How to Change Your Career at 50+
You’re not on your parents’ career path. Age 50 may be the time to take another path forward. Here’s how to do it.
First it was longevity: all those Baby Boomers prospering, eating better, living longer…
Then necessity: many were not also saving and therefore are unable to stop working and retire.
Then it was all those ever-faster, de-regulation-propelled changes in the business world: entire industries morphed by technology, takeovers, bankruptcies. More and more people were changing jobs – even careers – at a point in life when most people start toting up retirement income. The lifelong career in one industry at one company? Long gone.
Then along came Covid, and another change in the workplace that is turning out to be “interesting.” Remote work. A tiny ray of light emerging from an otherwise dark two years of pandemic. A big shift in the workplace that’s showing signs of being here to stay and which is advantageous to people who want to change jobs or careers at beyond middle age.
Remote work is “in”
Companies are more accommodating of remote work, and technology such as Zoom has kept the ranks moving forward at a good clip. A 2021 report by McKinsey showed that thanks to technology, companies globally adopted remote working 43 times faster than under normal circumstances (10.5 days vs 454 days).
For the older worker, working remotely means you aren’t tied to a physical office with a specific geographic location. You a can live anywhere you want, if it has a good Internet connection (these days, that sometimes includes cruise ships!). In addition, working remotely can mean better acceptance by younger co-workers spared of the daily confrontation with a grey-haired co-worker who may be older than their parents. This is not an inconsiderable benefit, as ageism is one of the discriminatory tendencies yet to be covered by today’s widely touted inclusiveness norms.
Re-think and think again
Suzanne Burns, a partner at the global firm Spencer Stuart, quoted in a September, 2022, Esquire Magazine article, advises, “It’s important to identify what success means to you at this point in life. Do you want to work full-time or create a hybrid approach?”
Consider: do you want to remain in the same industry or even the same company but in a different department? Do you want to (or have to) change industries altogether? Do you want to ditch your CEO suit for entrepreneurial jeans and T-shirt?
Where to start?
Review your skills. Many of them may be transferable and using existing skills can give you a leg up on the competition. An HR manager may find he or she is able to help a start-up put together a team. A corporate exec may want to manage an NGO. Someone in marketing can become a content writer. Businesses in the throes of M&As need transition managers; teachers are always in demand. Consulting and business coaching could be a good fit for teachers and even actors!
Also consider medical technology and billings, real estate and mortgages, virtual administrative assistant, accounting…
Skills not transferable? Face up to the fact that you may need additional training or education. Maybe a course in using new technology apps and programs? A new language? Local governments, schools, and libraries may offer low-cost sessions.
Need help? Get a coach. Local colleges and university business schools often have short, affordable courses for people shifting careers. Ask co-workers and friends for recommendations. Best to flounder under expert guidance than in the new job you thought you wanted.
Rebrand yourself. At least update your resume and LinkedIn, FB, and other “pages” you may be using. These are for more than “just socializing.” Join like-minded groups on LinkedIn; they could be sources of inspiration and information for jobs, market trends, company changes, etc. Don’t make it a one-way street; participate by sharing or writing relevant (short) articles. Stay connected!
The ups and downs
There are pluses and minuses in shifting carers after age 50. On the plus side, new careers give you a new way to view the world. You learn something new, keep your intellect engaged, meet new people, stay connected, develop a new passion — it can keep you feeling young.
On the minus side, you may very well have to accept a cut in pay, especially if you’re a newbie in your new field, or are working part-time. Additional training can cost time and money.
Worst of all, you could encounter ageism starting in the recruitment process: words such as “digital native” in a job description is another way of saying “under 30” without falling afoul of any labor laws or HR policies. The recruiter who deems you “overqualified” is telling you you’re too old.
Look for employers with Certified Age Friendly Employer status (CAFÉ) and check out organizations such as Next for Me on Facebook and Encore.org, a group that offers fellowship programs in the social sector.
In a nutshell
It’s clear that most people will likely have several careers in their lives, whether by chance or by choice. If you’re fortunate enough to be part of the latter category, be sure your plans are well thought out and not the impulsive result of a much-touted midlife crisis or existential crisis. Take the time to think critically about your physical and mental health and financial well-being.
And once you’re settled in, you might want to think about what you can do to ensure “age” is part of the ESG and D&I mandates and recommendations affecting employment going forward.