Managing Your Career After Age 40

Monday, May 11, 2015

Have you been in a job that provides for your groceries but doesn’t feed your heart and soul?

I’ve noticed that a shift occurs between the ages of 40 to 50 that makes many people examine their careers—and has them question whether they’re in the right position or moving in the right direction professionally. If this has happened to you, maybe you’re ready to think about what you want to do in your career to feel satisfied. To help you decide your next move, start by answering these questions:

  1. Do you get up every day excited to go to work?
  2. Would you do the work you do for free?
  3. Are you exhausted or energized at the end of each day?

Your answers will indicate whether you should continue your current work or do something else—something that uses your natural skills, talents, and abilities.
Unfortunately, many of us have a tendency to stay at a job we’re unhappy with out of fear. We hold ourselves back because we believe what we hear from others. So, what are some of these fears?

  • Employers discriminate against those over the age of 40. To be sure, people charged with hiring have biases. As long as this is the case, there will be discrimination. But I have found that older workers are more valuable because of their years of experience and knowledge. In other words, they have learned lessons that naturally come with age. In fact, when you read more corporate annual reports and review the leadership team, you will see that the majority are 50 years of age or older. Why? Because their years of service have provided them with knowledge, skills, and experiences that twenty-somethings simply do not have.

  • I will have to start over. The connotation is that people think they will have to take an entry-level position that pays $25, 000 to $30,000. However, I have worked with many clients who made career transitions, and I have never had a client totally “start over." Similarly, you will be able to use your transferable skills to market yourself differently on your résumé and in your branding statements. You are the driver of where you’re going—based on these skills.

  • My education is outdated, or I don’t have an advanced degree. If this is holding you back, then I recommend that you take a hard look at where you want to go next and speak with hiring managers about the credentials required to get you to the next level. If having a specific credential or an advanced degree is critical to your next career move, make the decision to get it. Better yet, if you need certification or education, let your employer invest in your career while you do the hard work of earning it. If you’re 40 or older and holding yourself back, you will also be 50 or 60 and wishing you had earned that credential. Why not take the requisite action now? Studies have proven that we can continue growing new neurons, and we’re never too old to learn.

  • The only way to find a job is by applying online. I hear this comment almost daily, and it never ceases to amaze me. Yes, online recruitment is one way to find your next position. However, the best way to find a position is still through networking and building relationships. Most people like to help others, so let them help you. Sitting at your desk in your office and completing your work is only part of the success puzzle. If others inside your company or outside your organization do not know what skills you possess and career you seek, they cannot help you.

Bottom line: Figure out where you want to go next in your career, create your branding statement, and let others help you reach your career goals. It’s only too late for a career transition if you think it is. 
For more advice on managing your career, join Marilyn at the ATD 2015 International Conference & Exposition for her session SU216 - Defining and Leveraging Your Professional Value.

About the Author

Marilyn A. Feldstein, the founder and president of Career Choices Unlimited, is certified as a Job and Career Transition Coach, a Professional in Human Resources, and an administrator of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument. She has more than 20 years of experience in all aspects of career management. Marilyn has been active in ATD for many years and served on the Program Advisory Committee for ATD's International Conference & Exposition in 2014 and 2015. Additionally, she has provided career coaching at ATD's International Conference & Exposition for more than five years, and is familiar with the career issues talent development professionals face. Marilyn is a contributor to multiple resume and career books, including Find Your Fit (ATD Press). She also has published articles in TD magazine and is the author of the ATD Infoline “Defining and Leveraging Your Professional Value.” She earned a master’s degree from Penn State University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida.

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