As software engineers, we are constantly learning and adapting to new technologies and methodologies.
However, with the rapid pace of change in the industry, it's natural to feel anxious about keeping up and staying relevant.
One fear that is particularly common among software engineers is the fear of ageism, or the idea that older workers are passed over for job opportunities in favor of younger ones.
Some folks have taken to learning to code relatively later in life, 40s/50s and 60s, eagerly embracing the challenge of a new start.
In a previous article, I explored the reality of ageism in the tech industry. Is Ageism a Problem in Tech? An Exploration of the Data I highly recommend checking it out as although the actual picture is mixed, there is certainly a very real perception of ageism among older members of the workforce.
This post will propose ways you can combat this fear and thrive in your careers as an older software engineer.
How to be Successful – and Older – Working in Tech
Stay Current with the Tech
The key to success in the tech industry is to keep up with the ever-changing methods, technologies, and approaches – . Anyone of any age can do that - it just requires a little effort and a lot of passion.
To succeed in the tech industry, it is essential to stay abreast of the latest techniques, technologies, and approaches. Staying on top of your game isn't an age thing; it's about who is willing to keep learning and keep trying.
A successful engineer, coder, or programmer isn't someone who is young – it is someone who continually works on their skills.
Practice and let your skills speak for themselves. Of course, your colleagues might judge you for your age – but when they see what you can do, all of that will dissipate.
It is those who are most passionate about their work who are most able to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the industry and emerge as leaders.
Focus on Your Strengths and Accomplishments
The tech industry needs your wisdom, sharp edge, and life experience.
Your ideas are neither old or invalid . You have more previous work and life experience but that breathes passion into your work.
I can tell you from my own experience when working in younger teams that we're often missing a more mature perspective.
Think about all the skills and experience you've gained throughout your career. This can help you feel more confident in your abilities and give you the motivation to keep moving forward.
I'd really recommend emphasizing those skills when it comes to looking/switching jobs.
Everything you've done up to this point matters and can give you a unique edge in comparison to candidates with experience only in the software industry.
So much so that often people with less experience in software engineering but broad experience in another, not-so-relevant industry, tend to be favored over individuals with a lot of experience solely in the software development market.
This article covers some great examples of key transferable skills in Software engineering. Transferable skills when changing your career to software development, why you already have an edge!
Landing a job
Don't be afraid to apply for jobs, even if you expect to be rejected. Everyone gets rejected dozens of time so whatever you do, don't put it down to your age.
The times I was rejected actually helped me learn and grow more than I could have on my own.
Once you understand what you need to improve, it won't take long to land an entry-level programming job. So chin up and apply with confidence!
Make sure you emphasize your transferable skills in any interactions with hiring managers and interviewers.
A good company, or at last one working for, won't think twice about your age, as long as you can show your eagerness to learn. So don't worry.
Target the Smaller Companies
In addition to applying to all jobs with confidence, it may also increase your chances of finding a job if you target smaller companies, particularly those that value the "human factor."
These companies may be more open to considering your motivation and potential for growth, even if you don't have all the necessary skills at the outset. On the other hand, large companies may have a more rigid checklist for qualifications and may not consider candidates who don't fit their predetermined criteria or young trendy culture. So, consider focusing on smaller companies that have the flexibility to invest in your development and allow you to become a key part of their digital strategy."
Don't Let Your Age Define You
Please don't bite me I think the ageism issue is overstated.
Granted I'm in my mid 30s, although some would consider that to be old!
But even as I have gotten older, finding work is easier, and the pay just keeps on going up. My anecdotal observations of my older colleagues is that they are accepted, appreciated and well liked.
In this article, I spoke about the time I took a chance on employing an older gentleman transitioning into tech for my team. However, I didn't mention that he had spent a number of years working as a waiter in hospitality.
Although he may not have had experience in a field directly related to software development, he excelled in the role bringing along a set of transferable skills such as the ability to multitask, a strong memory, and excellent interpersonal skills like empathy and diplomacy.
These abilities, particularly the ability to improvise, are highly valuable qualities to have in a team and are often lacking in more experienced developers. Don't underrate yourself!
Depending on your age, it is likely that most of your colleagues will be younger than you.
But so what?
“ perspective matters a great deal… perspective doesn’t come at the age of 20 ”. Scott Raynovich, industry analyst