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How to become the oldest guy in the room

All of my career I was the youngest guy in the room. Then, overnight, I looked around and was shocked to discover I was the oldest guy in the room. What had I done to survive? To stay one step ahead?

It was a reality check. From youngest intern, youngest Vice President, office managing director, country manager, regional leader, to overnight, at 50, being one of the very oldest amongst our 2,500 staff. Yet I feel no fear about the value I bring and my ability to keep delivering relevance in a young person’s industry going through rapid change.

Here are my top 5 tips on how to keep ‘one step ahead’ and to keep refining our employee value proposition:

  1. Embrace change. Darwin said it was not the strongest of the species that survived, but the most able to adapt to change. There will be more change in the next five years than we’ve seen in the past 50. Get excited by change.
  2. Do not rest on your laurels. “There is nothing more dangerous to business success than a great last result.” We are ‘only as good as our next result’, whether financial performance, or an outcome for a client. Stay paranoid.
  3. Be a productivity ‘ninja’. I am one of the most productive people I know. I get more of the important things done every day. I am obsessed with getting priorities right, and getting these done. Get focused on what’s really important, every day.
  4. Work on yourself as a project. Hairdressing icon Vidal Sassoon told me he was most famous for having said: “The only place you’ll find success coming before work is in a dictionary.” We have to work on ourselves. Put pressure on ourselves. Critique our days. Give ourselves feedback. Be our own very best coaches. And cheer squads.
  5. Stay Connected. Woody Allen said: “85% of the secret of success is just turning up.” Turn up to events. Make that phone call. Read that book. Do that training. Have the courage to ask that question. Make the effort. Stay connected to what’s happening around you. And read newspapers – please. Every day. First thing. Online or off.

We’ve got one shot at our careers. Work hard on yourself to stay relevant if you want the chance to be the oldest guy in the room one day.

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