The big news last month, that frankly came as a bit of a surprise, and reverberated around the media, was
Trump’s victory UK columnist Lucy Kellaway’s revelation that she was to step away from a successful 31-year career with the FT to launch an educational social enterprise, Now Teach, and become a maths teacher.
This is good news for education (and the economy) which needs a common sense approach, but bad news for those of us who enjoy seeing Lucy rip apart corporate twaddle every Monday in her column.
But there is more.
With her announcement, Lucy issued an invitation to other middle-aged professionals to leave the city and retrain as teachers through the Now Teach programme. Already there is strong interest, confirming that Millennials aren’t the only demographic group seeking purpose in their career (I’d love to know where the marketing people get their insights from).
Earlier in the year, she commented on the absence of older workers in the office in her article In search of the missing office minority – the over-fifties, saying:
This elimination of the vast rump of fiftysomethings from London’s office spaces is at odds with what is supposed to be happening, which is that people are working longer, not just to a normal retirement age but beyond.
In part this is age discrimination. Younger professionals might look aghast at such a claim, but the fact is ageism is an issue (but much less spoken about compared to other forms of discrimination) in developed economies, and it’s alarming to think a shelf life can be so short these days. The world of work has never looked so broken.
But the middle-aged are also pursuing an alternative to salaried employment to prolong their working life, enabled by technology, as BizNews.com noted in their article
Answering Lucy Kellaway: Here’s why over-50s are fleeing salary slavery.
The more experienced among us are increasingly realising skills that built up in corporate service are highly sought in our new connected age. So they have, quite rationally, opted Skype. Slack and other connectable technology as an alternative to the grind of commuting. And rejected the notion of working hours and income determined by faceless committees, preferring the flexibility of offering their skills to the whole world.
This will be welcomed by many of us approaching middle-age; frazzled, but with impressive networks and highly adept at using technology, even if it does mean using email over Snapchat. We are not digital natives, but we began our careers with digital, and when the corporate Grim Reaper comes wielding their scythe a decade from now, we will be ready.
And what an afterlife it promises to be.
Through using tools like Skype, or more likely VR in a few years, the over-fifties (ousted or otherwise) among us can work or stay connected from a variety of locations worldwide – assuming there’s a stable Internet connection (I am tapping this out from a ferry to Cheung Chau island) – without the politics and commute we all know and love.
Who wouldn’t want to give Bali or Thailand a shot, injecting midlife with meaning and a moped (it appealed to Julia Robert’s character in Eat, Pray, Love), with the kids maybe at university or whatever disrupts higher education? Perhaps up-and-coming Myanmar will be the place to be.
Or perhaps the opposite will be true: Balinese and Thais relocating to the Americas or Europe, in what would be a surprise digital nomad reverse trend.
What is certain is that the thirtysomethings and fortysomethings presently in employment should be planning now for a life outside of the traditional office environment. Perhaps we should be forgetting the corner office, and aim instead for a corner of the world (and economy) that delivers a more sustainable lifestyle aligned to our interests and values.