Why you should keep on learning, beyond the age of 40

Primary school, secondary school, university, master’s degree… you might think you’ve done enough. But are you sure? Thousands of people around the world who hold university degrees and management positions are the product of a regulated educational model that has prepared them to live comfortably in society and build a good career.

However, we are only in this system for about a third of our life, making it all too easy to think that once we are prepared to operate in the working world it is no longer necessary — or desirable — to continue learning. Life becomes about being productive, the opposite of wasting time studying.

Reasons never to stop learning as a manager

It is becoming increasingly hard to ignore that much of what we learned in our 20s or 30s will be completely out of date by the time we enter out 40s. Moreover, given the rate of knots at which technology, organizations and the economy are progressing, your company’s strategy for this year will probably no longer be suitable for next year.

In such an uncertain context, all professionals –– but especially those who hold managerial positions –– have no choice but to keep their knowledge constantly updated, to enable them to adapt confidently to a world that is changing faster than we have ever seen before.

With this in mind, this article lays down the main reasons to continue training as a manager after the age of 40:

1. Stay “young” for the job market

Professionals over the age of 45 have the most difficulty finding work, as you are likely aware. According to recent studies, only 6% yes, just 6%!  of job offers target this age group. The figures fall the older you get, which means that after 50 you are much more likely to be cast out of the job market.

However, adequate executive education training can provide the key to allowing you to get going with new projects and continue to attract the attention of companies, given the way it keeps you up-to-date with the latest skills and knowledge.

2. Follow the pace of your teams

Stop and think for a moment: how many different technologies has your company implemented in the last five years? Once upon a time introducing ERP involved a change in management taking between 3 and 5 years; today, technologies are entering the Cloud that are just as revolutionary, if not more so, and your team may well absorb them in under six months.

According to the World Economic Forum, in just a decade’s time, more than a billion jobs will have been transformed across the world because of digital development. By 2022, over 130 million new jobs will have been created in response to the 4th Industrial Revolution. Essentially, it is highly likely that in a very short space of time, the work of the people you manage will change radically.

Routine tasks are consequently at greater risk of disappearing, while those tasks that require more creativity or social skills will live on. But, in actual fact, digitization will lead more towards a restructuring of responsibilities and not so much towards a direct elimination of jobs: new ways of working will be consolidated and increasingly specialized jobs will be created.

For this reason, low-skilled employees will require training and, to facilitate that adaptation, managers must in turn be prepared and make themselves as dynamic as the technologies that are revolutionizing the world.

3. Remember: you are a leader, not a specialist

Your teams will specialize more and more every day and, yes, it is therefore important to know the nature of their work in some detail. However, you must not lose sight of the fact that your role is to direct, lead and inspire.

It follows that to continue progressing as a leader, you need to avoid excessive specialization; sometimes, managers struggle for years to perfect a series of technical skills that prevent them from acquiring those they really need to assume functions of greater responsibility.

What’s the answer then? Plan a path ahead that includes your development as a leader with training and that allows you to adapt to the current context, to learn the latest management methodologies and to achieve your professional aspirations. Focus more on increasing your impact and empowering your global vision, and less on the efficiency trap.

4. Become inspired and make it contagious

As they reach 40, many managers start to feel stagnant, driven solely by the inertia of the day to day and unable to look up from their quarterly targets; they perhaps start thinking, too, that what they have not achieved by their age will never happen. The responsibility of a leader is to guide others, but without personal motivation it is practically impossible to achieve it.

It is precisely in these times of stagnation that management training comes into its own, as it forces you to shake yourself free of that lethargy and pause for thought. It encourages you to discover who you are, what your purpose is, what you can do to put it into practice. As a result, you will become inspired again.

What’s more, the science says that a greater sense of being on a personal mission overlaps with a feeling that you are making the most out of life. In order to learn and progress, our brain needs to be emotionally stimulated and needs us to work as a team.

5. Improve your cognitive ability and your relationships

Finally, continuing to train beyond the age of 40 can also have very positive effects on your brain and your social life:

  • When you study and add new routines to your day to day, new connections are formed between your neurons and the elasticity of your brain increases.
  • Developing a purpose in life correlates with lower cortisol levels, better immune function and more efficient sleep.
  • Setting yourself new challenges — no matter how small, —stimulates your cognitive ability.
  • Sharing learnings like in the case method and competing in a healthy way against others facilitates greater social interaction and new challenges for your mind.
  • Learning increases creativity, self-esteem, the ability to organize and solve problems, positive thinking and resilience.

How to convince your boss to do an executive education program.

I want to continue training, but where do I start?

There is no defined path after 40, and this is quite the opposite to the structure we enjoyed during our formative years. It means that many managers feel somewhat lost when planning their careers. IESE’s Executive Education programs offer you training tailored to whichever step along your career path you find yourself on; wherever you find yourself ; and whatever the challenges ahead.

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