There are plenty of ways our culture tells us we are “too old” for certain jobs, activities, or pursuits. Game shows ask participants at what age women should stop wearing revealing clothing. Rising industry stars are praised on lists of successful people “under 30” or “under 40.” Magazine covers sport young models—or older models who can afford enough Botox to look artificially young.
You can come away from all of this believing you are somehow “too old” for professional success, a career change, or particular hobbies—but you’re not. It’s time to combat that thinking once and for all.
You’re not “too old” to be relevant at work
It’s easy to start feeling too old in the workplace. Every year, new graduates emerge into the working world, ready to enter your company with their fresh ideas and better grasp of the latest technology or social media platform. Just because a younger coworker has ideas that are different from yours doesn’t mean your ideas are necessarily bad or outdated. A company with a diverse pool of workers who have unique perspectives and life experiences is better poised for success if everyone is willing to listen to each other and compromise on solutions. Your experience-driven understanding of how things work in your field is just as important as a younger person’s ideas about how your jobs could be modernized—and vice versa.
“We feel too old in a professional context because we feel too old as consumers. Then we go to work, take those messages we see on TV, and try to convince people that anyone over 35 is still relevant,” explained Laurie Ruettimann, an HR consultant and the author of Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career.
She suggested looking for “role models who are kicking butt and taking names,” then making them your mentor. Look for older people in your community and at work who are doing what you want to be doing or even look for inspiration online by reading the stories of older people who are killing the game.
“Don’t pretend you’re young,” Ruettimann cautioned. “There’s nothing worse than an older person who tries too hard. Comparison and competition will steal your joy.”
It’s never too late to advance
You’re not stuck in your current job or any phase of your life just because you’ve hit a certain age. People change career paths all the time.
“The number one piece of advice would be to believe in yourself and what you have always been naturally good at,” said Nita Marie, a mother who pivoted away from her original career after 20 years to become a successful OnlyFans model. “Really ask yourself: If you were to be anything you wanted to be and it didn’t matter how much money you made, it didn’t matter what anybody else thought about it, it didn’t matter if you thought it was a good, respectable job or not, but it was something you just enjoy doing, what would it be? Just believe that answer, whatever that is.”
If moving into adult entertainment in your 40s isn’t exactly what you’re after, that’s fine. Marie’s story just goes to show you can make drastic career changes at any time in your life. Ruettimann added that you can seek help and inspiration in a variety of places, too, by going back to school and reaching out to your alumni department.
“Go back and say, ‘I’m an alumnus and I need some introductions. Who do you know in the company or industry where I want to work?,’” she said. You’re bound to find all kinds of examples of people who’ve made career moves at a variety of ages. You’re nowhere near too old.
You’re also not too old to have fun
If you love k-pop, reality television, or TikTok, good for you. There’s no age limit on these things.
“People often create self-limiting narratives about when it’s too late for something based on their overly rigid and perfectionistic ideas about how things should be,” said Brooke Sprowl, clinical director and founder of My LA Therapy. She suggested reminding yourself that the only time that really counts is the time that is ahead of you.
“We have to consider how we want to live the remainder of our lives, regardless of our age,” she added. “And in reality, none of us knows how much time we have left, so the only thing we can do is make our lives what we want them to be now.”
Get those BTS tickets. Post that TikTok dance. Get on a dating app. You’ll never be as young as you are in this moment, but it doesn’t matter anyway.