Thursday 19 September 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'Why wealth of experience no longer valued'

There were 78,000 more women engaged in both full- and part-time work in 2018 than in 2014. Stock photo
There were 78,000 more women engaged in both full- and part-time work in 2018 than in 2014. Stock photo
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

Don't people just love their job titles? It isn't what you do so much as what you get to call it when you're down the pub. 'Oh, I'm in management consultancy' can mean anything or nothing and frequently the latter.

That's the very professional role a 24-year-old bestowed upon himself in a glossy mag I was flicking through at the weekend. He seemed like an intelligent, well-rounded young man and could well have a masters under his belt.

But who would want to consult somebody a damp semester out of college on how to manage people or a business? Being that age, even taking into consideration the wealth of theory and empirical knowledge garnered academically, does not qualify anyone to impart the sort of wisdoms required in the real world of hard knocks and sharp practice.

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That is not to say his excellent education has been a waste. In fact, in time it could well prove invaluable. But you can only offer that sort of professional advice when you've lived the life, made the mistakes and have the bruises to prove it.

So it is odd that we frequently hear of people who tick all those boxes, and happen to find themselves on the declining slope of their fifties, unable to find work. These are the people, after all, who have the sort of nous, experience and corporate memory that would justifiably qualify them as consultants in the true sense of the world.

I know one woman who was arm-twisted into taking a package from a middle-management role in a major financial institution and hasn't been able to beg a job interview, let alone secure a call back since. Bright, energetic and never a time-server, she finds this bewildering and dispiriting. How can this self-defeating policy persist at a time of well-documented skills shortages?

Could it be that freshly baked graduates are perceived as expecting less and willing to put up with more? Possibly. Do interviewers regard fiftysomethings as tech-dinosaurs who won't be able to keep up? Perhaps. Or is it just another 'ism'? Most likely.

According to London academic Lynda Gratton, author of 'The 100 Year Life', ageism at work begins as young as 40 for women and 45 for men.

At a time when people are living longer and healthier lives, this is truly addled thinking from businesses.

They should hire management consultants, preferably middle-aged ones, to look into it.

'Thrones' is a streaming marathon too far for me

'Game of Thrones' has been described as soft porn with dragons by those who feel the need to sniffily dismiss it, or as a superior political drama by others who want to justify their peculiar obsession.

The hysteria around the launch of the final series did make me contemplate playing catch-up on its 70-odd episodes, but the truth is I don't ever want to become a slave to another streaming marathon in the way I was to 'The Sopranos' or 'Breaking Bad'.

I don't like to overdo nostalgia but there was a time when we all sat down together and watched the same drama unfold on the box. A shared experience of sorts.

Now we all retreat to different dark corners of the house to inhale these marathon dramas via personal devices for hours on end, becoming strangers to each other in our own homes.

When we eventually emerge, pale and malnourished, we can't even share our thoughts in case we spoil it for a fellow junkie.

I can't promise myself I won't succumb again to some gluttonous addiction, but I'm going to leave 'Game of Thrones' to the bleary-eyed already under its strange spell.


Irish Independent

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