Older workers are often advised to make sure their job skills are up-to-date so they can keep up with younger colleagues; what gets less attention is how learning boosts your mood as well as your promotion prospects. "It's vital to continue to master skills and find new challenges to keep up your spirits about work," says Beverly Jones, a career coach at Clearways Consulting in Washington, D.C., who advises clients in their 50s and 60s. "When you're learning, you're in a different mind-set. Everything becomes heightened. It's a state of growth. It's energizing."
Another bonus is that by challenging yourself to add skills and stretch yourself, you are more likely to take advantage of opportunities and you won't be overly frightened to shift in a new direction in your job, Jones adds. "Look at the qualities that make a great leader: They're always adding to their knowledge, practicing new skills and sharing this information with others."
A yen to try new things is what landed Don Harnois on a New England mountain, teaching skiing. Harnois, now 70, spent the bulk of his career in the electrical industry, in jobs ranging from design engineering to marketing. He'd been a skier since he was 6, but until he retired at 62, the Peabody, Mass., resident hit the slopes only about once a year.
That changed after Harnois sharpened his abilities and earned his certification through the Professional Ski Instructors of America. "What I do now is more focused on what I want to do for me, while my work before had to do with what I wanted to do in order to be a good provider for my family," he says. "I do this job because I love the sport, mix well with people, know how to teach and because being paid to do what you love to do is almost beyond belief."
His latest position, at Nashoba Valley Ski Area, gets Harnois outdoors and allows him to interact with people from all over the globe. The biggest incentive, however, is passing on his skills. "It's the thrill of watching people progress," he says. "My job may not keep me young, but it sure does keep me feeling young."