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Our Take: Not Fade Away

Candidates imprisoned in the over-50 career ghetto might draw inspiration from an unusual source: the Rolling Stones.

The legendary band has spawned an ocean of ink from reviewers awed by the sheer physical athleticism the 60-something performers - especially lead singer Mick Jagger - display in every live show. Although the Stones' latest tour concluded in 2007, the "ageless" theme permeates "Shine a Light," the current Martin Scorsese film based on a 2006 Stones concert at New York's Beacon Theater.

Watching "Shine a Light" right after participating in a security analysts' career fair last week left this Baby Boomer more convinced than ever that Wall Street's conspicuous distaste for employing people older than 40 has no connection with energy level, freshness or productivity.

Before seeing the film, I knew from reviews that Jagger has stayed thin and lithe. However, contemplating the larger-than-life lifestyle he and his bandmates once personified, I'd imagined they would appear gaunt, even wasted. The reality proved quite different. Jagger was trim all right, but he looked anything but frail. Not only he, but guitarist Ron Wood and drummer Charlie Watts too, sported the kind of rippling arms you might see on an Olympic rower or an NFL quarterback.

'Can You See Yourself Still Doing This At 60? Definitely!'

Physical fitness aside, the band's longevity can be traced to their no-nonsense professional attitude. An official history on the "Shine a Light" Web site puts it this way: "The Stones are best understood as musicians, and their acceptance of that fact is what has enabled them to carry on so well for so long.... Seeing the Stones live is to see a working band playing as hard as they can, and there's no last time for that." In a decades-old interview clip shown in the film, Jagger was asked, "Can you see yourself still doing this when you're 60?" His straight-faced response: "Definitely!"

I watched "Shine a Light" the same day I'd covered a day-long Career Expo at the New York Society of Security Analysts. One concern that popped up repeatedly during the conference was what candidates can do to overcome prospective employers' irrational age-group criteria. Career experts offered these tips:

- always convey respect when interviewed by a much younger manager.

- carry up-to-date gadgets (i.e., a BlackBerry or equivalent - not the free generic phone supplied by your wireless carrier)

- keep physically fit

- stay ahead of the curve in terms of both your skills and your knowledge of what's happening in the industry

- be up-to-date in clothing and grooming

While less concrete than my takeaways from NYSSA's Career Expo, I also see a message for candidates in "Shine a Light." First, take a good look at the Stones as the film presents them in close-up - performing their jobs (literally!) as "a working band playing as hard as they can." Then ask yourself: Do I come off as on top of my game, in a way that shines through to any interviewer? Am I as vigorous, as emotionally engaged, and as technically proficient and comfortable in my professional specialty, as Jagger, Richards, Wood and Watts so obviously are in theirs?

If you can honestly answer "Yes" on all counts, then you have reason to be confident, in interviews and elsewhere. If you can't, then you have a road map of what needs upgrading. Because one or more rivals for the role you're seeking will. And that rival could be younger than you ...or not.

AUTHORJon Jacobs Insider Comment
  • ed
    30 April 2008

    As a member of the class, I could not agree more:
    Stay fit, up to date with the industry, your clothing and gadgets, and always, I mean, ALWAYS, convey respect to the interviewer, regardless of age, sex, race, etc.
    It would be unwise for a prospective employer to dismiss someone who could still yield some 20 good years, especially at a time when few people reach the tenth anniversary of their employment anywhere.

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