“Am I Too Old For UX?”

There’s a humbling reality around how young people can get into technology careers these days. Some kids get hired by Google at 12. If you’re Tom Williams, you can get hired by Apple at 14.

Hearing news like this often discourages those switching into the technology field, especially if you consider yourself “old” in this industry.

It isn’t old age that’s the problem, it’s having an old mindset.

Let me explain to you why, starting with this hilarious Quora post:



Sometimes seeing the opposite end of the spectrum helps elucidate the situation. Above we have a 14 year old who’s worried if starting at in your teens is “too late” for programming.
The response is hilarious and fitting. Age really isn’t  that’s the problem. It really boils down to two things: mental barriers and experience.

Mental Barriers

One of my favorite psychological concepts from Ramit Sethi is called “invisible scripts.” Basically, we all have some type of deep-seated belief or mental model about something.
Sometimes, invisible scripts help:
“If I work hard, I’ll succeed.”
And sometimes they hurt:
“I’m too old for UX.”
Mental barriers are invisible scripts that hurt, because they prevent us from achieving what we want. Aspiring designers are especially prone to certain self-limiting beliefs. Do any of these sound familiar?
  • I can’t be a designer without going to design or art school
  • With only this much experience, I can’t apply for a job
  • The tech industry prefers young people. I’m past my prime for this industry
The good news is that most of these limiting beliefs are just that – beliefs. And beliefs can be changed. Without trying to sound too New-Agey, having the right mindset can really make all the difference.
Let’s take two 50 year olds who want to transition to UX. Everything else being equal (skills, experience) one thinks he’s too old for a new UX job, and the other believes that she can successfully break in. Who do you think is more likely to succeed?
Old age is not what hinders…it’s old thinking.

It’s Not About Age. It’s About Experience.

Let’s talk about Jenn, a graphic design professional who made the transition to UX.

Despite working professionally in graphic design for several years, Jenn didn’t let mental barriers about age stop her from pursuing a new career in UX.

She knew that when transitioning into a new career, gaining experience was key. She achieved that by:

  • Taking on a volunteer project through Taproot
  • Doing personal projects and class projects
  • Seizing opportunities at her current job to make UX deliverables

I looked at my skills and background and compared them to what the UX job postings were asking for. Turns out I had a lot of relevant skills, I just needed to gain experience in UX-related projects.

At the end of the day, don’t focus on what can’t be changed, like age. What can be changed is mindset and experience. Those things are in your control. Focusing on strengths and gaining experience will take anyone closer to where they want to be.

And, a random bit about Harrison Ford…

Did you know that Harrison Ford was a carpenter until he got discovered in his 30s? The infographic below proves that it’s never too late to start…if it’s something you really care about.


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6 responses to ““Am I Too Old For UX?””

  1. Very inspiring words Oz. Thank you for sharing the growth-mindset mentality.

  2. stephanielyngross Avatar

    Thanks for the info graphic, nice to see!

  3. Josephine Giaimo Avatar
    Josephine Giaimo

    I don’t believe in the growth-mindset mentality. Some people have raw ability and talent, and some don’t. I do believe in continuous learning. That said, I am sad to report that other people think some of us are “too old” for whatever. I have been accused of fraud for claiming my seat at the UX table when I started working in the field. What do you suggest we do about that? Ageism in the UX field is real, friends.

  4. Allan Colding Avatar
    Allan Colding

    I don’t think there is anything that can be done about it!

  5. Gregory Ledger Avatar
    Gregory Ledger

    Ah, not too old for UX but too old to network for UX. I’ve gone to several conferences and meetups, and all I get is diffident smiles.

  6. These comments help & make excellent points. I am a 42 yr old female (previous graphic designer), now at the crossroads of moving forward in UX/UI or something else. It has been a difficult decision, I’ve done a lot of research, and I’m very discouraged by the threat of ageism in the field. I had a successful job as a designer for 12 years, and then it ended. And I was replaced with new young talent, I haven’t been able to land a design job since. For me, it feels like a mid-life crisis. I have been going back to my sketchbook and drawing, on the side, just to make myself happy. Sometimes I think about making a book out of all the illustrations. I look around, and never see old graphic designers or UX designers. And I think, I don’t want to be the only 50 yr old working with a bunch of 20 somethings! I try to look at the jobs where I see older people, who keep their jobs into old age, and I follow these clues.

    I think you can write code into old age.. I took some tech courses. That is actually opening my mind up to new possibilities I never thought of. I’m also looking into admin jobs and exec assistants. I wouldn’t mind working on newsletters.. without all the creative burnout. Some of these exec assistants get treated pretty well once you work your way up! I think about these practical jobs because of the endless opportunities I could pursue on the side, with a decent day job in place. Like finally go back to my guitar lessons.

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