Successful Career Planning Over 40

Some of us insist that we will never grow up. But no matter how we feel on the inside, we all age on the outside for everyone to see. For many, decade birthdays seem especially meaningful and the big 4-0 can hit people hard. But what does this mean for you and your career?

Well, it means after working for a significant period of time you have developed a wealth of experience and skills. You can choose to stay where you are, or you can decide to move on. But should you be worried? Are you too old to change jobs or careers?

Your mind is really good at telling you all kinds of stories about how you are too old, how you won’t get hired, and how companies are only looking for young people. Some of these stories may have a kernel of truth, and there are certainly companies that make hiring decisions for all sorts of unstated reasons. The important thing to remember is that you can’t control your age or the way some people think about your age. Although it is hard and takes practice, do your best to let those stories go and focus on what you can control.

You can control your attitude, energy, and outlook. Project confidence, vitality, enthusiasm, and expertise in your interactions with others. These are attractive traits that will register as positives in almost every situation. But these traits should not be forced; they should not be faked. People can tell if you are not being authentic, and you will sabotage yourself. You need to discover ways that you can truly feel this way.

Be deliberate about finding a core of energy that you can tap into and share with others. This is important whether you are in a job and want a promotion, or if you want to make sure you are not part of the next round of layoffs. Cultivate this core by really knowing what you value, what motivates you, and what makes you happy.

I don’t want to suggest this is an easy process or that there aren’t situations where someone will discriminate against you based on your age. It happens and it is illegal. But it is not helpful to go into situations assuming that will be discriminated against because of your age. Negative assumptions weigh you down, absorb your energy, and increase the chances you will not be at your best. Go into every situation with your eyes open, but assume the best from people. In return, give people your best, and I believe you will be pleased with the results.

Practice knowing yourself and cultivating your core energy. If you are over 40 and need more support, or if you would be interested in career counseling services, please contact us at


Article Author:  Bryan J. Dennis, Ph.D.