Contractors Age Limit – At what age is a contractor washed up?

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Contractors Age Limit
Contractors Age Limit

Contractors Age Limit

What is a contractors age limit? At what age are they too old to get work?

The shelf life of those who work in different professions varies greatly. So how does the shelf life of a contractor compare to say a footballer or an electrician or a bricklayer?

What brought it to mind was a conversation I had with my brother-in-law. He’s a pipe-fitter / engineer / plumber.

He had got his son a job with his company as an apprentice doing the same work that he was doing. However, unlike as reported by newspapers and contractors thinking of switching careers, a lot of the money lies down the line according to my brother-in-law.

Early on in your career you do a lot of the grunt work for not very much money. As you get older you get other people to do the grunt work whilst getting a lot more money.

According to my brother-in-law it can be your early thirties before you really make the transformation.

Wants to be an Electrician

It seems that my nephew wants to be an electrician instead. According to my brother in law (let‘s call him Des, especially as that‘s his name), it is the same thing in the electrician‘s line of work.

Des believes that my nephew Calum‘s head has been turned by hearing how much his schoolmates are making as bricklayers and plasterers. He was getting tired doing pipe-fitting grunt work for very little money.

Des said, and this is what surprised me, that what Calum didn‘t realise was that most bricklayers and plasters become burnt out in their thirties. Very few make it as far as forty.

He said that even those who make it to their mid and late thirties are those that don‘t drink and smoke. They don‘t burn the candle at both ends. He said that if you are a bit of a drinker then it is difficult to do bricklaying and plastering much beyond your early thirties.

It is very hard work it seems. Surprisingly you can become all washed up early in life. He wasn‘t very sure what happened to bricklayers and plasterers after they became burnt out in their thirties.

Sportsmen Burn Out

Although sportsmen, like footballers, are going on longer these days, a lot of the reason why most of their careers were over by the time they hit their early thirties was because of the mental side of things.

It is harder to motivate yourself to train and do so much physical exertion when you get into your early thirties. Your brain is telling you that it is time to do something else less physical. It tells you that there were other more important things in life than kicking a football or running around a track.

Contractors Limit Reached

I remember having a conversation with a fellow contractor in the early to mid nineties on this subject (let‘s call him Bob). There had been a big scare in the IT contracting market because of the downturn of the early nineties. We were just recovering from it.

Both of us had been out of work for longs spells during it. We had to take much reduced rates to get back on the contracting wheel of fortune.

Neither of us had any money left (indeed we had debts), despite the fact that we had had years of good money contracting.

We were saying how lucky we were that we weren‘t footballers, who would not. Like ourselves, get a second chance to make some money.

Bob said, ‘Just imagine if we had been footballers. There would be stories in the press about how we had made and lost a fortune. They would say that we were now all washed up and on the dole and with no careers ahead of us’. We smiled wryly, if a little painfully, at that.

Contractors Get Second Chance

However, we did get a second chance. There was no contractors age limit.

So what kind of shelf life do contractors have? Are they like footballers, plasterers and bricklayers? Or are they more like plumbers, pipe-fitters, electricians and accountants for example?

There are many of our readers who feel that they are discriminated against because of their age.

However, there are also people who write in every time there is an article from someone who says there is age discrimination in IT, to say that they don‘t experience it and that they are happy working away in their forties, fifties and sixties.

My hunch view is that there is no across-the-board endemic discrimination against older contractors.

Certainly mentally they can go and do a job up to retirement age. They don‘t have to push against physical barriers like sportsmen, bricklayers and plasterers do.

Pockets of Discrimination for Older Contractors

I‘m sure that there must be some discrimination against older contractors. However, I‘m also sure that there must be some bosses and companies who favour older contractors.

As we all know, there are some 28-year-old permie Project Managers who do not feel comfortable with a team of forty and fifty year olds working for them. There are others who get a kick from being the boss of older people. It makes them feel that they are ahead of career schedule.

However, having been a Project Manager, I would say that they know that their careers depend on the success of a project. Their their main motivation, when hiring, is to get the contractors who can help them achieve their goals.

Their jobs and career are on the line. They know that, and they generally don‘t have the luxury of picking and choosing who they‘re going to enjoy having a beer with down the pub.

It is mainly the more insecure 28-year-old Project Managers who are afraid of having older, more experienced people working for them. Under the laws of the Survival of the Fittest, these Project Managers are not long for this world anyway.

Opportunities When Older – No Contractors Age Limit

I‘m sure that as you do get older your opportunities lessen a bit. However, the same applies to permies as well, especially at the lower levels.

In fact possibly even more so!

Who would you think would be more likely to be hired – a 55-year-old permie developer for a permanent job, or a 55-year-old contractor for a 3 or 6 month contract?

I would say that, in the same way as permies, you are more likely to survive at an older age if you rise up the tree a bit. You would be more likely to get work at an older age if you became a Business Analysts. Better still if you are a Project Leader or Project Manager.

You are less likely to hit a contractors age limit then.

Many of those who write in to us saying that they have no problem getting work at an older age. They say they are Consultants with an area of expertise.

Therefore, there doesn‘t seem to be any physical or mental reason why contractors can‘t continue till they are 65 or even beyond.

There does appear to be some discrimination against them by younger Project Managers. However, it certainly isn‘t systematic or endemic.

End of Our Careers

Luckily for us we aren‘t footballers (or brickies or plasterers). If we were, many of us would be at the end of our careers, broke and on the dole. We’d have no futures ahead of us.

If that was the case many of us would be in very serious trouble.

Luckily we can get a second chance, and maybe a third and fourth chance as well. There is no contractors age limit.

I hope those that were the Gazza‘s, George Bests and Stan Bowles‘s of the IT profession do take the second chance they are being offered with the recovery in the economy.

We are very lucky to get that second chance. A contractors age limit doesn’t exist.

Just think of the worries that plasterers and brickies in their thirties must have, especially if they have blown all their money.

So, what are our readers views of age discrimination against older contractors?

Does it exist?

Pleas put your comments below.

For more great advice on your contracting career click on Contractor Career Advice.

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