Career planning for centenarians

Don’t be too quick to dismiss the idea of career planning for centenarians. People born in this millennium have a good chance of living beyond 100 years, making nonsense of the retirement age of 60.
old lady hands typing on keyboard

Our COO Martin Pienaar chatted to Radio 702’s Azania Mosaka about career planning for centenarians. He highlighted the need to build an extended and valuable career, equipping yourself with digital skills for the 4th Industrial Revolution and how it is not just about having a healthy mind but a healthy body too. You can read his insights and listen to the podcast below.


By Martin Pienaar, COO of Mindworx Consulting

Don’t be too quick to dismiss the idea of career planning for centenarians. People born in this millennium have a good chance of living beyond 100 years, making nonsense of the retirement age of 60. When retirement first became a thing, the retirement age for men was after they were statistically likely to die. (Women hardly featured.) In that scenario, not a lot of retirement planning was required.


Not so today. If you’re nearing 60, retirement is not an option unless you’ve saved 40% of your income throughout your career. Given how few people save that much, most are going to have to substantially curtail their spending at retirement and hope they have saved enough to last their lifetime, or they’re going to have to work well beyond 60. And while 60 may be the new 40 because we are so much healthier and fitter today, it’s our mental fitness for an ever-changing world of work that needs attention.


What skills will keep you relevant beyond 60? Many of the jobs in demand now didn’t exist even a decade ago, and they certainly didn’t exist when today’s workforce was educated. Most were able to adapt when Microsoft Office became a standard job requirement. Now they must adjust to standard job requirements like the ability to extract information from a database, manipulate it, and present it in a way that decision-makers can use. 


Technology has changed everything; many more and different jobs have been created. So much data is being produced by social media and the internet of things, and we can only make sense of it using artificial intelligence and machine learning. If we want to be eligible for future roles, we will need to understand all of this and more: concepts such as analytics, blockchain and robotics. We will need to master some of them and how they’re used and have a working knowledge of many others.


The other thing that has changed is where and how we learn. Today it’s all about self-study combined with on-the-job learning. This is not what seniors are used to, but it should be viewed as a good thing because it presents us with all the opportunities we need to grow our skills. Most online courses can be completed “just in time”, as skills are required, and most offer a certification. 


We used to view life as three distinct phases – study, work, retire. Today we need to put study and work together and accept that learning will be lifelong. We will have to turn some recreation time into re-creation time to brush up on skills or learn new ones as our roles evolve and change.


The idea of taking a break to reskill for a different role is new to many corporates, but sabbaticals and breaks will become more common. While many corporate recruiters currently frown on this practice, sabbaticals will inevitably be about changing gear, re-energising and building new skills for the next career phase. Recruiters would do well to remember that Koos Bekker, the Naspers founder, took two well-publicised sabbaticals in his career, both of which resulted in significant and valuable investments for his company on his return.  


But building an extended and valuable career means more than studying and adapting—the job market values candidates with good reputations and credentials. Developing a personal brand that extends beyond just professional behaviour is vital. All the digital footprints we create in our lives will contribute to our value as professionals. The blogs we publish, the connections we make, how we behave on social media, and the value we add to our communities will all result in value in our careers. 


Ageism is a real problem for older workers, especially in competitive markets. As a result of this discrimination, many choose not to work directly for corporates, instead offering their services as independent contractors or via gig platforms. This is also the case for many entering the workforce, choosing to offer their skills on these platforms instead of accepting formal employment with a corporate. 


For those who want to be part of the corporate world, working for 60++ years will require not just healthy minds but healthy bodies too. 


Ariana Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post and author of “Thrive”, is a respected advocate of wellbeing in the workplace, resulting from good diets, sleeping patterns and exercise regimes. She also makes the scientific case for practices like yoga and meditation directly correlating to improved performance in the workplace.


This is all worth considering if you’re going to keep working. Long before retirement became mandatory, people kept working right to the end of their lives. Today we have so many advantages to help us do so with vigour and energy. Here’s to a long and rewarding life.

This article was published on the 30th of May in Fin24


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