If you’re in your 40s, you could be in a wide variety of places in your career. Generally, you’ve got a lot of experience behind you, but there’s still a long way to go before you can pack it in. It’s a perfect time to figure out what’s next.
We talked to career coaches to get their takes on some of the best New Year’s career resolutions for people in their 40s. Check out what they have to say to make 2016 the best year of your career.
Figure out where you want to go
“Take stock of where you are in your career and where you want to get to by the end of 2016,” says Laurie Battaglia, CEO of Living the Dream Coaches in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Are you where you want to be? Is the work you’re doing energizing or demotivating? Are you beginning to feel like it’s time for a drastic change or a more subtle one?’”
Try something new
Life coach Jennifer Coleman recommends that people in their 40s seek a new direction in their fields to stay creative and fresh. “A resolution for the year includes making a commitment to invest time and energy wisely on what nourishes the individual most at work,” she says. Resolve to volunteer for or propose new projects and ideas to keep work interesting and make a case for your continued relevance.
Get a mentor
It’s not too late to have a mentor in your 40s, Battaglia says. At this age, a mentor can help you take that next leap in your career, like moving into a leadership position. Find someone who is a step or two ahead of you within your company’s hierarchy, and meet this person for lunch or coffee to learn more about his or her career path. Take their advice, but mostly, forge a relationship. Even if this person doesn’t do much for your career, keep in mind that it’s also never too late to network.
Become a mentor
In your 40s, you’re in a unique position to become a mentor yourself. You’ve accumulated a lot of knowledge during your career, and you now have an opportunity to give some of that insight back to your less-experienced co-workers.
“Resolve to be a mentor in the coming year,” recommends John Sader, principal consultant at Mind Dynamics Consulting in Australia. “The more willing you are to share insight and help others in the achievement of a common goal, the greater the sense of fulfillment within.”
Keep up with tech
Laura Browne, a Glendale, Arizona-based author and business coach, recommends that people in their 40s make a sustained effort to stay on top of new technology. Whether it’s becoming fluent in social media or learning about software developments in your industry, building your tech skills will help keep your other skills relevant as your career progresses. You don’t want to be that one person in a room full of 23-year-olds who doesn’t know what Pinterest is.
Strengthen your brand
In continuing to educate yourself on social media, you’re at some point going to come across the concept of personal branding. Building your network and online presence is a good way to start building a personal brand, says career consultant Mark Anthony Dyson. Join online industry groups to increase your network and follow trends, and share insightful articles on social media. Even if it feels like strange and unfamiliar territory, remember that it’s called social networking for a reason, and putting yourself out there online can be just as fruitful as hitting the next industry event. Just try not to put your foot in your mouth.
Focus on your own fulfillment
You’re likely much busier in your 40s than you were in your 30s, so in the coming year work on your focusing skills. “Constant distraction erodes our ability to focus, and you may find that your attention span is a lot shorter than it used to be,” says Maura Thomas, author of Personal Productivity Secrets. “You may be realizing that being always on and hyper-connected isn’t the silver bullet you once thought it was, and you may be recognizing the benefits of presence, downtime and mindfulness.” Meditation and enforced no-screen time can help.
Stay prepared for new opportunities
You never know when you might find yourself looking for a new job—either proactively or reactively, says Monique A. Honaman, CEO of ISHR Group in Suwanee, Georgia. People in their 40s may think they’re too important to lay off, but no one is immune—and having to start over in your 40s can be hard. Be ready for anything; identify other employers that could benefit from your skills in the event of a surprise layoff.
Update your resume
When was the last time you updated your resume? Why not now? It’s likely you’ve achieved a few career bullet points in the last year. Take the time to add the prior year’s accomplishments, goals reached, awards and highlights, Honaman says. “It’s much easier to have all of this information ready to go when you need it as opposed to having to create a resume from scratch and remember what you have accomplished for the past 10 years.” And while you’re at it, you might as well give the thing a cosmetic update—short of any unexpected trends in word processing, no one is going to be using Comic Sans in 2016.
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Be ready for change
If you do decide to make a career change, remember that doing so can take time. Starting in your 40s helps to put your remaining years on the right path, says Angela Copeland of Memphis, Tennessee-based Copeland Coaching. Evaluate whether or not you enjoy your work. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, this is the right time to make a change. It might seem scary, but don’t worry—it’s not too late.