I got fired at age 70. I was called into my boss’s office for my review in June 2017.
“We can do this standing up. Don’t sit down, this will be brief. I want you to retire at the end of the year.” Replying back in total shock and disbelief, “But I’m not retiring”. He told me that I was too old for the company profile.
I asked him, “Am I not contributing?” “Yes, of course you are, but I’m making the company younger.”
“You do realize that I now need to look for a job, and it will encroach on company time.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s fair, ” he said.
I walked out of his office dazed, numb and wondering, “What do I do now”?
A few days later I came to a very clear conclusion. I needed to re-discover and re-define who I was, and what I wanted to do.
In the past three years, I took it upon myself to be an E-Commerce guru. I took courses and read books, learned everything I could about the subject of online selling. I opened big retail sites, organizing our brands and products, and the company started selling our products online.
Financially I was OK and I could retire if I wanted. I reached three conclusions. One, I still have momentum; two, I’m passionate about business development; three, I couldn’t do it alone and I would seek professional coaching. My big fear was my age.
I found a transition coach and had two sessions with him. He helped me build a new resume for looking in my current industry. Additionally, he helped me to expand the scope and reach of my search to include other industries and other jobs that would use my skill set. Going out on my own was not out of the question either. He also set me straight on my fear of being 70.
“Brian, even though most people 70 years old come to me seeking advice on how to transition out of working, I have coached a person 73 into a new position. In meeting and talking to you, you have plenty of good qualities. You are high energy, articulate, and present yourself as naturally enthusiastic, and that is an advantage. However, being old is all in your head. If you present yourself right, age will not be a barrier to you getting hired.” That was encouraging and I took him at his word. As the weeks went by, my confidence improved.
I spread the word and leads started coming my way. I hired another coach, one that was also a therapist. With my new coach/therapist, we created more options and flexibility. I found a new way to frame who I was and what I had to offer. I realized that I wasn’t bound to my old way of thinking about salary and compensation. So with the help of my coach, and first person conversations with other people who were already out on their own, I structured a compensation package that would be weighted on the basis of performance. To several companies, I suggested a retainer and a percent of the profits. I decided that I would pursue a new job in my current industry until March of 2018 and if by then I had nothing concrete, I would go a more independent route. I had done some coaching myself before; I have also taught literacy; I founded a chess school for kids once. All these were possibilities. With this new framework and plan, I kept up my outreach and interviews came my way. I was in control and confident again.
There are two lessons here. One, retirement in the traditional sense does not exist anymore. It is an anachronism belonging to a previous era. Two, the choice of how you occupy your time in your later years is wide open, and it is entirely up to how you spend it.
In December of 2017, I was offered the position of VP of Marketing and E-Commerce for a medium sized company in my current industry, doing exactly what I wanted: creating new product lines, developing brands and building out the E-commerce business.
So the next the time someone tells you, “Your fired”, or you find yourself unsure about your career path, regardless of your age, get back on your feet, redefine who you are, tap into your skills, strengths and experience, and forge ahead.
January 5, 2018
West New York, NJ