The Upside of Old

By Todd Dewett, Andersen Alumnus, author and speaker

I’m past fifty years of age now, and I admit that professional life is different than it once was. There are real challenges in today’s workplace for older workers. Ageism exists. Technology changes. Needed skill sets shift. Lingo feels indecipherable. Your back hurts!

However, there are many things to be excited about as an older professional. Getting older isn’t all bad!

You should be excited that you have a lot of task knowledge and functional experience compared to most. You should be happy to possess valuable institutional knowledge about your organization and your profession. You should find it fulfilling to be a mentor and help other professionals grow. You should be enjoying a wider perspective than you had when you were younger. It’s this perspective that helps you feel unbothered by many little things that once drove you crazy.

These are wonderful gifts. However, I think we all know a few older professionals who don’t always see and enjoy these gifts. It’s no joke – you do have to choose to be a glass half full person. That gets easier when you remember these tips for the older professional:

First, embrace humility. That does not mean you can’t be confident and proactive and successful. It means that you must check your ego a bit and realize that just because you’re older doesn’t mean you’re better or smarter. Don’t get angry when the new young person has a bigger salary than you feel is reasonable. Humble yourself and get busy proving yourself, just as you always have.

Next, check your assumptions. When you see younger professionals who speak differently, dress differently, and who espouse things with which you don’t agree, you simply cannot assume they are wrong, and you are right. People are different in a million ways! If you can’t accept that fact, you cannot unlock excellence in the back portion of your career. You don’t have to get a big tattoo, but you sure need to be okay with others who do.

Let me go further and suggest that you need a new mentor. Probably one that is at least twenty years younger. Nothing educates you faster than time spent with a capable younger professional. You both see life through different eyes, and you need to understand what they see. Their motivation, values, goals, etc. Again, don’t think in terms of right and wrong. Think about understanding.

Finally, let me encourage you once and for all to let go of the information hoarding tendency that dominated your generation and earlier generations. If you know something, share it. If you have a skill, teach it. If you know someone, connect them or otherwise find a way to be helpful. Transparency and a belief in building others define today’s successful professionals.

I say with great respect – maybe you can’t fix your back, but you can certainly change your perspective and make the latter portion of your career as fun and productive as any other stage in your career. It’s a choice. It’s not about denying the existence of ageism. It about choosing to overcome it.

Dr. Todd Dewett is one of the world’s most watched leadership personalities: a thought leader, an authenticity expert, best-selling author, top global instructor at LinkedIn Learning, a TEDx speaker, and an Inc. Magazine Top 100 leadership speaker. He has been quoted in the New York Times, TIME, Businessweek, Forbes, and many other outlets. After beginning his career with Andersen Consulting and Ernst & Young he completed his PhD in Organizational Behavior at Texas A&M University and enjoyed a career as an award-winning professor. Todd has delivered over 1,000 speeches to audiences at Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Pepsi, Boeing, General Electric, IBM, Kraft Heinz, Caterpillar, and hundreds more. His educational library at LinkedIn Learning has been enjoyed by over 30,000,000 professionals in more than one hundred countries in eight languages. Visit his home online at or connect with Todd on LinkedIn. He can be reached at