I’m 39 Years Old, Can I Still Get a Job in Accounting?


I received this question on my Webinar last week (sign up for my next webinar here).


You CAN still get a job in accounting, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come without its challenges. Technically employers and recruiters aren’t allowed to ask your name, but based on your overall story, physical features, dress, and online research, they can always find out your age in my opinion.

Accounting is a phenomenal second or delayed career. I’ve seen people of all ages, 30, 35, 40, even 55 get into accounting.

That being said, here are some of your biggest challenges:

You have to be willing to work for people much younger than you

Take me as an  example. I started at PwC when I was 21. I got promoted when I was 23. I was already managing a few people, you could have been one of them. Can you handle be managed by a 23 year old brat (I was wonderful obviously but we’re talking hypothetically here!)?

As a 39 or 50 year old, this is a serious thing to think about. I don’t think it should be an issue, you should he ready to take the bull by the horns and bust through ANYTHING that comes your way, but can you handle it?

Don’t expect special treatment because of family commitments

Many times older entrants into the workforce have a family, a couple of children, a spouse. Do you need to be home by 5:30pm everyday? You need to consider what type of accounting position you will take if that’s the case.

Typically tax and public accounting positions are extremely busy January-April and private company accountants are busy during month ends. Some companies will give you special treatment based on your personal situation but in my opinion, it’s preferable to be treated like everyone else and succeed. Then after a few short years, people will believe in your and you will have a ton of flexibility that you earned on merit, not your age or personal schedule.

Are you ready to learn? I mean A LOT of learning!

With age comes experience, and maturity. But if you are just starting out in this profession to be blunt: you don’t know squat!

And you probably won’t feel comfortable with what you are doing for at least 6 months, maybe as much as 18! You may have already had an entire other career where you were respected, maybe even hire paid, and an expert in your field. Are you ready to be at the bottom of the totem pole, completely, lost, and at times feel like a burden on your superiors because of your incompetence? It happens, I’ve been there.

While you no doubt have challenges ahead here are some of your greatest advantages:

You have maturity (I hope) 

One of the biggest things I see missing from early entrants into the industry is maturity. So many young people can’t hold a conversation for more than a few minutes, are terrible at writing clean and concise emails or work papers, and don’t have much respect for the chain of command.

Hopefully you do. Many of the non-traditional entrants into the profession present extremely well. You are mature, you have life experience, you understand respect and patience. That goes a long way in a young culture that has lost a lot of that.

You are more likely to be married and that is a HUGE asset

I’m lucky in that I was married young. My wife has been the single most important aspect of my success. She helps me understand an analyze the relationships at work, seeing when I’m being stubborn or someone is jerking me around. When to take risks vs. keep my head down. I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today without her guidance, support, and sometimes packed lunches!

Building client relationships can be your sweet spot

Many young people 21-26 have a tough time gaining the respect of clients simply because of their age. I mean, who wants a 22 year old coming into their office questioning them about a bank reconciliation from 9 months ago, not me. But for some reason, when it’s a peer in age, clients seem to be much more calm and respectful.

Building client relationships is the backbone of any accounting firm and if you can learn to generate new client relationships, you will be invaluable to the firm.

You are probably certain this is IT!

If this is your second career, you’ve been around the block and you choose accounting. A lot of young people are ungrateful and feel like they just sort of fell into accounting. Knowing your committed and investing early in your career knowing this will be a 20-30 year journey is huge when others ungrateful and not sure they really want to be an accountant forever.

If you have any questions about your specific situation, email me at andrew@thebeancounter.com.

  • Taxman

    spot on advice

    • http://www.thebeancounter.com TheBeanCountercom

      Glad to know I’m on point, thanks for the comment!

  • Jazzy2bsure

    Thanks for this advice. I turned 50 in December, and I’ll graduate with my degree in May. Now I have better arguments for overcoming objections to my age.

    • http://www.thebeancounter.com TheBeanCountercom

      Glad I could help Jazzy! Would love to hear your full story if you want to email me at andrew@thebeancountercom!

  • jenten10

    I am 37 and have accepted internships at a Big 4 firm and a Mid Tier. I also got internship offers from a couple other firms, so it is never too late. I’m pretty young at heart and found that my personality helped me through the recruiting process. I also have a 4.0 gpa and several years of work experience in the financial services industry. I did get asked the question about how I would feel working for someone younger than me and basically said that could happen anywhere. My current boss is younger than me! I got asked that in my first two interviews and then I started to ask the question myself, when asked for questions – What challenges do you see for a career changer such as myself?? I was surprised to find that they valued older candidates for the very reasons listed in this article. Its never too late. Don’t be afraid to network and leverage your life/work experience and get
    involved in any accounting clubs, BAP or other programs available at your
    university no matter how old you are.