Sages know their onions

First, the good news. It is clear that age is far less of a career-limiting
factor than it once was.

When Iain Livingstone became a FTSE 100 CFO at the age of five (ok, 32 – I’m
exaggerating to make the point, but not by much!), the world sat up and took
notice. And he wasn’t the only one.

Andrew Griffiths, Duncan Tatton-Brown, Jeremy Darroch, Ian Dyson – I really
could go on and on – are just a small number of the new breed of executives who
have shown that the only block to your career is talent, or a lack of it.

I suppose I am myself someone who is (relatively) young to be doing the job I
am doing. I have never believed that age gives you any more than extra candles
once a year. Equally, though, I am delighted that the drive to combat age
discrimination has proved so effective.

However, there is one area where younger candidates do struggle a little, and
that is in career planning.

It’s fair enough, really. To get to the top in the finance profession
requires a lot of skill and a number of intelligent career moves. To get these
right first time takes skill and judgement, and not everyone can do that. (In
fact, I’m being kind – most people can’t). Ideally in that situation, you need a
friendly, experienced face that can help you make the right decisions and help
you fit into your new roles as quickly as possible.

This is where mentors come in. As you build your career, you will come into
contact with experienced people who have been there, done that and worn several
of the T-shirts.

They have either watched people make career mistakes or they have made them
themselves but, either way, they understand the career path that can be built
and the experience that lets you build it. It would be a very, very smart move
for anyone to identify a handful of these sorts of people and start to work with
them in this capacity. That way, when I call you with the role of a lifetime,
you have a ready-made group of advisers to sound out about how good the role is
and what you should do with the first 100 days if you get it.

And as for the bad news – well, it’s simple. If the world is less nepotistic
and old-school-tie now defunct, the only reason for not being in that corner
office with that promotion you wanted is that you simply weren’t good enough…

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Berndtson

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