Today, I turned 50.
I certainly don’t feel 50–more like 35. But, the physical signs are there. I now wear glasses (as of a couple years ago). I have a few gray hairs. And, I have a little spare tire going. But, for the most part, I feel great! And I’m hugely optimistic about what the next 30-40 years hold for me on this planet.
On the personal front, our kids are now 15 and 17–that means just 3 more years and they’re both out of the house. That’s kinda sad for me–but also super exciting! It also means we’re a little closer to scaling back. Our plan has always been to reduce our work significantly (basically go part-time) once the kids are out–and we’re on track to do just that. So, that’s exciting, too. And, as we thinking about that phase of life, we’re also thinking about not living full-time in Minnesota. We love the Pacific Northwest and may likely spend time there for some of each year for a while. We don’t know what that will look like yet, but I’m so excited to find out!
However, from a digital marketing perspective, my outlook is a little different from the huge enthusiasm on the personal side.
I see a few challenges in my near future–and I see a number of opportunities. So, while I’m certainly an eternal optimist in my personal life, I’m a bit more, maybe, pragmatic in my professional life.
What are the challenges ahead for me?
I think ageism is definitely alive and well. And while I can’t say I’ve personally faced a lot of this to date, I do know many of my friends and colleagues have, so I understand the reality in front of me. Plus, in the digital/social space, that’s probably even more pronounced. After all, how many 50-plussers can you name who work in the social/digital realm? Certainly, there are some smart folks out there–Andrew Eklund comes to mind. But, we’re few and far between, it seems. Digital and social media marketing is a young person’s game. I’m well aware of that.
Speaking of those young people, I’m feeling a little more disconnected from them. Teaching at the University of St. Thomas helps with that–but I only teach in the spring semester and it’s really just a side gig. Those with agency or corporate jobs are connecting with young people much more regularly during the workday–I simply do not have those built-in opportunities as an independant consultant.
Finally, and this is a tough one to admit: I find I’m not quite operating at the same “speed” I was 5 years ago (10 years ago, for sure). That’s not to say I’m not productive–I believe I’ve learned tons of tricks and best practices over the last 13 years to help me become uber-productive. I’m not super worried, but I also realize I just don’t have the same speed I had in my 30s or even 40s.
So yeah, there are some challenges in front of me. But, I’m working on approaches to tackle those–especially the connectedness to young people and the operating speed. I’m confident I can get at both–but they still are challenges.
On the other side, I see few opportunities, too.
First: While I may be 50 now, I also know many of my would-be “buyers” are also over the age of 50 (or close to it). And, since many of these folks are now professional friends, and we’re close to the same age, it’s probably a bit easier for me to relate to them. That definitely helps when you’re trying to win business and cement relationships.
Being 50 also means I probably have even more opportunities to give back. I do some of this through my teaching at St. Thomas, mentoring students after graduation and staying connected to them as a resource. But, I could look for more opportunities there. A friend of my recently pointed me to the Upturnships Program, which I am definitely considering. I’m also thinking about a potential way I could formalize that mentoring angle at St. Thomas. This is probably the opportunity I’m most excited about post-50, as I believe it has the chance to be something I could do for a long, long time.
At the same time, being a 50-year-old consultant who’s now been at it for almost 14 years, I’m getting closer to being in the “elder statesman” category of consultants. So, I see opportunity to coach and advise those who are thinking about making the leap in the years ahead. I’ve been doing some of this, informally, recently and find it very rewarding. I definitely see a role here for me–just not sure what it looks like at this point outside of the random coffee or call I might get from someone considering going solo.
Overall, 50 is looking pretty good. I’m excited for what life has to throw at me the next few years. It’ll be a lot of big changes–but I see plenty of opportunities.
The post The challenges (and opportunities) of turning 50 in the digital marketing industry first appeared on Arik Hanson.