Age? Who cares, if you’re doing a job well

Olives have always been problematic for me. My reluctance to eat them as a young man provoked my father to remark that “it is all right son, they are an adult taste”. I can now eat olives in my fifth decade, something that I have made a determined effort to achieve in my uncertain pursuit of the goal of adulthood.

Fish fingers, alphabet spaghetti or any other food artificially fashioned to resemble animals or letters screams nursery food, or mother-issues. As a general rule, comfort food – ice cream, chocolate sponge pudding, custard, hot chips and so on, may well reflect our desires to escape into childhood.

Alphabet spaghetti

Alphabet spaghetti

Adult food is generally the opposite of comfort food, in that, to qualify it must taste sour, hot, or like soil (umami). Adults who eat it, are said to have “an acquired palette” in the same way that masochists have an acquired tolerance for pain.

Occupations also appear to have age restrictions. Most sports people are done and dusted by the age of 40. You do not see many judges in their 20s. When rock music was anti-establishment, if they didn’t die at the age of 27, they were supposed to break up the band by the time they were 30, and disappear in a fog of narcotics. In the last few years I have been to concerts featuring Elton John (70s), the Specials (50s), Madness (50s), Paul Simon and Sting (60s and 70s). In fact acts over the age of 50 have never been more popular.

I have remarked before that if you are over 35 and obliged to wear a name badge at work, you cannot claim career success. Similarly, we don’t expect to see anyone over the age of about seven serving in fast food restaurants. On some US airlines, there remain some cabin crew who started their careers being called “air hostesses”. It is not clear whether they are pushing a drinks trolley down the aisle or a zimmer frame in disguise.

Traditionally, careers were supposed to follow an upward trajectory as twentysomethings established themselves, which then flattened out in their 40s to a cruising altitude before final descent from the late 50s into retirement.

Thankfully traditional ideas about careers and who can do what and when are rapidly receding. If you are good enough to do the job, then frankly nothing else matters. If I want to keep dentists and dietitians employed by eating jelly babies rather than eating green snail porridge, well who are you to judge?

Jim Bright, FAPS is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU and owns Bright and Associates, a career management consultancy. Email to [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @DrJimBright




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