What does work look like when you are over 40 ?
In the age of digital technology being over 40 can feel like you have reached the end of your shelf life especially if you live in Silicon Valley. Given that 20 somethings have grown up immersed in this new world, it is easy to adopt a mindset that they are the only likely candidates to fill job openings. Yet when I was working for a career one stop agency, my younger clients would arrive at my cubicle complaining that no one would hire them because they lacked experience. Ageism seems to work in both directions. I learned more about this when a speaker I heard told his story about his past history as a negotiator in militarized zones. He believed that the military was making a mistake in training 20 somethings as negotiators given their lack of experience.
Being over 40 does not signal the demise of your career. It can instead be viewed as an opportunity to reinvent yourself in the third decade of the 21st century. Madonna does it all the time and it seems to work for her. Think about the following four areas and what you bring related to each of them.
Autonomy. You have a track record of accomplishments. Focus on identifying work environments that support those results. Ask yourself how you have incorporated independence into your work and how that has benefitted the company. Remind yourself that the days of company loyalty have passed and that you now work for yourself. How have you been innovative and creative in your job tasks? We know that these two qualities have not been replaced yet by AI or robots.
Mastery. What sets you apart from the 20 somethings is the years you have had to develop specific skills. K. Anders Eriksson and Malcom Gladwell have studied individuals like Bill Gates and groups like the Beatles. They found that it can take up to 10,000 hours or up to ten years to attain mastery in the given field. It requires deliberate focused practice not just time spent showing up for work. Identify what motivates you and create goals that you can break down into discrete steps to achieve mastery. Ask yourself, "What skill am I focusing on that makes me the best at what I do?"
Purpose. We probably don't develop a sense of our life's purpose until sometime in our 40s. Before that we are more focused on becoming established in our careers. Traditionally our life span consisted of spending the first 18 to 21 years being educated, followed by another 40 to 45 years working, and finally our remaining years in retirement. Today's older worker has altered those stages to include encore careers prior to retirement that emphasize meaning, significance, and contributions to the world at large.
Culture. Today more than ever we are considering culture as it applies to job choices. Culture includes the work environment, the mission, values, ethics, expectations, and goals set forth by a company. Experienced workers have a stronger sense of how company culture matches their preferences. As a result they will seek out those environments that support their work ethic. Are you looking for a company that inspires or dictates? You decide.
As a Freshman in my high school journalism class I learned about importance of the 5 Ws and the H. Here is how it applies in the work you do:
Who am I? (Self-confidence and Self-awareness)
What am I best at doing? (Mastery)
Why do I do what I do? (Purpose)
When do I build innovation into my day? (Creativity)
Where do I do my best work? (Culture)
How do I know I am on the right path? (Goals)
Remember that attitude and mindset are critical in today's job market. Self-fulfilling prophecy tells us that what we believe about ourselves contributes to what we experience in life. Think of what you bring to the workplace and how you can make a difference based on your years.
David Petrovay, PhD
Certified Career Coach