TPS ReportsDo you remember that guy from the movie Office Space? You know, the coffee cup wielding, TPS report dude referred to as “Lumbergh.” Man, what a hideous co-worker and boss. I don’t want to be that guy.

I’ve often thought that I’m just a 40 something and maybe I’ve become awfully irrelevant in the face of younger colleagues or that “I’ve jumped the shark.” Is it possible that I’ve turned into Lumbergh? Or worse, I’ve turned into the redheaded swing line stapler guy, Milton? The minute my desk gets moved four times; I’ll take my stapler and vacate the building. Or I might accidently set the building on fire. I did say “accidentally.”

The truth of the matter is that the rut has found me. I do endless amounts of reports, for what reason I don’t know. I sit in meetings, frustrated, because we talk in circles and absolutely nothing gets accomplished. Is this all that’s left for me? I certainly hope not.

I guess the challenge I’m facing is that I need to remain relevant. And you might be thinking the same thing.

For all of us 40 somethings out there, today is a good day to start rebuilding our careers. There are amazing high-profile examples of people from that have “made it big” at a more mature age: Barack Obama, Jeff Bezos, Vera Wang, Madonna, and Oprah. And you don’t have to be a politian, an entrepreneur, a millionaire, or a Hollywood icon to do it.

The fact of the matter is that we have a chance. In fact, professionals like me and you are now dominating the workforce because of the trend toward retirement in later years. It is projected that 46% of older Americans will make a change in their professional lives. And a huge majority wants to rise above the notion that “I’m too old” to have a successful career. You can be a leader in the workforce and compete against the younger graduates like “millennials” that are entering the job market. And importantly, 40 somethings are reinvesting in education to help set themselves apart from the crowd.

  • Nearly 2 million students at the young age of 40 are taking courses to
    earn an advanced degree at the masters, doctoral, or professional
    level
  • Over 7.1 million career-minded individuals in America, just like you, participate in online classes, whether it be open and free education or credit courses
  • One and ten students are now enrolled and engaged in an online course

So what does it take to avoid becoming Lumbergh or Milton? It takes a combination of imagination and empowerment. And through continued education, you can uncover knowledge and develop a new sense of personal enrichment you otherwise didn’t know existed.

Here are some tips to help get you started.

  1. Start Small But Think Big.

Think big first and determine your desired educational outcome. What do you want to accomplish by investing in education? Then think small because you don’t need to devote multiple hours each week toward self-directed study, a class, and a certificate or degree program. Rather, think about the big picture and then take small steps to reach your vision. You might consider devoting just 10 minutes a day to reading a text book, a journal article, or even to checking out a free online course. This will help you can gain the momentum you need to keep going and eventually accomplish more.

  1. Build Successful Habits.

Decide what your educational goal is and then establish a study plan to achieve it. Your plan might vary between studying one night each week for two to three hours or dedicating a few hours of study over the weekend.

  1. Proceed with Caution.

Don’t think you have to study every day or even every week. Don’t give up if life gets in the way and a few days or even a few weeks slip by. Its ok, just pick up where you left off and keep going.

  1. Set Your Own Pace.

Whether you’re pursuing a certification or trying to earn an advanced degree, you determine the end game. You don’t have to do it in six months or even a year. Go at your own pace.

  1. Take Advantage of “Wheels Up.”

If you travel, use time spent on planes and in airports to read and prepare for paper writing, presentations, and examinations.

  1. Invest in Your Professional Development.

Professional development isn’t just about taking classes and earning credentials. Make time to attend conferences and networking events. Connect with others and learn from your peers.

  1. Work the System.

Your current employer and immediate boss probably value continuing education quite a bit. You might find that your employer offers tuition reimbursement programs because the company can see the future value and benefit for work-related projects.

  1. Always Focus on Building Your Resume.

Whether your happy in your current position or your looking for a new job, remember that resume building helps you document your milestones. Education builds your resume and distinguishes you from your peers. In fact, educational pursuits might be the one element that helps you land your next job.

Rest assured you that you’re not alone and you’re never obsolete. In fact, us 40-somethings are still driving the economy, 76 million strong. We’re known as the “do-er generation” and we’re positioned to serve as leaders and mentors to the millennial generation. You’re productive and open to new experiences and opportunities.

Education is our answer. Whether you’re an executive, a project manager, an engineer, or a medical professional—education can help lead you to personal and professional growth.

So stop building your version of a TPS report right now, hit the reset button, drop the stapler and do yourself a favor—invest in you.