If you’re worried about losing your job as you grow older, you’re not alone. As we previously reported, some 43 percent of tech workers are worried about losing their jobs due to their age, with many over 40 saying it’s hard to find a new position.
Yet some tech pros are celebrating their maturity, beating the odds, and managing to enjoy long and prolific careers. How are they accomplishing these things? We caught up with two seemingly “ageless” tech pros to discover the secrets to career longevity.
They Refuse to Fall Behind
As you might imagine, professionals who stay up-to-date with changing technology have an easier time maintaining career momentum. What makes these perpetually youthful pros unique, however, is that they recognize the liabilities of aging and skills obsolescence early on in their careers, and refuse to fall behind.
Take Michael Christenson II, for example. The 40-year-old development software engineer for IBM runs circles around some of his younger counterparts. He recently became certified in Kubernetes, and before that he mastered Golang and Rust and enhanced his marketability by getting involved with Flutter projects.
Christenson decided to take a proactive stance when he worked for Red Hat, and hasn’t looked back since. “I was determined to be known as someone who is willing to share their professional knowledge and expertise, not someone who’s been here forever,” he said. “I’ve known a few people who ‘aged-out’ in their 30s, but most of them weren’t doing the things that I do.”
He also recommends that tech pros seeking work-life balance find a major company that lets employees carve out work time to take online courses or attend conferences. If changing companies isn’t an option, make an effort to maintain your skills and market presence as your career progresses by participating in side projects (and listing those side projects on your CV, online profiles, and website).
They Elevate Themselves and Connect
When the start-up Jim Grey was working for closed down, the 51-year-old software engineering manager was able to land a new job within six weeks. How?
“My interest in software delivery gives me a way to stay in front of people and control the conversation,” Grey said. “I have lunch, coffee or drinks with former managers two to three times a week. Getting older hasn’t hurt me because I stay in touch with my network.”
He also keeps an eye on the local job market and recommends that maturing pros proactively move into positions where age and experience are regarded as an asset, such as project management or senior engineering roles. For instance, Grey decided to pursue a middle management role after noticing that jobs in his area were staying open for a long time.
“Being involved with the local tech community is key,” Christenson echoed. “I regularly attend Meetups that attract people from a wide range of ages and abilities. I’m always learning and teaching others what I know.”
Essentially, Christenson has elevated himself from being a sole contributor to being an expert and mentor who brings energy to his work. His efforts impressed IBM’s hiring managers. His involvement in the community has also produced offers for side consulting gigs and other opportunities to diversify his skills and stay ahead of the game.
“I actually prefer to hire engineers with more miles on them,” Grey admitted, “but they have to be skilled in modern front-end engineering and delivery systems such as Agile.” If you want to remain relevant and vibrant as your career progresses, you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone, he added.