For many people, being on the far side of 40 in the workplace brings the confidence of experience, of having hit a certain professional stride. It can also bring a nagging insecure feeling that younger colleagues—the ones with 5,000 Twitter followers , who designed their first website in middle school—are fast becoming the new office stars.
SENIOR INITIATIVE: To keep up with his younger colleagues' skills, Doug Gould has taken more than 10 new-technology classes. Gould, a 50-year-old advertising veteran, says some of that anxiety arose when co-workers called him by nicknames like "Uncle Doug" and " Coach ."
"I think those were terms of endearment," says Mr. Gould, a creative director for the Boston ad agency Allen & Gerritsen, who started his career back in 1984 using tracing paper and markers to design newspaper ads. "But if you read between the lines, it also meant 'old guy.' I get nervous about what that means."
For many people in the back half of their careers , the meaning is becoming all too clear: To keep from drifting, or being nudged, into an early retirement, it's time to add more high-tech arrows to their professional quiver—to refresh their skills with, say, some social-media or mobile-app expertise. As Mr. Gould has learned, competing with younger colleagues who grew up texting, tweeting, using Facebook and playing videogames requires constant work to stay up-to-date.