Looking for a design job and over 40

I have just reentered the job market. I want to find out if age is a factor in finding a corporate design job.

My skill level is high and I have a masters degree and people seem to be excited about my work. But I have been looking for a solid month with only one request for interview.

I want to enter into the area of seating and transportation interiors. I am an expert in AutoCAD and several raster programs.

I have received valuable information from the bright minds on this forum before so I am confident that you can help.



…it may take you a year or more to land a corporate gig to your experience and skill level, so do not get discouraged…your best bet will be through your network of professional contacts…start working that list and ask for a couple of names of others from each one…the 3rd or 4th degree of separation will likely be where the jobs are…another good tactic is to target specific companies…get a contact on the inside (hint; a former employee can get you on the right track) and work them…if you can land a freelance job or two in the mean time, it will show that you still got it even though you have been ‘out of the market’ for a time.


Couple of issues here.

  1. Why limit yourself to transportation and interiors? You probably just cut yourself off from, what, 90% of potential design employers (?) Btw, there is no shortage of talented interior designers anywhere, and the pay is just the pits. Might as well do the night shift at your local burger joint.

  2. AutoCAD is so old school, though still used intensively in interior design/architecture firms - mostly due to inertia and cost reasons. Take some courses in SolidWorks, Alias or ProEngineer to boost your professional appeal.

  3. Being 40+, highly experienced and the owner of a Master’s will intimidate enough employers, especially if the individual doing the hiring is lacking in any of your attributes and if he/she is much younger than you. Nowadays, your credentials spell out design management material to most firms, or definitely anything above even a senior nuts-and-bolts design position.

  4. If you’re aiming strictly for creative design work chances are excellent you will be taking orders from someone a good decade younger than you in many design departments. Are you comfortable with that?

  5. Ageism is definitely alive and well in the design field when there are hordes of talented, overexcited and hungry 20-somethings roaming around for any crumbs. Worse yet for you, too many companies see design as necessarily the product of very young minds, tuned in full time to pop culture trends, fashions, lifestyle and such. It helps they will happily accept relatively low pay. Supply and demand again.

  6. A business degree is probably your best bet at the moment if working for someone else is your only option. Teaching may be another alternative worth considering.

  7. Be prepared to explain your absence from the field, or regular employment, and I mean really portray that time as a valuable learning experience. In my case, I had to temporarily take a job some years back after having started my business in order to support my family while the business grew. In practically all interviews, I remember, employers were very impressed with entrepreneurial skills demonstrating initiative and so on. Unfortunately for them, I was less impressed with how they did business, treated people or understood design so I left to resume baking my own pie. Bottom line here - use what you have done while away from design in your favor, not as an excuse for anything. No one likes to hear complainers for too long.

Being persistent is an admirable trait but there’s a fine line between persistence and foolishness. Your chances at a “typical” ID job in today’s market at 40 are not nil, but close. Selling yourself low will only arise suspicion, be a terrible blow to your ego and pocketbook, or you may end up the proverbial bargain employee somewhere, not an enviable position at all.

My advice is you aim straight for anything far above the regular design jobs we all had out of school and focus your resume and efforts on team leadership, complex project management and, in general, something closer to the business end of product development rather than its creation. Your will just do better justice to your previous experience and companies will now see you as a logical potential fit into their operations, rather than as a has-been trying to win back membership in the club. Look at the big picture and how you can influence and better implement the design process itself, an employment area sorely lacking in qualified individuals across all industries.

At 40+, you are selling experience over any skills, no matter your educational background. Turn what you have into a “must have” for employers instead of a liability. The way you now seem to be going about it, you are right to be worried.

Best of luck and keep us posted.

Thanks for your comments.
I was away from the design field teaching after my mfa.
I do not exclusivly use autocad. I think that you are not giving the program
enough credit. I used it as one would use a pencil, then export into a 3d program like maya.

You made a great comment about me limiting my scope. My training is architecture based and I saw transportation interiors as a way to break out of right angles. I envisioned sketching sweeping lines yet still maintaining structural integrity.

It lets the air out of my sails to think it may take a year to find a job. I found this trend of treating the over 40 set like they have “coodies”, while looking on engineering and IT sites. All technical fields are going through this.

Also you need to focus on which aspect on the design process you want to be in. Alot of CAD jockying have moved out of design agencys and into contract manufacturing. Even on a corporate level. So you may find some great work there directly with manufacturers.

It sounds to be like you are a great CAD jocky, so as mentioned before you may need to take come courses in the latest CAD software used in the industry you want to be in. It should not be too difficult as the principles of CAD or working in CAD are generally the same.

The main issue of over 40 set is speed. Most of the young fellows work twice to 3 times as fast. But the issue here is abot expereience that many of the young lack. So you may want to look at managing these individuals.

In the end be open, another main issue hiring older designers is that they come with a lot of bad habits, or just ways of working that are different or not as efficient as the processes taken today.

Good Luck.


I pinged you off-line. Check your ‘messages.’



I doubt very seriously that speed is an issue with the over 40 set. Now I admit that I may not be able to beat a 25 year old in a 100 yard dash but my experience allows me to streamline processes.

This is the thing that I find lacking in some of my students: the patience to adhere to design processes. The first solution is the always the only solution.

g :neutral_face:

Geri, I resent that PM.

Sorry I didn’t get to it sooner, I was on the road most of the day.

Ping me back so I know you got it alright.

later, Lmo

Over 40:

I know someone that is over 40 too. The problem here is that they have little to no design software skills, to many responsibilities and have been away from the industry for too long. In automotive industry being over 40 is like the kiss of death. Especially if you haven’t made manager by then.

It always amazes me how people over 40 that have been away from design somehow want to re-emerge and re-appear in the design bizz after years of absence. I mean one year away can be a detriment as the industry is constantly changing.

Not to sound mean but why would someone 40 even wonder if their age might be a problem. The obvious answer is YES.

In auto design age is really important. I’ve heard VIP’s saying age doesn’t matter openly but ask them the same question in private and they will tell you age is a big deal. Basically if you are 40 and over get ready for the following questions:

Where have you been all this time?
Why would you take a junior level job at your age?
What software do you know?
Can you travel with all those family responsibilities?
How do you feel about contract?
Can you take direction from someone 22?
Are you a team player?
Where do you see your career going?

These are just some of the questions that my friends have been faced with while interviewing. By the way my friends are between the ages of 32 - 40. This may not happen to the guy that originally posted this blog but I just want to inform him that this is what some big name companies are asking in the bizz.

Honestly, I don’t know what to think about this industry anymore.

I recently had a phone interview with one of the big office furniture companies.
I am still looking and trying to network.

I have had interviews before where managers were excited about my ability.


…it goes beyond abilities…managers are looking for a good fit within the organization…that said, enthusiasm can over-ride some concerns a manager may have about your age or other factors for that matter.

I find that the older designers are usually the leaders …they don’t do the design work …the young designer are troops…the old are usually the generals making ten times what ever I’m making…so go for management positions…leave the designing for the cheap labor (young desinger) …:slight_smile:

show them your bussiness skills…show them that u are good you at managing projects , budjects …ect…

so your chances of getting a job r better then those of a young designer…I take about 2 year or more if you are young…no experience is not welcome…


20- 27 entry level (work horse, troops)
27-32 lead designer (troop leader / mini work horse)
32-45 senior level (gives direction / gets idea credit)
45+ management (drinks coffee / top salary / golf during work hours)

How can you go for management if you haven’t gone through these steps during your life as a designer.

I was once what you are, you will be what I am…

The whole thing about family responsibilities, etc… keeping you from getting a job is bunk. That is only an issue to a college kid whos only responsiblity is to get up and wipe his ass in the morning.

Once someone becomes an adult, and sees what it is to be a adult, they see whats really going on.

drawzl8, don’t take much of this so-called “advice” posted so far, too seriously. The poster who said
“Most of the young fellows work twice to 3 times as fast” must have been watching a 40-something with Down Syndrome, and from that example he has decided that ALL 40-somethings “must be the same”. Funny!!
Let him come to my office and watch me clean his clock on CAD…AND anyone else he knows. I’m 49 and the top CAD guy at my company. I regularly embarrass the 20-something CAD punks in my office. The key to CAD work…and Design work, is Intelligence and Experience. No school in the world can give that. CAD isn’t about “twitch” skills as in a video game- its about being fluid with the commands and thinking 6 moves ahead as you work, like chess.

Hold your head High. With your education and experience, you will do just fine in the job market. Just take your time, and don’t expect it to happen immediately. A job search takes time, regardless of one’s age. You will find plenty of companies who are sick of the jerk attitudes displayed by the punks roaming the landscape, and will welcome your combination of skills AND the poise and grace that can ONLY come with the fine wine of Age.

And always bear in mind the old adage …

Age and Treachery overcomes Youth and Skill.

:smiling_imp: LOL!! Absolutely, Guest!!

or in this case Arrogance and Stupidity

Now, now…

To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid,
you must also be well-mannered
__ Voltaire (1694 - 1778)