Mark, a long-time friend and candidate, sat across the desk from me, looked at me and said, "Alan, is this the last full-time job I will have in my life?"
My heart started to thump and I clearly had difficulty making eye contact with him, and I said, "Hopefully not," but inside, I said to myself, "He is probably correct."
The sad part is at 56, he just completed 10 years; in his mind, the best 10 years of his career, and his company was sold.
Every day, I receive calls from one of my many clients or friends, who ask me to see someone who is having difficulty finding a new position.
Of course I see them, but few assignments in this economy call for the wealth of experience these experienced, mature individuals brings to the table.
The first things these individuals say to me is, "Alan, don't worry about the compensation level, I'm flexible."
With the government statistics continuing to show high unemployment, I would guess if you took a mean age of these business professionals, who are still unemployed, it would be higher than you can imagine.
Why are these people, who have the knowledge, industry expertise, strong work ethic and ability to transfer their skills to younger people, cast aside in favor of younger people? Is it more for the ability to offer lower compensation for less experienced people, is it because older people have more medical problems or is it a fit factor in these young, entrepreneurial companies?
I recently had a client seeking a CFO for a small apparel distributor. When we came to discuss compensation and future growth, it was apparent to me that with very slow growth, this company would not be able to compensate this individual at a fast enough pace. Perfect opportunity to bring in a pro, someone who can help them grow quicker, but mature enough and understanding enough to accept a position with slow salary growth, but with benefits and challenges ahead.
He is still there five years later and things are still slow, but improving. The other side is that he gave the company all that experience can give someone, and has not been out one day since he started.
Go to any retailer, talk to any customer service department and see how many inept people you have to deal with to get anything accomplished.
Yes, they may be young and willing to work for lower wages than some of the older people who may be permanently displaced.
But to discard these people, who can clearly be recharged rather than disposed of, makes no sense.
Alan L. Kramer, CPA, is the President of Kramer Executive Resources, Inc., a New York based Executive Search firm, which has been in business for 21 years.