Enjoy yourself

Reflections

Isn’t it great to be happy? We cannot be happy all the time. Life can be difficult. We have family pressures and worries. We have business pressures too. No one has ever run a business where everything went right.

This past week I have been thinking how important it is to be happy in work. In my days as an employee I have had several periods when I was very happy. I felt liberated early on in my working career even as an office junior, because for the first time I was treated as a real person and not an irrelevance as I had been during my mostly rather unhappy education. It was great.

Later I had a magical few years working close to the London insurance market, and then again during my first job as a manager. Finally as an employee I has a very brief but enjoyable period working with someone who has this week fallen from grace in a rather shocking way. Although we did not part on good terms, I am truly sorry and at the same time grateful that I was allowed a time to know how good I was at what I did; even if it did turn out to be the last time I was able to have a job before passing the age barrier to getting another.

Bike time

The rest is history of course, because I got on my bike to start a business. I have had a lot of fun and still do. I could not work for anyone else now. Times were very hard at the beginning, and there have been ups and downs since, but we are still standing and the economy does seem to be better.

Relaxation

I have learned it is important to relax. I need to get out of the office, and I enjoy walking around our local countryside and across along the river. When I am outside, I get my best business ideas, my best ideas for articles and blog posts, and get to sort out solutions to difficult problems to do with business or otherwise. I don’t have to make an effort to think. In fact I do not dwell on sticky issues when I am out. I take in the scenery and surroundings and the useful thoughts just pop into my head, because I am enjoying myself.

My wife and I do take holidays as often as is practical, which is at least annually and sometimes twice a year. We are sometimes self-indulgent, but we only get one go at our lives.

It’s later than you think

An elderly couple to whom I used to speak sometimes on one of my local country walks no longer seem to be living at home. I don’t know what happened to them. Maybe they couldn’t cope any more. Perhaps one has died or maybe both. I know the old gentleman had run his own business, though mostly we talked about cameras and photography. I just hope he and his wife had fun.

Business should be fun. If it is, we run it better because we have enthusiasm. If business isn’t fun we need to sort ourselves out or run a different business which is fun.

My old biology teacher used to say “Are you happy in your work?”. Well, are you?

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Ageism, realism and working life in the twenty-first century

My starting point

Lake District work opportunities

As many of you may know, when I lost my job nine years ago I came to realise that at the age I was, I was not allowed to have another employment. I was too old, by which I mean I was somewhat over forty. It took a while for me to understand that was the problem. For a while I laboured under the illusion that there were not many jobs about and that was why the recruitment agencies had trouble finding me interviews. Ageism is a bitter pill to swallow, as many people who have just come out of employment will be finding out.

My solution

Realistically, the only way I could earn a living was to start my own business. That is why I call myself an “accidental entrepreneur”. I have actually set up several businesses because I had to get money coming into the household. I had a specialist field from my employment days, but I also had to do whatever it took to try and achieve some inflow of money.

Over the years since and especially at the beginning I had various short term contracts and also took subcontracted work from another firm. Effectively the services I provided have helped businesses to avoid taking on an employee. I had no security in doing what I did.

Two of the firms I helped just told me they didn’t need me any more, one with no notice at all; I had no expectations of a continuing presence with them so I had to shrug my shoulders and move on to the next assignment, and of course I had been steadily building up my own business and individual clients. My business is both B2B and B2C, to use the jargon. It is a long while since I had to depend on just one or two clients for an income stream. Nowadays I subcontract quite a lot myself. It is an efficient way of doing things.

The ageist job market

Not much has changed since I left employment for the last time. If anything, the work market for older people is much worse. There is legal protection against age discrimination within an employment but once a reason for redundancy is identified or contrived there is little an employee can do.

Age discrimination in the job market is hard to prove. One can be annoyed by an ad such as the technical writing opportunity for a “newly qualified” person I saw yesterday. Newly qualified? We know what they mean.

Older people want to work. They are just not allowed to be employed, as Julian Knight reminded us the other day when writing in the Independent. Apparently there are those who think that older workers are just standing in the way of the young. I agree with the hypothesis that a younger manager would rarely think to take on a person twenty or thirty years older because

  • the person will be too slow
  • the person will be off sick a lot
  • the person will show up the manager by knowing more and being better than he or she is

We know that most “old-hands” would take fewer sickies, be as quick as anyone and know better than to embarrass the manager, but these prejudices remain.

The work market of the future

I don’t claim to have second sight, but since I started my businesses I have ploughed the furrow which many others have to do or will in the future. Realistically, the bureaucratic burdens on employers and their prejudices over age will need them to be more interested in taking people on short-term ad hoc contracts where there is no long term commitment on either side. The current employment laws both on the HR side and in relation to tax do not match up yet, but Seth Godin said recently “In the post-industrial revolution, the very nature of a job is outmoded.”  I agree with that.

I think that employment rights are going to have to be watered down to relieve the employment law red tape mess that businesses have to suffer. In the future, there will be no such thing as a job in the old sense, and there isn’t even now for many over-forties, which is why so many of us are already out there in the brave new twenty-first century. There will be more mobility, which surely is a good thing?

How do you feel about this?

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Have we bred a dependent society?

As part of the election coverage Sky News ran an interview with an IT manager who had been out of work for fifteen months, The angle was to ask what he was looking for amongst the policies of the various parties to encourage him to vote, given that he was apparently a floating voter.

If you have read my posts over the last year or so (and thank you if you have) you will know that I tend to be somewhat unimpressed by those who expect everything on a plate – the “what’s in it for me?” brigade.

It is not that I do not have sympathy for the unemployed. After all I was forced to try out unemployment for myself. After spending a month or so in the gym trying to deal with my angst, I realised that I had to make something happen.

I assume that an IT Manager has some IT skills and is not one of the school which believes that the art of management is telling other people what to do. Surely after fifteen months he has rustled up some activity to make a few pennies to supplement his state benefits? Even if having some earnings reduced his benefits, surely for his own self-esteem he should be doing something to keep his hand in? One thing is certain; few people after a significant period of unemployment can expect to walk back into a job just like the one they used to have. The longer the unemployed do nothing, the more difficult it is to find work.

I had to get my hands dirty doing some things I hadn’t done for years, and a couple of things I had never dreamed I would have to do to earn some money.

I do not claim any virtue. In some situations we act out of necessity. Life is hard for many now, especially on the job front and for the unskilled in terms of options. If we have skills we can adapt, even perhaps drastically, there is no excuse for waiting for the world to come to us. We have to get on our bikes and go out into the world to earn some money.

What do you think?

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