Entering the job market at 50 is no easy feat—and it doesn't get any easier once you're in. Here's how one Generation Xer started her own business with her 30-year-old colleague and formed a company that has an advantage over the rest in the field.
In the months leading up to my 50th birthday, I was looking for a job. Not an envious place to be for anyone at any age. It was terrifying.
I don’t feel old, in fact, I know I have a lot to contribute. But, sadly, companies seem to be looking for youngsters. The ones in their twenties and early thirties who can be overworked and underpaid. I know better. I'm too experienced for that. Hence, the reason I was terrified. But, I also a had strange feeling that I’d never experienced before: I was getting old.
Since when is 50 old? I began worrying about ageism. Something I didn't think would concern me until my 60s, or later. On a few paralyzing occasions, I’d let my brain wonder what would happen if I couldn’t get a job. How would we pay for our kids' ongoing university tuitions? What about our mortgage? Or having a nest egg for retirement?
I had toiled for eight years in the Toronto residential real estate market, where success is measured by your last transaction. I left because I was dispassionate, bored and constantly disappointed in what I witnessed on an almost-daily basis.
I decided to go back to my first love: the world of agency public relations and communications, where I had spent 18 of my formative career years. I had been mentored by one of the best in the industry, and I’d had the good fortune to work on a wide variety of industries for iconic, multi-national brands. I was sure I could parlay my experience into a senior position with one of Toronto’s several reputable agencies.
For any of you who have worked, or even had a loved one who has worked in PR, you know how stressful it can be. The public relations profession is always included in annual round-ups of nail-biting, stress-inducing jobs, right up there with commercial airline pilot. But I wouldn't change a thing about the PR world. I also found it way more rewarding than real estate, despite the big pay cheques.
After a few months with no progress on the job front, full-blown panic was starting to set in. Finally, I landed a short-term contract for a senior role at boutique PR agency. I knew immediately that I made the right decision. I loved the work and the clients — but there was something missing.
Who would've known that one of my colleagues, a young woman—20 years my junior—would change my life? She was born during my university sophomore year, making her closer in age to my children than to me. We worked side-by-side for two years and every day shared our successes and our defeats, learning how to lean on and help each other when times were tough.
It didn't take long for us to start talking about forming our own communications agency. At first, I had my reservations. After all, look at what I went through to land this job. Could I really reinvent myself yet again? Would this be the worst career decision ever?
It wasn't. Two years in, our business is thriving, and we both seriously love what we do. We are passionate, engaged, and utterly happy. And that’s worth more money than anything—even selling a Bridal Path mansion.
Having a millennial business partner gives me a fresh perspective on all aspects of the job. Our strengths are so different and yet so complementary, and I learn something from her every day. I’m way more “old school,” no question. (I once insisted on a giant paper calendar to organize us—gasp!) She brings a perspective on our changing industry that always leaves me inspired.
Our tagline is "Classic, Contemporary Communications." I, obviously, represent the "classic" part, and focus on corporate and crisis communications, media training and client service. My partner represents the "contemporary," being stronger when it comes to creative, such as writing, random activation ideas and social media. We work with founders and owners of all ages, so our business works in our benefit—there's always one of us our clients gravitate to more, and that person becomes the primary contact for them.
Being an entrepreneur at 53 feels great. I feel so grateful and blessed to be doing something I love and lucky to be able to take on new challenges. I’ve even taught myself accounting, which is something I thought I’d never do, let alone enjoy! When work doesn’t feel like work, you know you’ve hit the jackpot.
We love working with other like-minded companies that share our values. And I believe our clients like working with us, too, because we bring the best expertise from both the new and (sigh) the old.