When your history is a path to the future

Every time I hear: “you are very experienced and this is important”, a thousand thoughts come to my mind, like: Is this talk of experience really true, or is it just lip service? 

Dilemmas like this arise when you are over 50 and want to give new meaning to your personal and professional life. The first challenge is where to start. A format can be wanting to look young? That would not be genuine or respectful of the years lived.

Another format can be the restlessness of wanting to contribute, wanting to work, being productive, being inspired and inspiring others. And this is a format that demands a willingness to learn and keep up to date. I made my choice here.

One day I received a message on WhatsApp from the CEO of a startup, whom I already knew, asking for a time to talk. I always had admiration for the work of this startup, so, more than quickly, I looked for alternatives in my schedule full of possibilities, and made the schedules available. 

Days later, we had our conversation over Zoom. This CEO is a much younger person and has a company that is growing with a team as young as he is. The conversation was friendly, as expected, and, suddenly, he said that he would like to invite me to be an advisor to his startup. What a good thing, I was very happy! It was my experience becoming something attractive for a young company that was starting its journey. In order to feel able to accept the invitation and not have any doubts, I immediately asked: Why would a person like me contribute to this startup? I was already well into 50+ years, with a consolidated career in companies, for more than 35 years and serving as an executive in Human Resources for the last 20 years. All this suggested to me that my time had already passed and that I would not be suitable for working in such a young company.

Then, to my surprise, came the answer: “I need people who have seniority to help us with the balance and wisdom of the discussions, so that we can reach the best decisions. I need someone with his baggage, who can give stability to such a young team. Your knowledge will add to our discussions.” 

I was flattered, and began to make peace with my experience. I realized that my trajectory, so consolidated, can continue – in fact – to be relevant, even in a young environment. I understood the obvious: that having a long experience does not mean being old, outdated. It means having a rich and in-depth repertoire on subjects that will never cease to be important. 

In this period that we've been together, I've had the opportunity to contribute in different ways, from the customer's point of view, to product development, to communication, and to bringing reflections on the purpose. And more than that, I learned from them every day. It sounds like jargon, but it's true. There is productive exchange between different generations working together. 

If there's something I can share about this opportunity, it's that, for this learning to be possible, you cannot allow your experience to make it difficult for you to listen, or prevent you from being empathetic. Mainly in a business that has so much agility and strength, but that is starting activity and structuring itself. 

It is essential to consider that, at times, no matter how much you are used to collecting knowledge, admit that it is necessary to be vulnerable and learn. This means, in an empathetic way, giving up always being right in the here and now, in order to make your history a path for the future. 

*Márcia Costa

HR Consultant and Ambassador of Labora League for the inclusion of generational diversity

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