Freelance After 50 Newsletter

F50 Issue #21: Your Experience Matters!

Published about 2 months ago • 5 min read

F50 Issue #21: April 30, 2024

The Value of Experience: Five Ways to Embrace the Benefits of Being 50+

At the 1998 Academy Awards, two young men exuberantly accepted the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. At the time, they were in their 20s, but their film shared wisdom for all ages, including those over 50.

The film was Good Will Hunting, and one of the themes was the importance of experience as a companion to knowledge and intelligence.

If you’ve seen the film, you’ll remember that Matt Damon played Will Hunting, a 20-year-old math genius who was required to meet with a therapist named Dr. Sean Maguire, played by Robin Williams. During the first session, Will makes insensitive comments about a painting and how it relates to Sean’s late wife.

The next time they meet, Sean famously says,

“I thought about what you said to me the other day, about my painting. I stayed up half the night thinking about it. Something occurred to me ... I fell into a deep peaceful sleep, and haven't thought about you since. Do you know what occurred to me?”

When Will says no, Sean explains,

“You’re just a kid. You don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about…. You’ve never been out of Boston.”

And then he elaborates on the importance of experience:

“So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written…. But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling, seen that.”

Finally, as a therapist, he acknowledges that he needs to be experienced too so he can do his job properly:

“You're an orphan, right? Do you think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you?”

This is a theme we touched on in a previous issue of Freelance After 50. In an American Medical Association article, Dr. Gerald Harmon discusses the importance of aging physicians remaining in the workforce.

In particular, he highlights the problem of chronic disease in America and how older physicians can help:

“What you'll find is that, as we age into that physician workforce, they can be empathetic, but they also have lived experiences. They have a skill set. They know how to diagnose."

So, book knowledge isn’t the only thing that’s important. Even work experience isn’t sufficient.

What truly sets older physicians apart is their combination of knowledge, work experiences, and life experiences. As they age, they may suffer the same ailments as their patients, giving them greater empathy and recognition of certain conditions.

And the same thing can set you apart if you decide to keep working and freelancing after 50. Let’s dig deeper and uncover how your transferable skills and years of experience are invaluable to clients and the freelance industry.

Five Ways to Embrace the Benefits of Being 50+

1. List valuable work experiences from your current or previous career.

If you’ve been reading our newsletter for a while, you know the drill. :) Now is the time to take out a handy note-taking app, like Evernote, or a good old piece of paper and pen.

Think about all the jobs you’ve had over the years, including any work you’re doing now. What experiences brought you from merely reciting knowledge to deeply knowing about something firsthand?

Consider Good Will Hunting’s Sistine Chapel analogy and note how tangible experiences added greater dimension and reality to your work.

2. Consider the skills these work experiences gave you.

Now list the types of skills you’ve developed over the years as you performed your duties.

For example, in an article titled “Do You Plan To Work After 65? More Americans Are Delaying Retirement, Study Finds,” Jack Kelly explains,

“Older workers possess well-developed soft skills, such as professionalism, written communication, analytical skills and interpersonal skills. They are often skilled at communicating with others in the office, which is essential for effective collaboration and information flow.”

In addition, Kelly notes that older workers can help mentor younger colleagues and team members by sharing their problem-solving skills and knowledge of best practices.

What other skills would you add to this list?

3. List valuable life experiences you’ve had.

Now for the fun (and sometimes not so fun) part! Think about your life experiences, both good and bad. Although they may not always be enjoyable, they are all valuable.

List the top five experiences that most impacted your life and gave you greater wisdom. For instance, in the AMA article, Dr. Harmon explains how older physicians can be both empathetic and sympathetic to patients, especially as they reach the age of 65 and over:

“So they'll have the same lived experiences. They'll be able to understand whether it's … joint musculoskeletal limitations, whether it's cognitive or perceived cognitive decline, or limitations in hearing and vision, or perhaps even the co-morbid diseases that we gain as we get older—cardiovascular disease, diabetic disease.”

What other valuable experiences can you think of? Whether it’s fun vacations overseas or challenging situations in your personal life, add them to your list.

4. Consider the life skills you developed that could be applied to work.

If you view life experiences with a growth mindset, you can identify what you’ve learned and how you’ve become better equipped for both life and work.

For example, an article titled “Clearing Up Myths About Older Workers While Understanding and Supporting an Aging Workforce” contradicts the notion that older people can’t think as clearly as they used to. Instead, it says,

“As people age, their built-up knowledge, often called ‘crystallized intelligence,’ usually improves…. This kind of intelligence may become more important as jobs focus more on services and information.”

Make a list of specific skills and knowledge you’ve developed through life experience that could be applied in a professional role. Notably, the article above mentions how older workers are more open to change — a valuable skill to have in today’s fast-moving technological environment!

5. Envision a freelance job you’d like to do. How do your experiences enhance this role and provide potential benefits to clients?

Now that you have your lists, see if there’s a pattern that could help you carve out a potential freelance job. For instance,

  • Have your work and life experiences honed your communication skills and empathy? Maybe you’d thrive as a freelance writer or editor.
  • Do you have finely tuned organizational and leadership skills? Maybe project management is your ideal niche.

Alternatively, is there a freelance job you’ve always wanted to do, one that’s different from your previous career? Consider whether your accumulated knowledge and skills are transferable, and identify any gaps where you might need additional training.

Did You Know?

According to an AARP article, “Artificial intelligence could lead to new roles for people age 50 and up.”

In addition to reducing physical demands, AI could give you an opportunity to showcase the strengths you have compared to younger workers. In particular, your experiences give you valuable “soft skills” that AI doesn’t have, like critical thinking, teamwork, problem-solving, and time management.

Furthermore, if you have broad education and knowledge, you could be the perfect person to help direct the use of this new technology! Check out the article for more details and advice.

Words To Live By

“Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience. You need experience to gain wisdom.”

— Albert Einstein

Here’s to many years filled with valuable experiences that enrich your life and work (maybe even a visit to the Sistine Chapel)!

Until next time,

Co-founders of Freelance University

431B 41st Avenue NE - Unit 94, Calgary, AB T2E 2N4
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Freelance After 50 Newsletter

Craig & Kelly Cannings, Co-founders of Freelance University

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