Remember that an apprentice has much to learn

I wonder if you watch “The Apprentice” on BBC? I’m not an avid fan, but its an interesting show about  how some people “do business”. I appreciate that this is a cut down, edited version of anything approaching reality, however the episode that I saw the other evening (8/14) was rather revealing about attitudes to the over 50’s.

The task for the two teams was to design a dating website, make an accompanying video and outline a promotion or marketing plan to a group of advertising experts. Not terribly difficult one would think – the sort of stuff that many school age children do as part of their learning process and team work. Sadly, this was beyond the abilities of the two teams, or at least this is what was suggested. However, despite the collapsing team leadership, inability to think creatively or understand the purpose of market research or frankly how to “pitch an idea” what was more disturbing was that these “self appointed hot shots” had little or no understanding of anyone over the age of 50. The team that selected this group as their target audience, completely failed to gain a modicum of clarity about lifestyles for those over 50 years old. Essentially the assumption was that they were very dull and not interesting.

As someone that is closing in on a half century myself and generally works with those older than 50, I am alarmed at how short-sighted the next generation of “hot shots” are. Anyone with an ounce of understanding will probably appreciate that the vast majority of “successful” people are over 50 and by successful I could mean have achieved financial success, but frankly simply having a body of work to show for effort is generally only beginning to show at 50. Most business people, academics, medics, professionals, civil servants, politicians do not reach “fame” until in their 50’s (if fame is even sought). Even Hollywood’s most adored men Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp turn 50 this year (George Clooney already being 52). The most age biased industry (popular music) is full of people over 50 (Mick Jagger is 70 next month).

Of course, those over 50 may have a different outlook on life (they may not) but life certainly does not stop. My clients lead full and interesting lives, those that are retired often complain to me that they are busier than they ever were when they were working for a living. I don’t agree that 50 is the new 30, that seems to merely ignore the point and arguably reinforce a stereotype. 50 is 50, however old you are, attitude and lifestyle are choices. As for the young apprentices, one can only hope that they garner some wisdom quickly and perhaps reflect on the question… if you are so great at business, why are you on a TV game show?

Dominic Thomas – Solomons IFA