Chris Liles - You’re HOW old?!

PUBLISHED: 06:30 09 April 2012 | UPDATED: 12:24 13 April 2012

Chris Liles, business mentor (columnists for EDP biz).

Chris Liles, business mentor (columnists for EDP biz).

The spindly 16 year-old parked his scooter, slipped into the pub behind his mates, gingerly approached the bar and quietly requested a pint of mild. “PINT OF MILD BOY; ARE YOU 18?” was the boomed response from the larger-than-life landlord. The stuttering affirmation in response probably evoked amused sympathy from the Inquisitor, since the beverage was duly supplied.

That is a true story, I know, I was that spindly, angst-ridden teenager. It was a couple of years ago … oh all right, many years ago and well before identity cards were introduced. Now I am experiencing it from the other end of the scale. At the tender age of sixty and three-quarters, if I seek some of these frequently offered Senior Citizen cheap pub meal deals, I am greeted by questioning sideways glances. Being bullied as a skinny child has finally reaped benefits in first-glance age encounters! I am still awaiting a request to prove my age with some excitement!

Why are we so hung-up on age in our society? At 41 I was too young to qualify for a pension in redundancy.

At 50 I was apparently too old to be employed, so I continued running my own business. At 60 I am too young to retire, still having five years to go until the government pays back over 40 years of my pension donations – even though women of my age have already qualified. Before the violins get too loud, consider instead those starting out in business. They have notionally sixty years of working life ahead of them – scary!

Through my extensive business networking, I have met several teenagers who have amassed far more life-experience than me. Whether from Eastern Europe, Africa or the UK etc. they have suffered experiences, which no human should need to endure. From speaking with them, they have a grounding and maturity vastly exceeding their tender years. Yet they struggle to find employment or gain sufficient credibility to grow their own business.

Only in recent years have more enlightened employers recognised the benefits of experience that age brings. The retail sector especially is sponsoring Grey Power.

If you have a DIY challenge, then whose advice would you prefer: a sage who has been there before or a spotty youth texting furiously? Conversely, if you are buying clothes to go clubbing with your work pals, a blue-rinsed assistant may not be your first choice. My point is that skills and experience are accessible beyond both ends of the traditionally preferred work-age spectrum. Those skills can become highly beneficial if applied in the correct environment.

As for me, I am happy to be an ‘in-betweenie’ … a ‘trainee-wrinklie’!

I enjoyed Beatle-mania first time around, walked down Carnaby Street in the Swinging Sixties, established a business in a previous recession and welcomed the millennium with a hangover-reducing walk along Mundesley beach.

Next time you are recruiting, keep an open mind to what some teenagers and pensioners could bring to your business.

Similarly if you are approached by someone promoting their own business, never mind how old they are, explore their experience and motivation. They could have a depth of character, which would greatly enhance your life and/or business.

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