Don't Let Age Mothball Your IT Career

Age is only a number. Don't let a high number cancel your career.

John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author

June 13, 2023

4 Min Read
Cartoon picture of a modern remote office that has a desktop Mac computer.
via Pixabay

Experience matters, even in the rapidly changing IT industry. Unfortunately, some hiring managers place youth before experience.

There's a joke that claims an IT hiring manager's ideal job candidate is someone under the age of 30 with at least 20 years of experience in emerging technologies. While that's not possible, it does seem to open the door for established IT professionals who know how to apply past knowledge and insights to address cutting-edge challenges.

A senior IT worker's key asset is their unique perspective and experience. “This often allows them to make more informed decisions than their younger counterparts,” says Paris Evangelou, an IT specialist at managed service provider Syslogic.

Remaining competitive requires staying current with new technologies and methods, Evangelou says. “Carve out learning time every day and prioritize the most relevant topics to avoid taking on too much information,” he advises. “The industry continues to fracture into granular and specialized areas, so take this into account when creating your personal learning plan.”

Laura Schneer, CEO of career advisory firm Career Boost, agrees that it's important to keep pace with evolving technologies and related business practices. “This can be achieved through online courses, certifications, attending industry conferences, and networking with peers,” she says.

Be careful not to get stuck in a rut, advises Caroline Renn Weitzel, head of talent and transformation at IT staffing and project services firm Experis. “In a rapidly moving industry, IT pros who spend significant time at a single company or role can end up with outdated skills,” she warns. “This reality may disproportionally impact professionals who have built long careers in a specific company or technology.”

Tech employers often look for candidates who can hit the ground running, Weitzel says. “This means recent experience in whatever current technology they're using is a priority,” she notes. Keeping pace with in-demand technologies, and highlighting any experience and these areas in your resume and interviews is critical to employment success, Weitzel advises.

Beating Discrimination

Age discrimination is a significant concern in the IT industry, Schneer says. “Some companies may prioritize younger workers who are perceived to be more tech-savvy and adaptable,” she notes. “However, experienced professionals bring valuable skills and knowledge that can be an asset to any organization.”

Weitzel observes that it's difficult to know how prevalent age discrimination is in any industry. “But applicants can be proactive in combatting any false assumptions by showcasing upfront the current skills and recent experience that employers are seeking.”

Age discrimination may be more prevalent in certain IT fields, such as software development or web design, where rapid advancements in technology can make older professionals feel less relevant, Schneer says. “However, roles that require extensive experience and expertise, such as IT management or cybersecurity, may be less susceptible to age bias.”

When encountering suspected age bias, senior IT workers should document any incidents or patterns of behavior that suggest discrimination, Schneer advises. “They should also seek support from human resources or legal counsel and consider exploring opportunities with organizations that value diversity and inclusion.”

When turned down for a job, Weitzel recommends asking for precise feedback. “Ask specifically what skills or qualifications you were lacking and why another candidate was selected,” she suggests. “If you feel that your most recent experience is directly analogous to the job requirements, and that you performed well in your interviews but were unfairly not hired, you have a couple of options,” Weitzel says. “You can contact the company's HR department to discuss your concerns, or connect with an attorney or the appropriate state and federal agencies to file a complaint.”

Career Management

Age issues aside, Weitzel says that senior IT pros should focus on the elements that are most important to their personal career goals. “Be grounded in what you need and value, and align your job search and choices with those things,” she counsels.

Understand, however, that not all paths lead to the same number of opportunities. “For example, if you've worked your way into a senior leadership role, the opportunities for those jobs are fewer by nature and employers are likely to be hesitant in considering you for a more hands-on individual contributor role,” Weitzel explains. “It's important to keep in mind that the opportunities you will be most competitive for will likely be similar and aligned to your most recent experience.”

Staying Positive

Senior IT pros should remember that their years of experience and knowledge are valuable assets, Schneer says. “By staying current with industry trends, networking, and emphasizing their unique strengths, they can continue to thrive in their IT careers.”

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About the Author(s)

John Edwards

Technology Journalist & Author

John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic Design. He has also written columns for The Economist's Business Intelligence Unit and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Communications Direct. John has authored several books on business technology topics. His work began appearing online as early as 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he wrote daily news and feature articles for both the CompuServe and Prodigy online services. His "Behind the Screens" commentaries made him the world's first known professional blogger.

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