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How to Land Your Ideal Job in Your 40s

​Last fall, the CEO of a Japanese beverage giant stated that employees should retire from their companies at the age of 45. This bold statement sparked a furious response from the Japanese working population.

His intention was not to introduce a lay-off scheme. However, it’s true that industries will soon begin grappling with the reduction of rising wages driven by the Japanese government policy which requires employers to retain their workers until age 70. 

Predictions are that, in the near future, companies will introduce more early retirement packages or lower the retirement age for managerial positions to cover up the cost of maintaining senior employees. This will prompt job mobility among Japanese workers and competition for great jobs is expected to become more fierce.  

With the upcoming job change challenges, what will it take to achieve your ideal career in your 40s?

The best strategy can be to develop your personal skills that are transferable to other jobs or industries. Now, we give you the essential guide to land your ideal job in your 40s, as well as the current trends in the middle-aged job change market. 

​​Those over 40 will struggle with job change

In the Japanese market, the number of open jobs for workers above 40, including managers and specialists, drops sharply compared to that of younger generations. A top talent in their 40s with an abundance of work experience will always be in-demand, but relatively speaking, you are less likely to pass the screening compared to younger workers because of your age. 

In the event of interview rejections, you may attribute the reason to your age and worry that your resume wasn’t properly screened. 

However, most organizations in Japan function with fewer positions in senior management. If you are over the age of 40 and are hired as a new staff member, chances are your manager will be younger than yourself. A communication gap between older employees and younger managers can become a workplace issue, which may increase the probability of a new hire’s prompt resignation. As people age, they will likely find it hard to adjust to a new work environment, clinging to their past experience and success.

That’s one of the reasons why companies tend to hire younger employees and thus offer fewer open jobs to older candidates.  ​

Develop transferable skills to add more value to your career

In light of such a reality, how can people over 40 achieve their dream careers? 

The best plan can be to enhance your market value by developing transferable skills.

Here are the personal skills most transferable to your new job that you can develop and add to your resume:

1. English Skills

English skills can have a tremendous impact on enhancing your personal profile. Most global companies that Apex works with require oral and written English communication skills.

Some positions expect you to feel comfortable with reading, email communication, and discussing technical topics. Others require a higher level of proficiency that require you to communicate effectively with your global counterparts. In any case, business English skills are a requirement to be qualified for managerial roles. You should prepare accordingly because you will be evaluated on this during job interviews conducted in English.

This is not just the case for positions in foreign companies. More and more Japanese companies recognize English as an important asset for professionals. The ability to conduct business with counterparts overseas is a competitive advantage that should not be overlooked.

Additionally, having English skills can lead to new unexpected job opportunities. Now, and in the future, English is one of the most powerful skills you can utilize to advance your career.

2. People management skills

Experience in managing people is also frequently asked about in the job change process. The number of people you lead depends on the position and company, but overall,

  • Experience in leading a project

  • Experience in managing a team or working as a team leader

  • Experience in managing a cross-functional team or project

These are the experiences companies eagerly look for in their candidates. However, it’s effective only if you have a success story to talk about. Not just how many subordinates you managed, but what kind of difficulties or issues you faced, how you managed them to overcome these difficulties or issues, and what results you achieved.

It’s become increasingly difficult to manage teams and projects due to the pandemic, and as a result, remote work has become more standard. Hiring managers understand the challenges of managing people remotely. You can use that to your advantage by describing the difficulties of leading your virtual team and how you overcame them during the interview process.

3. Cross-functional team management skills

This is a powerful skill you can develop as a manager. A cross-functional team refers to a group of people with diverse functional expertise from across departments or positions in order to implement a certain project or solve a management problem. Depending on the project, it is sometimes made up of internal and external stakeholders. In larger projects, you may be invited as a global team member to work with regional or global representatives.

You may find that leading this type of team comes with complexities seldom found in a traditional team-management setting. Thus, as a team leader, you need to exhibit strong leadership skills to lead a diversified team with a mix of talent and expertise across functions. Individuals at higher levels of management are more prone to be asked for experiences in cross functional team management, so if you have experience, don’t forget to include it on your profile to demonstrate your competency. 

4. Professional skills

It is projected that more and more Japanese companies will transition their hiring standard into job-based employment by hiring someone with specific job experience who can bring a desired outcome. Once again, ask yourself if you're well qualified as a professional in your field. 

In some cases, jobs you do as a regular practice can be considered as expertise in certain organizations. You may believe it works only in your company and overlook the skills you possess. However, there are some companies that are looking for the skills that you take for granted. Identify your strengths by listing the skills you possess.  ​

Those over 40 need flexibility aside from building transferable skills

You have English proficiency, management skills, and special knowledge in your field, but still find yourself struggling with job hunting. Why?

Candidates over 40 have typically mentioned the following reasons:

  • I don’t want to get a job outside of my area of expertise

  • It’s too late for me to try something new

  • I’m only interested in jobs that allow me to use my previous work experience

  • I have no interest in the interaction with people in different industries other than my own profession

  • To get a stable job is my only goal

In your 20s and 30s, it is quite all right to move up in your career by utilizing your past experiences. In your 40s, you need self-branding to succeed, that is, to present your values that can contribute to your new company based on your experiences, expertise, and competencies. Do not adhere to the requirements you built. Be flexible so that you can develop your ideal career.​

Self-branding is the key to success

What should you do if you think you don’t have any particular skills worth presenting on your resume?


One of the objectives of self-branding is to reveal your hidden values as a talent and put them into words. So think about your story - who you are, what you do, and your essential duties. Find your unique qualities and then clearly explain the value you can deliver.

In the course of building a career narrative, you come to understand both your strengths and weaknesses. This helps you promote yourself in a realistic, yet thoughtful manner. With that, demonstrate your abilities to do the role, convey your passion, and explain to the hiring manager why they should be interested in you, as opposed to younger candidates.

As the CEO of Suntory Holdings said, 40 can be a tipping point for the rebuilding of your career. As the time when companies take care of your career until you reach the mandatory retirement age fades away, each individual should take responsibility for their career development. Receiving support from a professional recruitment firm like Apex can help you with that process. Best of all, starting this process will get you one step closer to landing your ideal job in your 40s.

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