10 Professional Skills We All Should Master By 40

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Leah Thomas866
May 29, 2024 at 11:22AM UTC

Becoming the perfect employee is probably a goal of the majority of women (we aim to please, don’t we?). And while we desire to improve our professional selves, we also must set realistic expectations for making these improvements. There are certain skills that take time and effort to master, and we can’t allow ourselves to get frustrated if we haven’t mastered them by the time we’re 25!

We’ve laid out the 10 skills you should have mastered by the time you’re 40. But if you aren't quite there yet, not to worry. None of us will ever be the perfect employee. 

1. Identifying your strongest asset.

What are you truly good at when it comes to your professional career? Are you best at negotiating? Are you great at bringing positive energy to a team? Are you an amazing prioritizer? Are you best at working in a team? Are you an amazing saleswoman? You get the idea. By the age of 40, you should have identified your best asset and continue to build upon it, accessing this strength as much as possible.

2. Identifying your biggest weakness.

Similarly, you should have identified your biggest career weakness. Whether you’re not a great delegator, you get frustrated easily, or you don’t know when to rest, you should have identified your biggest weakness — the one quality that could potentially hold you back. And you should be working to combat it. 

3. Knowing how to learn from your mistakes.

And more importantly: how to actually admit you made a mistake. No one is perfect (even though everyone sure wants to be). One of the most admirable qualities is self honesty, especially in the workplace. When you can admit you made a mistake, you’re more likely to analyze and learn from it, as well as prevent said mistake from occurring in the future. 

4. Being able to take constructive criticism.

It feels like accepting constructive criticism is an almost impossible task at the beginning of one’s career. But by the time you’re 40, you should be able to put your pride aside and accept criticism and advice. You should be able to identify that the people you work with simply want you to do your best. 

5. Delegating.

Delegating is important in order to prevent burnout and lessen the stress you experience in the workplace. You should be able to trust your colleagues with tasks rather than feeling as though you have to do everything yourself. 

6. Mediating.

Regardless of how positive an office environment may be, there will always be conflicts. And some conflicts can be resolved without heading to HR. Being able to mediate a conflict in the office is a beneficial skill for maintaining office camaraderie, as well as showing younger employees that they can mediate as well.

7. Crafting a strong portfolio.

Not just a LinkedIn! You should have a printed portfolio that best showcases your career, and your professional accomplishments. You may also want to create a digital version, like your own personal webpage to send over email.

8. Eliminating your imposter syndrome.

By age 40, you should have worked to eliminate your imposter syndrome. You’ve been in the game for a while now, and you’ve developed the career confidence necessary to do this.

9. Saying 'no.'

It’s hard to say 'no' at any age, but it does get easier the more you work on it. By this point in your life, you should be able to identify which tasks you need to (and want to!) complete, and which tasks are unnecessary or can be delegated to others.

10. Public speaking.

Even if your job does not necessarily revolve around public speaking, everyone will need to make a speech in front of a group of people at some point in their lives. As with most skills, public speaking is mastered from sheer practice. Work your way into becoming a public speaking extraordinaire by starting small (speaking in front of your team at work) and gradually moving up (speaking in front of your entire company).

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