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How Boosting Confidence Can Build Job Opportunities 

Shark Tank’s Daymond John offers tips on how older workers can overcome age bias


En español | For older workers, lack of confidence — in their place in today’s workforce, their skills and their ability to overcome obstacles — can be problematic. But by thinking about using their skills in new ways and making sure to learn from other age groups, experienced workers can build self-esteem and success, according to Daymond John.

For example, John, an entrepreneur who launched the $6 billion fashion brand FUBU and stars on the television show Shark Tank, shared the story of a magazine photo shoot he recently posed for. During the session, the photographer — who had worked in the industry for more than three decades — told John about his frustrations with how smartphones and other new technologies were changing his profession.

“He took his camera and said, ‘You know, I used to get paid so much, but look at all these kids around here. Everyone has a camera,’ ” John recalls. With his eye for an opportunity and more than a decade of offering advice to hopeful entrepreneurs, John instantly spotted the possibilities. 

“I said, ‘You have a whole new business area. If everyone has a camera, then everybody wants to learn from you. You’ve been doing it for 30 years. What if there were 10,000 kids giving you $5 a month to subscribe to you showing them how to take wildlife shots or food shots or use the proper filters? Think about that business right there.’

“People have to find ways to change, and it builds confidence once you start,” John says.

Prepare yourself for success with this interactive course from Shark Tank's Daymond John

That’s not always easy, as John recognizes. Older adults can find themselves looking for new jobs or careers after they have been laid off because of changes in their professions, often due to technology. And others experience age discrimination — either in the workplace or on the job hunt — that can undermine their self-esteem and determination. According to AARP research, 76 percent of older workers list age discrimination as a reason they would not be confident they could get another job within three months if their job was eliminated. 

When he launched his fashion brand FUBU over 30 years ago, John certainly faced his own share of difficulties. He said he had to close the fledgling fashion line three separate times before he and his partners figured out how to make the business work.

“You develop confidence by going out and getting knocked down,” he says. “All of the times that I have gotten knocked down or looked at in a different way, I went back and reevaluated what I have to offer,” he said. 

John, who recently turned 50, continues to use that same approach. “I can now challenge myself with something new. What am I doing from 50 to 60? I look at a lot of my cohort — my other partners, my other ‘Sharks’ who are in their 60s and other people I respect in their 70s — and I say, ‘Man, they’re still going!’ There’s so much more ahead of me.”

John advises older adults to research new developments in their professions and try to work with people from different age groups and experiences. According to another AARP study, 7 in 10 workers say they like working with generations different from their own, and older workers say that their younger colleagues can help them learn more about new technologies and new approaches to solving problems.

“If you start to educate yourself, surround yourself with different people, put yourself on different [social media] platforms, it’s not going to just happen, but all of a sudden, you’re going to start going, ‘Wait a minute: Now I know what I have to offer here,’ ” he says.

John also suggested that some older workers might consider doing contract or consulting work if they are concerned that a job opportunity might not meet their long-term financial needs.

“Maybe if you’re so good at what you do,” he says, “you have to step back and say, ‘I’ll do it at that price for 90 days or for 120 days. See where I land at that time and then let’s have a different discussion, because I’m sure that I can help turn around things and add way more value.’ ”

“If you can’t change the world, you’ve got to change yourself,” he says.

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