Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Age and Career Decisions: Are the Older, Wiser?

The influence of age on decision making is once again in the limelight. While monitoring the Democratic nomination bloodbath in Pennsylvania, I came across an interesting NYT article on age as a predictor in voting habits. The article basically says older people go for Hillary because they identify with her level of experience, the time in which she grew up (or became "socialized"), and according to one voter, "People who are more mature analyze things. They’re wiser." And vice versa with Barack Obama - he's young (46), offers more inspiration to younger people and has less baggage than Hillary because he has a shorter track record among other reasons. Generational politics appears to be more important in this election than the last.

How does age influence career decision-making? Is it true that older people, which I define as anyone making a career transition - whether they are 25 or 65, are "wiser" in career decisions than high-school or college students? According to a survey of studies on work and vocational psychology in the 2007 Annual Review of Psychology, they are.

I singled out a few interesting findings:
  • Skills in making decisions increase with age.
  • Making a decision is complex, and people who have difficulty making decisions often have other problems, usually related to anxiety.
  • Career maturity helps increase confidence in one's ability to make a career decision.
This is good news for most of us. We need every advantage we can get to adapt to the current working world truths:
  • Your work life will be a series of career transitions. It will not be predictable and the only constant will be change.
  • Your work life will be interconnected your personal life. This doesn't mean your coworkers will necessarily be your personal friends, but how you feel about work and the demands it places on you will impact your personal life and relationships.
  • Not everyone can choose to be an astronaut. As education costs spiral upward, the differentiation between social classes increases, and the digital divide expands, opportunities to advance into more educated jobs decrease. This is not a political statement; ask any workforce or unemployment counselor and this is their clients' reality.
Successful adaptation skills, whether you are just starting out or transitioning your career/job, are now critical to lifelong career success. And as I've gotten older, I have no choice but to learn how to adapt to life's positives and negatives - whether it is achievement, illness, losing family members, or having a baby. Practice makes perfect, right?

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