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How I Responded When I Was Asked To Recommend A 'Younger' Me

01/06/2017 01:57 EST | Updated 01/06/2017 02:22 EST
Robert Nicholas via Getty Images

"Can you recommend a younger you?" When this email screamed at me from my inbox, I did think about it quite seriously. Did I know someone else, younger, who had written six books on parenting, had four children, and had been at the business of parenting for 25 years, and the parenting business for 15, after spending 18 years in corporate marketing? I'll admit no one came immediately to mind.

And then an old quote popped into my brain, written by humorist Quin Ryan in 1960:

The five stages in the life of a Hollywood star:

Who is Danny Doakes?

Get me Danny Doakes!

Get me a Danny Doakes' type!

Get me a young Danny Doakes!

Who is Danny Doakes?

Who is Danny Doakes? Just a John Doe name, but clearly this type of ageist thinking is not a new phenomenon, nor is it something we can blame on the Millennials, as we do everything else. And obviously, I am not a Hollywood star, but I am a person who appears on television and it's hard to ignore the parallels. Of course, ageism doesn't just affect those in the public eye, but it is easier to spot.

The agency person who asked me this question had done so without maliciousness and because she knew that I do often recommend others in my line of work for projects which don't suit my scope. Including this one, in which she was really just looking for someone who had younger children than me, or so my 53-year-old self optimistically felt. It wasn't personal. It was business.

So, what can we do when we find ourselves on the receiving end of this?

1) Accept that you are not going to convince the client that you are either younger than you are, or that you can change their demographic targeting need.

2) Shift your thinking to work with clients who require your expertise or your actual age to align with their products and services. Do your research and develop a plan.

3) Realign your goals with your reality. Let's look at Jane Pauley, who just took over the CBS Sunday Morning helm. They needed someone with experience and credibility to take over from veteran Charles Osgood. It's a win that they chose a woman; it's not a mistake they chose someone over the age of 50. Pauley is too old for the high-octane youth filled American morning shows (and the case is arguably the same in Canada) but this is her fit.

4) Move forward in a positive way. Business is business and if they need a 30-year-old mom to represent their brand, they need a 30-year-old mom. You are not that mom.

5) Mentor younger women. I know this sounds counterintuitive in this situation, but the day might come when you get asked the same question I was, and I am a firm believer in women helping women. Cultivate those you see as being capable of taking on "your" work and give them the opportunity should it arise. The agency will find someone; it may as well be someone who can really do the job. And the agency will appreciate your guidance and experience in helping them. I've since landed a contract with the same agency, for different work.

Of course, I did in fact recommend a "younger me"; a person whose professional abilities I trust, and who had the prerequisite number and ages of children. I know in time, she'll find herself in my same now sensible shoes, and I know my even older self will be there to help guide her through the "Get me a young Danny Doakes" stage of her career.

Kathy Buckworth is the award winning author of six books, including "I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The Business" She is currently at work on her seventh book, tackling the teenage brain. Yes, her kids are that old. And older.

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