Like it or not, the industry we work in is youth biased. They don't tell you this when you first start out on your career, but the fact is, when you reach about 40 years of age the trajectory of your career will change.
Unless you are a director of an agency, or you have a very rare talent indeed, the chances are you will start to become too old to employ as full-timer.
This is not good. When you're between 40 and 50 you're probably deep into bringing up kids and committed to a mortgage. The agency is probably paying you a decent wack because you've won accounts, picked up a few awards and you've worked your butt off to get where you are. But unfortunately these are not going to save you from the trapdoor. And be warned, time is ticking.
You see, someone, somewhere once decided that in Peter Pan world of design and advertising, people don't get old. Greying temples and lines on the forehead are not what clients want to see. They want youthful exuberance, wild and crazy thinking and they want employees to be sugar coated. Too many middle-aged people about the place sends signals of being out of touch because well, people above 40 struggle with modern life,right? We just don't get it in the way a 20 something does.
What's more, they do not want bitter old sods arguing the toss. They do not want the sarcasm. The piss-taking. The confrontations. Or the coronary in reception.
So once you hit middle age should you forget about full-time employment in an agency? Well here's a tip that might help you remain in the frame.
Move out of the mainstream and find yourself a niche. Specialise in a particular field like healthcare, B2B, recruitment or internal comms. These are all areas that are growing and more and more agencies want some of that pie. The people they employ are often in their 40s and 50s and most have a bit of history in delivering quality work.
Sure, it may not be offer the same kind of creative freedom you once had, but it's down to you at the end of the day to push it and see what you can achieve. And the most refreshing thing of all is, these niche agencies don't give a toss how old you are, just how good you are.
John Fountain is a copywriter.