep dive into other options that could make you happy and get you paid.
Do some research! Meet with an old friend for coffee to learn about a job you always thought sounded cool. Talk with your boss about other opportunities within the company that may be more appealing at this stage. Explore whether or not a more flexible work schedule would suit your lifestyle better. Maybe you have a business idea you want to explore? Whatever it is....do this research consistently for 3-6 months, then lay out the 2 or 3 best options. Then be a little brave and see just one of them through to see where it leads.
Change happens, whether we like it or not. I choose to like it and embrace it, even when it seems terrifying. Because guess what, it's the only choice I do have. When I'm actually doing it, it's really not that scary. In fact, it makes me feel excited, engaged, young! (...without having to do all the annoying 20something stuff, like eating pasta for dinner every night or drinking bad beer because it's the cheapest.)
We're the grown-ups now.
Own it and work it.
If you need some help making your career pivot, I would love to work with you one on one!