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In an increasingly ageist India, professionals are struggling to cope with mid-career stagnation

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What should I do if I am not the CEO of a company by the age of 45?

Twenty years ago, hardly any newly-minted IIM graduate would have considered that question seriously. Or, at least, it would have required a brain laced with copious amounts of foresight or paranoia. Today, though, it should not sound so extreme to graduates of top management schools.

While the young in India struggle to find jobs, the country’s middle-aged elite professionals are hitting dead ends in their careers. Automation and slow economic growth have led to fundamental changes in businesses worldwide, and that has had an unkind effect on senior executives. From unexpected job losses and fewer opportunities to scale the ladder, to redundancy and boredom, they are facing career threats their parents never had to grapple with.

“By your mid-40s, if you aren’t about to become a CXO at a high-growth startup or a mid-size company, you are in dangerous territory,” says Sajith Pai, who graduated from The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad in 1998.

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