Interview with Jean-François Bouchaud - Associate of BLOSSOM Consulting
Counseling Seniors is one of the emblematic activities for BLOSSOM CONSULTING. Against the tide of set ideas and with his usual no-nonsense honesty, Jean-François Bouchaud one of the founding Associates of the Company, gives his opinion on the subject.!
I’m told that Counseling Seniors ay BLOSSOM CONSULTING is a company speciality, almost a trademark, is that right?
Oh yes! that’s right, since the beginning!
How did that begin?
It was a gut reaction. Almost a revolution. Against a Vulgate of thought, which thankfully is beginning to lose momentum today, but which caused a lot of harm in France in the last...let’s say twenty years or so.
A French Vulgate, can you explain?
It consisted in conscientiously implanting in everyone’s minds, including the first concerned, I mean the seniors, that basically for anyone over 50 if you were unlucky enough to lose your job your professional life was over!
Aren’t you exaggerating a little?
Are you kidding? You can’t imagine the number of 50-something’s we see at BLOSSOM CONSULTING for a first meeting and who start by saying something like “ I know that at my age I have almost no chance of finding another job”.
Well, what you do you reply to them in that case?
For me the answer is always the same! Very simple and concrete : More than 40% of the Individual Outplacement that BLOSSOM CONSULTING sets up is done with people who are over 50 years old. Which means that, if what they said were true our company wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t be there to argue the point.
Let’s go back to your previous point. You talked about a very French Vulgate which tends to exclude the seniors from the job market. Where did that come from? How did that begin?
If I were a thinker, a philosopher, reporting back on modern society and what it has become, I would talk of the tyrannical power of image, the refusal to age, to a Faustian youth cult ... But I’m just a Consultant, so I’d rather stay with what I know. I believe that fundamentally this ridiculous “Anti-Seniors” problem was born in the 1980’s, with the generalization of the unending “early retirement programs” which literally shot down in flames a whole generation of our very best seniors.
What you do mean by that?
It’s very simple. We told, shamelessly, a whole generation, who let’s not forget, had rebuilt France in the 1950’s “You’re over the hill! You cost too much and you have to leave jobs for the younger generation. Go! we’ll fix you some decent leaving conditions”.
In reality for some those conditions were decent.
That right, over the first few years, and for some. Then the level and quality of the systems for early retirement got ever worse. But the damage done to people’s way of thinking had been done, and that is still on-going!
How do you fight that today?
In many ways and for a long time now. In our business, on a daily basis, by putting the people we accompany back in the saddle, by helping them create the right conditions to give them a new professional momentum. Also on the associative front, in particular by participating as much as is possible in the activity of public or para- public organizations, Regional Council committees, old school associations, structures set up by City Halls, or even press and media actions, as we are doing now!
You seem very concerned by this combat, it’s almost a crusade to you, why?
Because I, well in fact WE at BLOSSOM CONSULTING have a profound believe that all that is based on an absurdity.
What absurdity is that?
The one which consists in making people hear and believe - in 2011 - that an executive, a technician of 53 is more or less finished on the job market. When in fact at 53 nowadays we can be at our best, Physically and Mentally best! With the best experience, a higher degree of serenity and with better distance! Better know-how, better technique and knowledge! It’s an age at which people have evacuated all those mistakes which held them back and which made them leave the track when they were younger and more inexperienced. And this is when they’d like to show you the door?
But you surely can’t mean to say that it’s easier to look for a new job at 55 than at 35?
Without wanting to appear to be provocative or paradoxical, I’d say that it’s neither easier or harder. It’s just different. You don’t look for a job at 55 in the same way that you look for one at 35. Which is purely logical since you’re not looking for the same type of job at 55 that you would have looked for at 35. And at 55 you’re not the same person that you were at 35. New person, new job, new approach.
Right, so just what is particular about this new approach?
This new approach is the foundation which structures all the work we do with the beneficiaries of our Personalized Counseling. At BLOSSOM CONSULTING we have developed methods which are perfectly adapted to the particular case of seniors and which have proven to give excellent results!
Without going into the technical details of your methods for ‘Seniors’ can you outline some of the aspects?
The approach is primarily established from an initial phase of analysis, both of the psychological profile of the beneficiary at the start of our mission along with his/her future life project and his/her assets for success. By analysis, we sometimes also mean definition and updating of certain projects, because some people are so demoralized in the beginning that they have no ideas, no long term vision of their future, or just no motivation at all!
And for those people, where do you start?
Well, even if the major part of our beneficiaries are not - thankfully - in this case, we have developed for these cases a reconstruction and re-motivation program which is run by our team of Coaches and Psychologists who intervene before the professional counseling program in itself.
Finally, could you give us some examples of ‘Seniors’ who have successfully achieved their professional re-location thanks to BLOSSOM CONSULTING?
First of all I would like to say that for us, For the Consultant who accompanied them, for the Head of Mission who boosted their morale when it was low, for the Prospection Assistant who helped them in their career search, for the whole team in short it’s always with a deep feeling of satisfaction, a special joy that we see our senior beneficiaries bounce back towards a new chapter of their professional and personal lives.
As for examples, we have whole loads of them! What springs to mind recently is Alain who is taking to the Directorship of a banking department at 56. Jose, General service technician, who trained in office computing at 57 and opened his own Company. Olivier who at 59 became the Financial Director of one of the biggest International Charity Foundations... And Josiane who went back her to Nursing Assistant career at 60 years of age. Isabelle who took the time to refuse three Assistant positions before accepting the fourth at 53... And for all of these people I can assure you that I remember their faces well when I think of them!!