You turned 40. You can’t get a job any more. What can you do?

I met a lot of people who had an excellent career, after turning 35 or 40 for some arbitrary reason lost their job and to their utter surprise found it very difficult to get a new one. This is about how they solved the problem. 

For very many, the solution was to work as a contractor. In Sweden it is difficult to fire an employee, but it is normally easy to terminate a contract. This means that the power of a contractor is less of a threat to a hiring manager. Contractors also have a code of conduct. They are supposed to only do their own work, not build alliances or have opinions about things unrelated to this work.

It is fascinating that people can go unemployed for a long time. They are unable to get an employment, yet if they look for contracts, they can get very good contracts. One of them got a contract as production manager of a big share exchange. I guess he could charge at least the double compared to normal senior level contracts.

One got a contract in the Norwegian oil industry as a chemical risk engineer. Last time I saw him he had been on contract for 10 years and was charging 3 million SEK a year. Pretty good for someone who couldn’t find employment.

Another one had been an employee of Ericsson, but was fired. He is now back in Ericsson, working as a senior level consultant. Last time I saw him he had been on contract there constantly for three years. Himself , he would very much prefer to be employed with a normal engineers salary, at maybe a third of the cost for Ericsson, yet Ericsson prefers to hire him as a contractor. He is an expert in his field. Ericsson has to hire him.

A person I know worked for free as a contractor for several months. He was paid for a week of work but got good references. After this he got new contracts as technical project manager.

Another common solution was to become a teacher. Many found a new career as a teacher, some of them after additional education. My theory is that age discrimination is low in education and hospitals, and that the reason is that they are what Henry Mintzberg would call Professional Bureaucracies, which have very low hierarchies. According to my theory this means people at the bottom of the hierarchy are allowed to be more competent. In practice the teacher is his own manager. It is difficult for teachers to threaten the position of the headmaster.

One person I met, with a M Sc degree in electrical engineering and many years of successful career started on a new 7 year education to physician at the age of 45.

People within sales often had great difficulties. The problem generally is that products on which you can earn significant income often have long sales cycles. Many experienced salesmen are reluctant to restart their career as salesmen of simple products.

One person started working as a contractor with sales.

I think selling consultants or working with recruitment is sometimes a solution, because the sales cycles are short and the income still significant.

Some people started companies. One helped housing associations buy heat exchange facilities.

A person I know has been trying to start a new business with construction and sales of floating chemical factories for 10 years. When I last met him they still had not made any sale and he was running out of funds.

A group of people I know tried to start a business with low volume design and production of circuit cards. They did not manage, but when the designers started designing, salesmen started to sell and project managers started to lead projects at least one designer and the project manager found other work as contractors. I think if you update your knowledge and start working in your line of work it is easier to get a contract.

Several others tried to start companies but did not manage.

Well, some people actually got an employment after considerable time. The most prominent example is a 62 year old production manager in the food industry got a new good job as a production manager. He told me he had managed 157 projects during his long career.

Another person found work through contacts in his ice hockey club, but with wages about a half of his previous wages. He wanted to be employed. I think he would have easily got contracts at senior level. His income would have been at least tripled.

One person had been a product manager at Ericsson. An excellent engineer with 10 years as a product manager. He had a sales job in a small startup company last time I saw him. Unsecure, low wages and hard work, from what I think. What I think is interesting is that this guy found new friends and is working in what I would call the “new economy” of small companies and contractors. I guess in the long run he will be doing great.

 

 

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