Savage counsel – being the oldest guy in the room

Chris SavageChris Savage tackles your career and agency dilemmas in his weekly Encore advice column. This week he tackles the subject of age and relevance. 

Hi Chris,

I have been working in the agency business for more than 20 years. It’s not hard to notice that I am one of the older guys in the office – the grey hair tends to give it away. What’s the best way to keep current and relevant in this fast changing world?

All my career I was the youngest guy in the room. Then, overnight, I looked around and was shocked to discover I was the oldest guy in the room. What had I done to survive, to stay one step ahead? What has happened to all the other guys?

It was a reality check. From the youngest intern, youngest vice president, office managing director, country manager, regional leader, to overnight at 52, being one of the oldest among our 4,000 staff. Yet I feel no fear about the value I bring and my ability to keep delivering relevance in a young person’s industry that is going through rapid change. Here are my tips on how to keep one step ahead:

Embrace change.
Darwin said it is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most able to adapt to change. There will be more change in the next five years than we’ve seen in the past 50. Get excited by change. If you’re green, you grow. If you’re ripe, you rot. Stay green and hungry to learn.

Do not rest on your laurels.
There is nothing more dangerous to business success than a great last result. We are only as good as our next result – whether we are talking financial performance or an outcome for a client. Stay paranoid.

Be a productivity ninja.
I am one of the most productive people I know. I get more of the important things done every day. I am obsessed with getting priorities right. Get focused on what’s really important.

Work on yourself as a project. Hairdressing icon Vidal Sassoon told me he was most famous for having said: “The only place you’ll find success coming before work is in a dictionary.” We have to work on ourselves. Put pressure on ourselves. Critique our days. Give ourselves feedback. Be our own very best coaches and cheer squads. I work harder on myself than I do on my job.

Stay connected.
Woody Allen once said: “Eighty per cent of success is showing up.” Turn up to events. Make that phone call. Read that book. Do that training. Have the courage to ask that question. Make the effort. Stay connected to what’s happening around you. And read newspapers – please. Every day. First thing. Online or off.

We’ve got one shot at our careers. Work hard on yourself to stay relevant if you want the chance to be the oldest guy in the room one day.

And if you are that guy already, you can easily stay relevant by following these tips.

Chris Savage is the chief operating officer of STW Group. His blog, Wrestling Possums with Chris Savage, can be found at chrisjohnsavage.com


Encore issue 8This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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