It's supposed to be the best time of our lives. For many, it's become the worst. There are now more single, unemployed and lonely men and women over the age of 50 than ever before. With so many looking for friendship, love or jobs, I find myself wondering -- what do we find to be the most attractive characteristic in potential friends, lovers, or employees?
The answer for me is the same in all cases and it's probably not what you'd expect.
The personal characteristic I find most appealing is enthusiasm, or if you prefer, passion. Enthusiasm is a quality that is highly contagious and I enjoy catching it. Men and women with enthusiasm are stimulating. They make life interesting. They make work successful. They make relationships last.
As an employer, the one quality I value above all others (next to honesty, of course) is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm begets team chemistry. Enthusiasm is a springboard that launches ideas and finishes projects. Enthusiastic employees create energy. Non-enthusiastic employees drain energy and suck the life out of any project.
If you're one of the millions of unemployed workers over 50, understand that there are many companies (ours included) that value the potential benefits of age and want to hire employees with a good bit of life experience. The kind of experience that provides perspective, eliminates waste, fosters the ability to collaborate and enables one to see change as opportunity. However, the reality is that for many older job seekers, extensive life experience doesn't translate into enthusiasm. Instead, it translates into the enthusiasm killers: burnout, fear, skepticism and negativism.
Rightly or wrongly, when you're a "seasoned" job seeker, you need to be prepared to overcome the assumption that you've been beaten up in the workplace and as a result are damaged goods. The best way I know to overcome that is with enthusiasm.
The same is true if you're lonely and looking for friends or lovers. We can never have enough really good friends, but at this stage of life who needs friends that don't bring something to the party? Who needs friends that aren't enthusiastic about the endless opportunities and experiences that life has to offer? Who needs friends that don't encourage, support, stimulate and inspire? If you're an energy drain, if you lack enthusiasm, few will want to be your friend.
And that's even more true when it comes to finding a significant other. Of course, there are still many shallow men and women over the age of 50 for whom the most important quality in a potential mate is physical beauty. The ones that are still looking at your breasts instead of into your eyes. But most of us have been around the block a time or two. The qualities that make someone relationship material are not a perfect figure or a big bank account. We understand that physical beauty fades, fame is fleeting and money can't buy health or happiness.
Sadly, there is a great enthusiasm divide among men and women as we age. Some become the negative stereotype that others are trying to smash. Some get more set in their ways, more risk averse and less interested in anything new. Eventually this mindset translates into unhappiness and unemployment.
Others become more nimble, more adventurous, and more anxious to try new things and collect new experiences. These are the people with enthusiasm. These are the men and woman over 50 who are most successful at finding jobs, new friends, lovers and, ultimately, happiness.
If you're out of work, if you're lonely, if you can't find someone to spend meaningful time with, maybe you lack enthusiasm. I think it makes someone smarter, better looking, more interesting, and more desirable.
What personal qualities do you find most appealing?