Mediatel special: What will you do next?

Arif Durrani – Mediatel

What do you think your next job will be? If you’re aged over 40 and work in media or advertising then it might be safer to be thinking about your next career, writes Arif Durrani

“Having a diverse, more representative workforce is one of the biggest challenges we face, as we need an industry that will reflect the UK in the future,” says Karen Fraser, director of Credos at the Advertising Association. Speaking at a World Media Group event held at Bloomberg before Christmas, Fraser added that the industry’s need to stay cutting edge, while not over-representing youth, in its advertising or its workforce, is a “growing point of tension, and one we’ve barely begun to address.”

The average age of IPA member agencies is just 33.7 years, and only 7.8% of employees in creative agencies are aged over 50, a figure that shrinks further to just 4.1% in media agencies.

Few sectors skew younger, but among them are the big tech firms, where median ages remain firmly planted in the 20s-30s, including Facebook (28), LinkedIn (29), Google (30) and Amazon (31), according to Statista. Compare this to electricians (51.2), estate agents (48.5), accountants (45.6), architects (45.4), teachers (39), and even those working in bars and restaurants (34.1).

Such young workforces will only seem more out of step as working ages increase. Don’t be misled by news that life expectancy in the UK didn’t rise last year. For all of us living in industrialised countries, the wider longevity trends are clear. We are living longer than ever before.

Over the past 150 years, life expectancy has increased by two to three years each decade. If the rate continues, then most children born in industrialised countries in 2019 can expect to live beyond the age of 100.

At Bloomberg Media we’ve been working with AXA Investment Managers to explore the repercussions of longevity. For most of us, one inescapable impact of living longer will be the need to work for longer.

This requires different jobs to fulfill different stages of our lives, creating more choice around career, family, finances and health. Longer lives are lives with more transitions. If we get it right, then people can live fulfilling lives well beyond retirement age.

Don’t just stick to the knitting

For people in the media and advertising business, second or third careers are common, although not well-documented. Moves into investment, recruitment, retail or hospitality are all commonplace, although just how common nobody knows. As for all the aspirations to “go plural” and land lucrative non-exec roles in later life, such opportunities are limited and fiercely contested. For those wanting to stay in the industry, renewal is the name of the game.

Kathleen Saxton, founder and CEO of head hunters The Lighthouse Company, warns: “There is a tidal wave coming in the next 24 months, where we expect to see lots of roles being made redundant. As an industry we have not been transforming fast enough and we’re seeing this play out in the restructuring and reimaging of media companies and agency networks.

“There will be people in their 40s and 50s looking for the types of roles that are no longer in demand. Our advice to everyone working in the sector is to evolve. You have to retrain yourself – preferably whilst still in a job.”

Kathleen adds: “Be humble enough to be the novice in the room again. Don’t just stick to the knitting. It’s not about age, it’s about energy and curiousness.”

Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott advance the idea of a multi-stage life in their seminal book, The 100-Year Life. The days when the knowledge and skills learned in your teens and 20s were enough to see you through a working lifetime are over. The future of working life, they say, will be one of constant personal development, setting time aside to make fundamental investments in re-learning and re-skilling.

“We believe that people will switch to a multiple-career perspective. Each career stage may be different in terms of the sector involved or the role played, it may differ in terms of motivation, i.e., financial or social purpose, and will differ in terms of a trade-off between finances and leisure,” says Scott.

This extended working life brings a plethora of new opportunities. Education, when it is no longer confined to the early part of our lives, is set for solid growth due to rising demand for all sorts of continued learning opportunities. The global education industry is already valued at over $5 trillion and remains in its infancy in terms of digitalization.

Healthcare is another sector in ascendency. In the U.S., around 10,000 people a day now reach their milestone 65th birthday, at which point personal healthcare spending doubles. Other sectors that stand to benefit from longevity include fitness and beauty, travel, wealth management and entertainment.

Longer lives have also made the grey pound more powerful than ever, with those aged 60+ expected to account for the bulk (55 percent), of all consumption growth throughout the next 10 years, according to analysts at McKinsey Global Institute.

Is it time to be your own boss?

For the greying heads working in media and advertising wondering what their next move should be, perhaps there’s some inspiration in the 2018 Harvard Business Review study that found (despite the well-known stories of young tech entrepreneurs) the average age of entrepreneurs today is 42. And in the most successful, top echelon of startups, the founders had an average age of 45. (https://hbr.org/2018/07/research-the-average-age-of-a-successful-startup-founder-is-45)

If you like the idea of starting your own business, at Bloomberg Media Studios we’ve been exploring what drives successful entrepreneurs, in partnership with Credit Suisse and Ipsos MORI. A global study among our audience of Ultra ($50m+) and High Net Worth ($5-$49m) individuals allowed us to dig deep into the motivations of entrepreneurial leaders to unearth a range of defining behaviours and common traits.

We interviewed more than 300 individuals and a quantitative survey was conducted across nine markets. Discourse analysis of the interviews by a team of semiotics experts revealed some universal drivers. Among these traits we found successful entrepreneurial leaders to be much higher on openness, more extrovert, conscientious, emotionally intelligent and persistent.

So, whether it’s a new career, new training or a new startup that appeals, it all comes back to remaining open and engaged, and making the time to develop yourself.

“We do expect 2019 to be a challenging year, but with that will come new opportunities,” says Kathleen. “Our advice is for people to break their networks – open yourself up to new experiences and perspectives. It’s definitely a time when it’ll pay to step outside your own comfort zone.”