Grey trainees

Lucy Kellaway’s column in today’s Financial Times puts forward the idea of middle-aged trainees, with her usual reflexive wit.  (Sorry, I can’t give you the link – no FT online sub…)  She contrasts her own early traineeship as a ‘sneering waster’ with the knowledgeable commitment likely to be shown by anyone who is taken on in their early 50s.    Older trainees might be quite willing to work at trainee rates, at least initially, if they had paid off mortgage , kids were off their hands etc.

The key behind this, of course, is the increased duration of our working lives, from 40-odd to 50-odd years.  That makes an investment of this kind realistic and worthwhile, for the individual and for organisations.  I well remember one friend saying to me , in her late 50s, that she had considered doing a Master’s a few years earlier and decided against it on the basis that she’s only have a very few years for it to pay dividends (professionally as much as financially).  Now she regretted that decision, being aware that she would have had 12-15 years of work still ahead of her.  By the time we spoke she thought she was back in her original position, i.e. just too late to do it (though I encouraged her to do it anyway).

Interestingly, Kellaway doesn’t specifically mention the particular advantage to women from thinking in this longer context.  Indeed, her example – presumably the prompt to the piece – is of a hedge fund manager who had recently talked himself into some kind of trainee position at the FT.    Of course, many women might find it difficult to go back to a trainee wage if they had already interrupted their career.  But the principle of career reinvention, and starting again, seems to me hugely beneficial for everyone.  And the more that both sexes do it, the better for breaking up the notion of full-time continuous jobs as the only real model for people who want a career.

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