It's been awhile since I've checked in on WSO. I hope 2016 has treated you all well and you're now settling in for some well deserved rest and relaxation time over the course of the holidays.
It may just be selection bias given I'm starting to get a little older myself (I just turned 34), but I've noticed a certain theme emerging in quite a few threads here on WSO and on some of the other tech / programming boards I frequent. It seems a lot of people out there are worried about the career implications of growing "older". I put "older" in quotes because in many cases I'm not just talking about people approaching retirement age. I'm talking about people for whom the junior tenure of their career is in the rearview mirror. Typically this includes anyone in their early to mid 30s and older.
By this time you've likely completed any post grad educational requirements, you've spent a few years in the trenches working some crazy hours, you have a decent number of deals / projects under your belt, and you've more or less mastered the core technical skills necessary to succeed in your chosen field. In other words, you've been successfully following The Track to a T. And by your watch, since you've done everything right, your train should be pulling up to the Greatness station right about...now.
But instead pulling into some gilded wonderland with golden gates, it seems like The Track just...ends. The familiar steel rails that kept your train on course eventually give way to wilderness. For any veteran of The Track, this is quite unsettling. We've all been told that if we went to X college, worked at Y investment bank, and then Z PE firm we'd be set for life. So what gives? Why is there "no country for old I bankers"? Why instead of being welcomed into the gilded gates of Greatness are we seemingly being put out to pasture?
To any Track veteran, the first reaction is to assume it's because you're just on the wrong track. Maybe if I had done my analyst stint at firm Z instead of firm Y things would be different... or maybe if I had gotten into school C.... You can perform these little thought experiments all day, but my read is that beyond a certain threshold, none of that matters. Whether you did your banking complain about rampant ageism and a short conversation with any 7th or 8th year law associate should be enough to convince you that things aren't any different in law. In short, no matter your industry, no matter your credentials and pedigree, you are going to find there are fewer and fewer people willing to take you on as an employee as you get older and more experienced.or , worked at a megafund or a middle market firm, got an MBA from HBS or Kellogg, you would likely end up in the same place. Even changing industries wouldn't help. Techies often
People might say it's because you are more expensive, have more obligations, are set in your ways, etc. These all may be true, but I don't think they are the main reasons companies seem reluctant to take on more experienced hires. I think the main reason companies don't want to hire you is because as you get older, wiser, and more experienced, you become more of a threat. It's kind of like lion prides. When male cubs get to be about 2 or 3 years old, they get kicked out of the pride because the incumbent males know that if those cubs stick around much longer, there's a good chance they'll try to take over. And any cubs that don't have the ambition or skill required to attempt such a coup probably wouldn't help the pride's chances of survival much, so no use keeping them around either.
If you've been in the industry for 10+ years and you've been doing things right, there's probably no real compelling reason why you couldn't be calling the shots instead of your boss. That makes you a less desirable employee. Because even if you tell yourself you can suck it up and report to someone who really should be your peer for the sake of financial stability, there's still a part of you that wants to run the pride. Your boss can't have this. So out you go.
This may seem harsh, but I think it's a blessing in disguise. Think about it. When you're 40 or 50, do you really want to be doing all the legwork for a quasi checked out senior partner in exchange for the few crumbs of carry he deigned to throw your way? Do you really want to be cramming yourself into airplanes flying all around the country prospecting and executing deals while your boss "manages relationships"? Do you really want to have to ask for approval to execute that trade you've been researching for months? Probably not.
So if you're in your 30s or 40s and you're having a harder time finding attractive employment opportunities, maybe the market is telling you something. Maybe it's telling you that it's time to stop implementing other people's ideas and it's time to start implementing your own. Go build your pride.
Mod Note (Andy): top 50 posts of 2017, this one ranks #31 (based on # of silver bananas)