Characteristics of Older Tech Pros Who Have Enduring Careers

Maintaining a successful career in tech when you’re on the other side of 40 is hard enough. But some professionals sabotage their livelihoods by displaying characteristics that reinforce negative stereotypes and turn hiring managers off.

On the flip side of that coin, those who achieve sustained success throughout long careers have a knack for exhibiting traits and attitudes that colleagues and employers value. Here’s a look at the characteristics of older tech workers who manage to achieve continued success throughout their careers… and those who do not.

Older Workers Who Do Well

Continuing Desire to Grow and Learn

When you look at the list of top-paying skills in the latest Dice Salary Report, it’s easy to see the link between continuing education, market demand and earnings.

But even though staying abreast of cutting-edge technology is vital, it takes more than a hot skillset to maintain a vibrant career in tech. It requires a willingness to experiment, to try new things (and to fail), and a desire to jump outside your comfort zone, explained Kerry Hannon, a career strategist and author of “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+.”

For example, no one called Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking over-the-hill, even though both worked into their mid-seventies. Why? Because they both had an insatiable passion for learning and never stopped exploring new ideas. Displaying an openness and thirst for knowledge makes you seem ageless.

Energetic

Professionals who project energy and who remain physically fit appear younger than they actually are, noted executive career coach, Donald Burns.

“Counter the perception that older workers are lethargic or complacent by speaking in an upbeat manner,” Burns advised. “Also, using short sentences and paragraphs in written communications telegraphs a fast, up-to-date style.” Remember, enthusiasm is contagious and draws other professionals to you like a magnet.

Clear Goals and Objectives

Wanting to change jobs because you’re feeling bored, under-challenged or micro-managed is a good thing as your career progresses, Burns noted. But you need to have a clear vision of your goals in order to land the right opportunity and keep your career moving forward. Creating a roadmap can help you avoid a mid- or late-career stall that comes from competing against younger, lower-paid workers for a position you’ve held for the past several years.

Willing to Take Direction from Younger Colleagues

Tech pros who achieve career longevity are comfortable learning from younger managers and colleagues, and they’re willing to pass along what they know. They boost their job market appeal by offering to transfer experience-based competencies such as client-facing skills and decision-making to younger workers.

“Respect is a two-way street,” Hannon said. “Tech professionals who have enduring careers are willing to mentor junior colleagues and learn from each other.”

Present Day View

When you work in a field that travels at warp speed, consistently mentioning older technologies or how things were done in the past can make you seem out-of-touch and set in your ways. Using the past as a way to reflect and make corrections going forward is positive. But try to focus your communications around what is happening today and in the future.

Older Workers Who Do Not Do Well

Sense of Entitlement

Are you unwilling to perform updates or upgrades, or work on programming tasks that you’ve done a thousand times before? If you act as if some tasks are beneath you, your teammates will resent you, and a tech manager is unlikely to hire or retain someone who undermines teamwork and morale.

Overpaid

The same thing goes for compensation. Certainly you want to ask for a salary commensurate with the market and the value you will bring to the organization, but imposing unrealistic demands is a sure sign that you feel superior and self-entitled. You’ll earn more over the long term by being more flexible and negotiating for extra benefits or the opportunity for remote work.

Stick in the Mud

On the plus side, more mature workers tend to have better ballast. When things go wrong, they are calm, firm and steady; no doubt their behavior has a trickle-down effect on the entire team. But if you refuse to take part in so-called fun and games or team-building activities, you may inadvertently reinforce that “grumpy old person” stereotype. Even though research has shown that this stereotype is unfair and untrue, perception is reality. Being socially connected and engaged with your network is one of the best ways to achieve success throughout your career.

4 Responses to “Characteristics of Older Tech Pros Who Have Enduring Careers”

  1. wageSlave

    Before you publish this kind of you are responsible for what is happening to you rubbish, you need to go to a code camp where old tech pros are trying to network a new position. Talk to them as I have. Most are doing everything suggested in this article and still finding themselves on the rocks. The ones that do make it back into service discount their skills making as little as half of what they were making at their previous position. The fact that they can get back in is a testament to what economists call bottom feeding behavior and I’ll add “of a disaster capitalist”. A disaster capitalist create a disaster or takes advantage of an existing disaster for personal gain. What the disaster capitalist wants is someone with massive skills that the disaster capitalist can get at a discount. What they get is individuals using ten percent of their skills available for half the price. This is a classic market failure where productivity is lost and never recovered. Yet the disaster capitalist continue to complain they cannot fine US IT workers with the skills they need while they, wink wink nod nod, perpetuate the disaster. I will clarify that they cannot fine US IT workers with the skills they need “at the price they are paying”. When I talk to older tech workers with 100k + job skills making 60k it scares me how many this dysfunctional market is creating every month. You cannot go to a code camp events without meeting half a dozen new entries. The tech skills are there going feral until they are gone. It’s sad.

    • wageSlave

      The problem here is not the continuing desire to grow and learn. That is the definition of what tech workers do every day. Nor is it any of the other things listed. The problem here is the same problem that is plaguing all American workers forced by government decisions to compete in global market place without a tariff safety net and that is health care. Global competition demands it.

      The ability of domestic business to reduce health care costs by excluding older workers is the driving force and it is but a symptom of the global competition issue. But there is another issue here. The cost of a useful shelf life that is just starting to manifest itself that the American worker are just now starting to become aware of. If you become obsolete at age 50 and social security kicks in at 65 and your cost of living is 50k a year for 15 years; 750k of saving is necessary. This is a ridiculous low estimate ignoring inflation and health care costs 18k a year. The point is how much of a salary increase is necessary now to propagate the savings necessary to make it thru the career shelf life hole with global competition looming over our heads? It is not going to happen. The next decade is going to be ruff on incumbent politicians and tech wages which barely keep up with inflation. Thump’s success is just the tip of the iceberg.

  2. Entrepreneur

    I find more young, in experienced workers (millennials) having the feeling of self-entitlement than any mature worker I’ve ever known and worked with in the technology. The baby-boomers are used to working hard an earning what they want.

  3. Truth teller

    Ageism is the new bigotry that is not only tolerated in our society, but encouraged. Try rereading this article substituting the word “black”, “brown” or “female” for “older”.