Tomorrow I’m 60. Yahoo! Yippee!


Way back in 1959 on June 13th at 2:30 a.m., I entered this world, born into a middle class family in Etobicoke, Ontario – then a suburb of Toronto, Ontario in Canada. Tomorrow will mark a full 60 year anniversary of that event, and I’m obviously not hiding it.

I’ve yet to have one of, “those birthdays”. You know, the one that you absolutely live for such as when you can finally get your driver’s licence, drink alcohol or legally buy cigarettes. Nor have I yet to have the birthday that shatters your self-image, like dreading turning 30, hitting the big 4-0, or turning half a century old! To me, every birthday has been something to look forward to. This past year, it occurred to me that I could say I am 59 years old and born in 59. Well, tomorrow I can no longer make that claim – ever.

I don’t feel 60. Wait a minute; I don’t know what 60 is supposed to feel like, so I can’t say that. What I can say is that I don’t see turning 60 as a bad thing; and a bad thing is what I hear a lot of others say as they blow out all those candles with both a paid up insurance policy and fire extinguisher near at hand. I think I’ve always felt younger than the number itself suggests from a stereotyped point of view. I’ll see that as a good thing.

So it was funny to me yesterday when a colleague at work popped her head in to ask me a question about one of our co-workers who also shares June 13 as her own birthday. I volunteered in our conversation that I was in fact turning 60 and she immediately tilted her head slightly, looked sympathetic and said in a sweet voice that would give you a cavity just listening to her, “Oh! I’m sorry!” and she meant it too. She’s less than half my age at a guess.

My reaction was to laugh and say how I relished the opportunity to celebrate another birthday. After all, those who don’t want to celebrate their birthdays eventually get their wish…think about that one.

No seriously, I see a benefit to be had in turning 60. As an Employment Counsellor, a lot of people I partner with and support see their advancing years as a negative. I wish I had a buck for every man and woman who has said to me, “Well my age is a problem. I’m 46 and no offence but that’s old.” Well if 46 is old, I’m fossilized!

One of the things I’m grateful for (and there are many) is my general health at 60. I have an excellent record of attendance – missing less than 3 days a year for about 8 of the last 9 years. I’ve got drive, creativity, energy to burn throughout the work day and still feel totally invested in the people I work with. I love the role I’ve got at present and I know I make a difference which gives the work I do so much meaning.

I see turning 60 as a good thing for those older folks I come into contact with. Maybe I’m some kind of inspiration to some, perhaps they even view their age as a strength and an asset as I do after we spend some time together. You see by now, I’ve got this rich history of a life lived including work spanning Retail, Manufacturing, Social Services and Recreation sectors. I’ve experience as an entrepreneur, Executive Director, front-line and middle management employee. I’ve worked with two large municipalities and the Province of Ontario in unionized settings, plus worked in Not-For-Profit and private profit businesses. It takes time to accumulate all these experiences, and I draw on each and every one of them often in the course of my work. It’s this diversity of experience that helps me relate with people and be relatable to people.

I guess I don’t fit the idea of a worker slowing down, putting in time until retirement, coasting through the day, being a passenger more than a driver of change and innovation. Geez I must be annoying for some who’d like me to pull out a white flag and say, “I’m old and I feel my age is a problem too.” Well I don’t.

I have come to believe that what’s going in your head (what you believe and how you see yourself) is your biggest asset or liability when it comes to interacting with your world. See age as your problem and you’ll move, act and use words that affirm you see age as your problem. So the world will acknowledge how you feel and agree. Don’t be surprised then when others confirm it. On the other hand, see your years as an asset to be revered and proud of and you’ll move, act and use words that show gratitude and pride  and the world WILL acknowledge how you feel and agree.

It starts therefore in your head. If I see my age as a problem to be hid, I’ll get sympathy, pity and commiseration. I don’t want that! I want people to be happy for me, maybe even re-evaluate how they see aging; well a tad anyhow.

Having been diagnosed as having Type 2 Diabetes 3 years ago, there won’t be cake. Whatever! But presents? Oh yes, there should be presents! Yes, I’m still that little kid who loves presents. Best wishes will do as well; or donating to a charity. Now that’s cool.

60 is ‘gonna be great!

Believe In Yourself, Then Get Going!


“It doesn’t matter if I believe in myself or not because that doesn’t change the fact that other people are holding me back, denying me my chances. Bitter? I’ve got every right to be. Unemployed, no job interview in years; at my age who’s going to hire me now? I haven’t got a hope. I might as well just pack it in and give up.”

The above pretty much is word for word what I was told by someone out-of-work recently. Examining what was said, breaking it down into pieces, here’s what I see as issues:

  • no personal accountability
  • self-perception as too old
  • loss of hope
  • bitter, frustrated attitude
  • lack of interview experience (perhaps fearful as a result)
  • unemployed

That’s a quick summation of what’s been expressed. I wonder as you read those words if you did so in your own voice or if you imagined another? Did you picture the speaker and if you did so, what did they look like? Have you pictured a woman or a man and how old did you create them in your mind? 64? 60? 58?

The above statement came from the mouth of a man of 51. His prevailing attitude is unfortunately his biggest problem because quite frankly he’s projecting a strong, negative image. An employer would find him a tremendous turnoff for he comes across as a cancerous virus, dumping his negatively on everyone he interacts with. He’s got a self-imposed scowl on his face, appears to look at people with smug disdain, and there’s no way he would be welcomed into a workforce for fear he’d infect those around him. Even though he’s of average height, he somehow appears to look down on those around him.

The irony is that he’s got job-ready skills and experience. The bitterness he’s carrying around with him however has left him with no patience for tailoring his résumé to each job. This he declares is an utter waste of his time. I didn’t point out that being unemployed time is one thing he has in abundance. Why go there and be provocative?

Now the one thing people know who have worked with me is that I’m not afraid to share with people my personal opinion when it comes to identifying their challenges. In other words, I’ll tell you what I believe you need to know and not only what you’d like to hear. It might be nice to hear only the things which you are doing well, but sometimes the most important information you can have shared with you are the things you might consider changing and/or improving upon.

After deciding upon what to share; the information the person needs to hear, the next challenge is deciding how to communicate that information. Sometimes a soft, gentle approach works best, lest you offend the person. Letting someone self-identify their challenges works well on occasion, or having the person tell you what others have suggested to get at what they’ve perhaps heard before. Ah but then there are times you decide that while this person before you is deserving of your respect, what they truly respect is blunt, raw, no holds barred, tell-it-like-it-is, is, in-your-face brutal honesty; “Your attitude sucks. You’re your own worst enemy. Stop using your age as your personal crucifix.” Take your pick.

When all is said and done two things really emerged; he’d stopped believing in himself and he wasn’t doing anything to help himself. Instead, he was engaging in self-destructive behaviour, threw up and fortified on a daily basis a defence that kept people away from him and limited himself in the process. To actually get the help he needs, he’d have to drop the façade, open himself up to trying and be receptive to intervention. Ironic then that before he could believe in himself, he chose to find someone he believed in and respected.

Getting some job interview experience is relatively easy. You start preparing by defining what a job interview actually is. You find the questions you’re likely to be asked, go over the format you’ll use to answer them, cover body language, first and last impressions etc. then have a go at a mock interview. Building on that, you ready targeted resumes with the help of someone who knows what they are doing. With better applications circulating, interviews are coming so get ready. So much for the easy stuff.

The more important and harder aspects of preparing for job interviews is what’s going on between the ears. You can improve your chances immensely simply by going in with a positive attitude which comes about when you actually DO believe in yourself. Look, no one owes you a job. Like most other people, you’ve got to prove you’ve got what the employer is looking for and needs, backed up with proof from your past. Are you going to face rejection? It’s highly likely so expect you’ll put in some effort that won’t produce the immediate results you want. Get over it. Don’t give up. Get going again. You owe it to yourself.

Job searching requires some mental fortitude. Believe in your ability to eventually succeed and get what you’re after. This must be your prevailing thought. Accentuate the positive and you’re not required to see the world through rose-coloured glasses.

If you have a hard time changing that attitude ask yourself honestly what it’s doing for you to keep it.