Careers used to follow a predictable timeline: school, university, work. You’d get a few promotions along the way then finish up with a gold watch before driving off into the sunset with caravan in tow.
But the days of having your career sorted in your 20s are over. “There’s no need to follow the crowd these days, particularly when it comes to your age,” asserts career consultant Melissa Johnston, of Suzie Plush Consulting. “If you’re driven to succeed, have passion and are perceived as energetic and professional, you’ll be in good stead for career advancement or change at any age.”
As these three women attest, you can defy stereotypes and carve out a new normal for yourself at any age.
The young CEO: Samantha Cran
The stereotypical CEO is male and over 50. But as head of non-profit organisation One Disease at a Time, Samantha Cran, 26, is well and truly busting that myth. She moved from an enviable position with L’Oréal Paris to take the reins of her family transport company at the age of 22, due to her patriarch grandfather’s declining health. “L’Oréal was amazing, but Mum was struggling to run the business alone and I needed to step up and help.”
Samantha began attending networking events to gain wisdom from experienced business people. It was here she met founder of One Disease, Dr Sam Prince, and, impressed with his vision, decided to join the organisation as a volunteer, which began her trajectory to the top job she’s held for the past two-and-a-half years.
Presenting to typically older, male-dominated boardrooms is still a daunting prospect for Samantha, but she sees it as character-building. “The biggest advantage of my age is being able to say, ‘I don’t know’,” she says. “I’m always up-front and authentic about that and am more than prepared to learn and fill in gaps of knowledge.”
The early retiree: Annie Crawford
If retirement conjures up thoughts of bingo and lawn bowls, take a look at Annie Crawford, 50. She retired from the mainstream workforce at 42 and is proof that age is only a number.
In 1997, Annie moved to California, where she helped establish the US affiliate of a Swiss biotech company. Being a founding shareholder was a lucrative move for Annie, and when her family returned to Australia in 2003 she knew she was in a position where she didn’t have to return to work.
In 2005 Annie founded Can Too, a not-for-profit program which encourages participants to achieve goals in running, swimming or triathlon. Funds are directed to Cure Cancer Australia Foundation in memory of her father, who died of cancer at 51. Retirement isn’t a word that sits comfortably with Annie. “Retirement in the traditional sense scares me; I don’t feel old enough. Fifty is the new 30 and 70 is the new 50. I think society in general is developing a different sense of what retiring means. “I’m lucky to be where I am and I’ve always been in tune with the fact there’s more to life than work.”
The mature-age student: Julie Sweet
Ticking university off the to-do list is an achievement at any age. For Julie Sweet, who began a Bachelor of Counselling and Human Change at 33, her stint as a student was combined with running a successful business.
Julie, 38, bypassed the traditional school-to-uni transition to enter the workforce. “School was just an opportunity to socialise. My head wasn’t in the right space to study then,” she admits.
As a mature age student, she juggled one day at uni each week with the responsibilities of running her business, [http://www.certificatesonline.com.au||target=_blank]. “I worked nights and weekends and explained to my friends that I wouldn’t have a social life for a while.”
Study came naturally to Julie, who now possessed the maturity and dedication she lacked in younger years. She believes the confidence she’s acquired with age has helped her score a coveted job as a counsellor with NSW Health.
“I started job hunting with a year of my degree to go,” she explains. “I knew how tough the job market could be and wasn’t going to let all this study and sacrifice be for nothing.”
Julie has one piece of advice for anyone considering studying later in life: “Just do it. It will be difficult and challenging, but so many things in life are.”