Anyone in their mid-late 40s feel a rising sense of anxiety about your age in this business and the prospect of “aging out”? If so, what’s your plan to continue your career?

I for one don’t ever want to be in a situation where I’m in my 50s and get laid off in advertising (let alone any business, but particularly this one.)

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I left agency life at 56, by mutual decision. I now work freelance.
I was happy and relieved to go.
My advice to anyone who fears ageing out would be:

1. Don’t be delusional and think ‘it won’t happen to me.’ It will. OP - you’re ahead just by being aware of your career mortality.

2. Try to get the best contract you can. I negotiated a much longer notice period/severance package 10 years before I left. Employers will often agree to this as it costs them nothing until they try to terminate you.

3. Prepare for life outside an agency: start a company. Build a website. Feed your network. Do a side-hustle. This will give you a sense of security.

4. If you can, save enough now to fall back on so the thought of redundancy isn’t so terrifying. Most senior folks are managed out due to cost, so make use of that money they pay you each month.

5. Carry on doing what you’re good at and providing value.

Good luck. Managed properly, ageing-out can be a blessing not at curse.

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Great advice. And saving money NOW is urgently important. My husband thought I was insane when I told him I was saving and investing 33% of my salary every year. On top of maxing my 401k. Now that we are less than 10 years from that 65 age, he is damn glad we have such a lovely nest egg.

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I’m 50. Look probably 40, or late 30’s on a good day. As you can see from my title, I’m only an ACD, so I’m no C suite material (and that’s not really something I’d enjoy). I started kinda late in this industry and also haven’t exactly had a meteoric rise. But I do enjoy it and I can’t really imagine myself doing something else.
Having said that, I’m obviously cognizant of the ticking clock and my youngish looks will betray me sooner or later. I do everything possible to learn from young people and from changes in the industry and keep up with trends and stay curious. That has helped.
I don’t know if I have a “plan”. My wife who is a former agency creative has gone client side. It’s not a bed of roses on the other side, but she’s happy and her career seems to have a longer traceable path there. There are many older people at her company who have stayed for a long time. I don’t know if going brand side will pan out for me as well, but I think freelance will probably be my best bet. My inspiration was an old freelance CD team I met back when I worked at GSD&M. These guys were in their 70’s with adult children and making BANK as freelance consultants. I gotta say that the AD half of that team was phenomenally good as old as he was. The other guy wasn’t a great writer, but he was a smooth-ass salesman and fairly strategic. Together they single handedly managed and did ALL the creative for one of the accounts. But as freelancers, not as employees. It was a good deal for the agency, because it cost them less to pay two super seasoned guys $2k+/ day each than an entire team of jr, mid levels, seniors, ACDs and CDs. These guys had a great relationship with the client, so it was super smooth sailing. Not the most creative work, but a money maker for all involved.
Also, I think when it’s time, I will “retire” in Mexico and probably rent out my house in the states to supplement income. And I put quotes around retire because I don’t think I will ever stop working. Hopefully, I’d be able to freelance from Mexico and stretch my salary enough to survive well. As long as I can milk it.

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I mean… I just bought my first home at 49. Been in it a year, so it’s not like the mortgage is paid off or anything. I’ll rent it out to pay the mortgage and hopefully use whatever is left over.

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EVERYONE should be aware of this.
And it’s not aging out because of relevance, it’s because of price.
In this business, rabid focus on individual billability means senior, valuable employees are suddenly “too expensive” and that affects older employees most.
Large, publicly-owned firms are the biggest culprits. And they end up discarding decades of wisdom.
Some day, a wise CEO will develop a system of ramping down hours - and pay - for this group, a pragmatic win-win for both.

likesmart

This is pure genius!

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Confronting the age thing in advertising is like investing years and years following Scientology only to finally confront the Xenu story. It’s the ultimate con at the end of the journey, for anyone below the C-suite level in these companies. Literally makes me wish I’d chosen another profession. Terrifying, especially for people with families. I’d encourage all young folks getting into this business to go in with eyes wide open around this. The crossroads comes up fast.

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45. White. Male. Won’t make C-suite. Have been planning my exit for the past 3 years. Male, pale and stale is not the future of any media agency.

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Speak for yourself

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If you’re stuck on doing the same job from now till you retire your f¥&$’d. Focus on being useful. Don’t be the one who talks about the stupidity of the young. Don’t miss the culture shifts. Do these things and you’ll be fine.

likesmart

Hahaha .. that’s not being useful ..

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Feeling this hard

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Yes. My significant other and I talk about this all the time. I’m starting to look at leaving the ad world and obtain a position at a large, boring company where I can ride into the sunset.

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Damn I’m a 55-year old female and I’ve been dodging this issue for years. One thing I will tell you is this: I have been “saved” over a male in hard times because he made 27% more than me. I also can tell you that if you want to be at the SVP+ level you have a big target on you and you have to learn to play politics well.

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Look around, as I found no matter how high you get in the organization there’s very few people in advertising over 50 it is it an ageist business

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My department is having the opposite problem. Lots of people in their 40s, 50s and some 60s. But not enough in their 20s and 30s coming up to replace us. (Business Affairs, Talent and Traffic)

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I’m 42 but I read early 30s. And with zoom these days I think no one notices. (I’m a freelancer)

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I wasn’t worried until I read this thread.

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It’s a very weird take to see whiteness as a disadvantage for senior roles. Hiring briefs look for diversity because overwhelmingly we are still comprised of and hire non-diverse people.

likesmart

🎯

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Politics seems to be only place for people above 60. Run for office.

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Yeah but anyone can slip into politics after doing whatever. Medicine, law etc. take years of schooling.

People age out in this business because they cost too much, lose their curiosity, lose their energy and drive and become cynical. Or, they wake up one day and realize they can make more money selling real estate.

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Agree too many lose their curiosity and drive, and also stay in their comfort zone. This industry changes all the time and you have to keep your tools sharp. But at 55, I know I can NOT make more selling real estate.

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People get more expensive as they age. It's a fact. Have an exit plan. I'm mid 40s and believe I'll be able to make it through my mid fifties as a HOP. By then I'm hoping to ensure real estate investments and soft income can soften the blow of the axe

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I turned 40 this year and have started thinking about this too, as a white male that’s unlikely to make C-Suite. I’m 15-20 years from retirement likely, so only about halfway through my career.

Thankful I work at an agency that has a pretty good amount of people older than me in non-exec positions, which gives me hope.

Like most of you, my fallback is going client-side, hopefully in a non-sexy, slower-paced industry. The clients I work with in big B2C brands now seem even more stressed and overworked than the agency people so going client-side isn’t the panacea it may have been in the past any more.

I’ve also thought about being an adjunct professor or even a high school business/marketing teacher.

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Go into your 40’s with a plan to strike out on your own. Develop and nurture your relationships. Understand what it takes to start your own agency. Focus on what the big holding companies aren’t getting right. If you are lucky and work both hard and smart, you might be able to doge the “age-out” bullet.

There are multiple ways to manage your career in order to avoid the C-Suite or Pushed-Out (false?) dichotomy of this industry. The above is just one example. Everything you do with your career involves risk. Especially doing nothing and hoping for the best.

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I’m just worried about dying. Mid-40’s has me second guessing every ache and pain.
That said, definitely cognizant my clock is ticking on the work front. I’ve only got a couple roles in front of me, if I’m lucky. Also know I could be in this current role a good 10 years and be completely satisfied.

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