Changing career is never easy. But what about when you’re older and well-established in your current profession? Whether you’re as fit as a fiddle or rely on stair lifts, the thought of changing careers can seem like an unrealistic goal, not to mention scary. You may be constantly asking yourself: “What if it doesn’t work out?” or “Should I just stick to what I know?”, but you’ll never know the answer unless you take the plunge.
By the time you have reached 50, you may find yourself wanting to try something new. There are lots of reasons to consider changing careers at 50, for example:
Whatever the reason, switching careers at 50 is entirely possible. If you are motivated by the right reasons, you can make a success of it and enjoy a whole new career.
Take a look below at some things to consider before changing careers, as this will help you make a successful transition.
If you are thinking about a career change because you are no longer feeling fulfilled in your current role, it’s a good idea to consider something that is more aligned with your interests.
What are your passions? What do you enjoy? There may be a way to find a new career that can incorporate the things that excite you. If you are able to land a new career that you are passionate about, your happiness and mental health will likely benefit as a result.
When changing careers later in life, you likely only have so long before you will want to retire. Therefore, it’s important to think about what you might be able to achieve in a new career with the time you have left.
For example, you might not have time to progress sufficiently in a new career to the level that you would want. As a result, your new career might not be as fulfilling as you had hoped, or the salary might not be enough for you to support your current lifestyle.
This isn’t necessarily a reason not to change career, but it’s worth thinking about if you will be happy in the long term with what this new career is able to offer.
It’s also important to consider what your current skills are and how they might apply to a new career.
The expertise and knowledge you have built up over the years might be able to transfer to an entirely different career. By thinking about your skillset, you can start to identify the types of jobs that you might be suited for.
If you have a new career in mind and don’t think your current skills will help you get the job, you might be able to pick up those necessary skills in your spare time. Then you can apply for a new job once you are ready.
The first step to making a career change is deciding what you want from this endeavour. For example, if you want a more rewarding job, finding something that excites you will be an important part of the process.
Do you want to earn more money? This will also help you narrow down the list of the type of careers to pursue. Maybe you want to spend more time at home with your family. Whatever it is, the reasons why you want to change your career will be pivotal in helping you make a successful change.
After you have done your self-examination, you will now be able to start putting a list together of potential new careers.
Thinking carefully about various factors, you should then start whittling this list down until you find a new career that is right for you. If it ticks all the boxes in terms of your goals and desires, you will know that this is the career you can go after.
The next step is to put together a career plan. This will be helpful for setting your own expectations and goals ahead of applying for any specific jobs.
For example, you can detail what level you want to start your new career at, your salary requirements, and what you want to achieve in the next 5 to 10 years. Keep this plan in mind as you start job hunting.
It’s now time to update your CV, reworking it with your new career in mind. Your old CV will have been targeted for your current profession, but if you are starting a whole new career, your CV will need to undergo a few tweaks.
Your new CV should demonstrate your suitability for your chosen career, helping employers to see that you are a good candidate for the position you are applying for. There may be things on your old CV that are no longer relevant to the career you would like to start.
For more advice, the recruitment website Indeed has published some tips about how to stand out when changing careers.
We spoke to two over-50s who’ve changed their careers later in life to find out more about their experience, as well as hearing some expert tips and advice from three experienced career coaches about what it takes to make the change.
“I was an actor, who like so many in the industry, also had a full-time job,” says Brooke Hender, who became a therapist in his late 40s after deciding that he needed a change.
“I worked for a large organisation in the film industry as an Executive Assistant. The death of a close friend of mine, also an actor, had a massive impact on me and made me appreciate and reflect on my life and what I wanted to do with it. That was the catalyst for a journey of change, starting with therapy, which gave me an opportunity to start to see the patterns in my life and to deal with them.
“The therapist I was working with suggested that I would make a good therapist - something at the time that I found both difficult to accept and, frankly, strange. I honestly didn’t take it seriously. But it made me think, and then an opportunity to train as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist presented itself. Even then, I didn’t think about becoming a therapist; I simply thought it would be a good opportunity to discover more about myself.”
But it wasn’t always going to be smooth sailing, particularly as Brooke already worked full-time, and the emotional requirements of the training proved to be an additional hurdle to overcome. “There were the logistical issues - working full-time and doing the training - but it was the emotional issues that were the hardest. The course forced me to finally deal with all those beliefs and attitudes that had been stopping me from enjoying and engaging with life in a way that I had suspected was always there but didn’t know how to find.
“The biggest issue I came across was fear - fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of the new, fear of failure, fear of success. So much fear. Every time I came across a new fear, I was able to look at where it came from and why and then deal with it.
“The support I received during my training was superb as well. But one of the main reasons for keeping going was discovering that through dealing with my ‘stuff’, I was realising that I was able to help others with theirs. This really excited me and, to be honest, surprised me. The more I learnt, the more I wanted to help others, and that knowledge and desire still drives me now.”
Brooke has one top tip for anyone thinking about changing their career late in life: “Don’t be afraid. Fear is something we all live with, and often, it’s simply a matter of perspective and belief. We tell ourselves stories about who we are and what we can achieve, and often, it’s about finding a way to tell ourselves a more helpful story about what we can do.
“Two big fears are a fear of judgement (‘What will people think?’) and also not believing we are worthy enough (‘Who am I to do this?’). The most important relationship is our relationship with ourselves, and often these fears come out of not believing that we are ‘enough’. You are. I work with a lot of people on their relationship with themselves, and changing this transforms how they see themselves and allows them to let go of those fears.
“Often, we believe that who we are is fixed and that it’s ‘who I am’ - it’s not true - I know.”
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After working in an array of industries, Olga Bolshchikova found her dream job at 50 years old. “Four years ago, I changed a lot of things in a short space of time. I radically changed my life when my husband and I came to America. It was very hard for me to break away from the place where I lived for 50 years (Russia), but I challenged myself to embrace a new day-to-day life and overcame the initial culture shock. My English skills were somewhere around zero, so I started learning English on my own.
“I looked for a job, but I failed to land a graphic design job because of the lack of relevant work experience that met American standards. I didn’t have any projects in my portfolio that could grab a hiring manager’s attention. The lack of communication skills was also a huge obstacle because I hardly understood what recruiters were talking about. On one occasion, a recruiter openly said to me that I should focus on learning English and not look for a job. However, I kept doing both.
“When browsing job boards, I often came across UX designer positions. That interested me a lot - I felt like it could be exactly what I wanted to do and that I could do it well. I was inspired by the idea of learning how to create not only a nice-looking design but simple, intuitive and useful functionality. I applied for UX Academy (DesignLab) but wasn’t sure if I would be accepted as I wasn’t sure if my English was good enough, and I also worried that age would be a barrier. Thankfully, neither was an issue, and I became a student.
“Seeking a job after completing the course was another thing to overcome. I sent about 250 applications in three months. Sometimes, I thought I could never break through the wall of rejections, but Chris Thelwell, my mentor at DesignLab, repeated to me, again and again, to keep going, and he was right: I landed a job as a UX designer. But being employed was not my happy ending; it was the beginning of a new bunch of hurdles that I had to keep getting over.
“Before UX Academy, several experienced designers told me that I should stick to what I could do (editorial design) and that it was too late for me to learn UX design. But I am stubborn and persistent. When I do something, I always see it through, even if I have lots of fear and doubts.
“At the age of 50, you do get tired more often than when you were 30. You get used to a job and a way of life and find lots of excuses not to change anything. But if you commit to a career change, you can do it. But you have to be prepared to ‘drink from a fire hose’ because it is almost always going to be an insane amount of new things to learn all at once.”
When it comes to the common misconceptions people have about changing careers when they’re older, Ros Toynbee, The Career Coach, finds that her clients always feel it’s too late:
“It’s not. With the pension age going up and many people’s pensions not being enough to live comfortably off alone (plus the rise in divorces among middle-aged people), more and more older people are working, and the way they are used to working isn’t how they want to work going forward. A busy, stressful, responsible job may no longer work for them, and it’s time for a gentler full-time role with less responsibility, a new project, a new business or a part-time role where you do something that interests you and that keeps the brain cells active.”
Hannah Salton, Career Coach & Consultant, agrees that a lot of people feel it’s too late, but this often boils down to a lack of self-confidence: “Sometimes people think they are too late in their career or have worked at one place too long to change career. In my experience, the biggest challenges are the limiting beliefs and lack of confidence people have about exploring the job market or changing careers.
“Companies value experience, and career-changers always have a wealth of transferable skills - it’s just a case of working out what they are and how they can demonstrate that to others.”
If you’re looking to take that first step, Ros recommends going back to the drawing board and thinking about your skills, abilities and interests:
“Look at your skills, your interests and what’s important to you. There are plenty of career-related assessments online, which are free or a few pounds, which can give you some steer, but no online assessment is perfect. Ask friends and family what they could see you doing. Or work with a coach. That’s what they are trained to do!”
“It can feel overwhelming to explore career change at any age,” says Hannah. “I would recommend trying to put a bit of structure around something which can often be rather unstructured. Create an ideal timeline with an action plan and next steps, and consider working with a coach or mentor to keep progress going. Managing your confidence and motivation is a big part of changing career.”
Ros also warns that you will likely have to take a cut in salary, at least to begin with anyway. “Whatever career you change to, prepare yourself for it to be competitive and expect to face a salary drop or to start at the bottom or a lower level than you are used to. It takes time and energy to change, and you might need to retrain, but not always.”
If you’re not sure you want to dive in headfirst, Ros recommends: “Doing volunteer work or a course or some job shadowing where you see someone in action doing the role are good ways to try before you buy.”
When it comes to the job hunt itself, it can all seem a bit daunting, especially if you haven’t applied for a job or had a job interview in a long time. Denise Taylor, The 50 Plus Coach, has a few tips to get yourself up to speed with job hunting and interview techniques:
“Bring your CV up to date and, in most cases, have an effective LinkedIn profile. Use both mediums to target the position you want, and make sure you edit your CV carefully, so it is not overly long. You can cut out any irrelevant experience for the role you’re going for and consider whether you actually need to include things like your O-Levels.
“Also, don’t talk too much about the past at a job interview and make sure you can connect with an interviewer who could be half your age. It’s important to develop a rapport. Also, remember that a lot of jobs are not advertised, so make use of the people you know to help you find out about opportunities.”
Similarly,, Hannah recommends networking: “Networking is so important. Not in the traditional schmoozing-at-events sense but creating focused, targeted, meaningful, and authentic relationships. Get out there and talk to people doing jobs you’re interested in and also join networks and communities to learn more from others.”
Although changing career later in life may seem scary, it seems that with a bit of planning and patience, you’ll soon be reaping the benefits. All it takes is a little belief in yourself.
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