The past few years have been full of change – some for the better, and others decidedly for the worse. The impact of the pandemic has been felt throughout the working world, with remote working becoming a standard part of life and a high number of workers deciding to make dramatic changes to their careers. But is age 50 too late to get in on the excitement?
There’s no denying that changing careers at 50 can be daunting. You’re further along in your working life, with work experience that’s likely to be highly specialized in one particular field. Plus, sadly, you’re more likely to encounter ageism from hiring managers in the process of trying to make a career move.
But these drawbacks don’t have to be dealbreakers! With the right planning and preparation, anyone can make a career change at any age. We’re here to give you all the advice you need to hit the ground running in your job search.
In this article, we’ll cover the following points:
By age 50, most people expect to be largely settled, doing what they plan to be doing for the rest of their working life. But if you feel as though your current career has hit a wall – or a ceiling – why stick with it if you don’t have to? At age 50, you still have well over a decade left before you reach retirement age; that’s a long time to spend in a career that’s no longer fulfilling or exciting for you.
No matter your age, a change in careers can be incredibly rewarding, and could even lead to better prospects for you in the longer term. As you get older, you might benefit from finding a better work-life balance, or from more flexible work options that may not be possible in your current role. A career move could be the opportunity to rebalance your life that you’ve been waiting for!
It would be remiss of us not to mention that some people change careers at 50 because they have to. The upheaval of the pandemic has led to layoffs and disruptions across almost every industry, leaving many people out of work. Making a career change isn’t always a matter of feeling inspired by a new direction – it’s a matter of needing to keep up with the changing demands of the working world.
But whatever your situation, a career change at 50 can reinvigorate you both professionally and personally. It’s never too late to learn something new, throw yourself into a new experience, or make an exciting new change in your life. And with a wealth of work experience behind you, you could find yourself in a better position than you expect as you look for that dream job.
So you’ve decided to change careers – what now? It’s time to prepare for the job search, keeping in mind that your old approach may need a few updates to work in your new field.
Here are some simple ways to get ready for a change in careers. With a little preparation, you’ll be suiting up for interviews in no time!
Transferable skills are the backbone of any career move, no matter your age. That’s why it’s important to be honest with yourself about what you can do – as well as what you can’t.
List all your transferable skills, and compare them to the skills in demand in your new industry. What are your strengths and weaknesses, relative to what you need to succeed in your field of choice? Make sure all your best and most impressive skills are front and center on your resume.
And when you find a gap, fill it! Look into online learning, or (if you’re still in your current role) see if there’s scope for you to receive training before you make the move.
The goal is to match your skills as closely as possible to the skills required for the role you want to move into. Be honest with yourself as you reflect on your knowledge and achievements, and don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that you’re missing certain skills you need! It’s an opportunity to grow and develop professionally – and if you weren’t prepared for that, you wouldn’t be considering a career move at all.
This may seem obvious; most workers, at 50, are familiar with the digital tools required to get their job done. But the sad fact is that ageism is rife in job hunting. Hiring managers, on meeting with a 50-year-old applicant, are likely to worry that you’re out of touch with the digital requirements of a modern workplace.
They may also worry that you’re not comfortable learning new skills. As a result, it’s smart to foreground any and all digital or tech-related skills that you have. You might even benefit from learning some new ones into the bargain!
Online certifications are widely available, and there are options to suit every budget and every schedule. Consider boosting your resume with a certification in some specialist software used in your new industry. A recent qualification in a digital skill will show any hiring manager that you’re serious about keeping your skills up to date, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone.
By age 50, you probably know your current industry inside-out. You know the salary ranges, the social norms, and the expected career paths like the back of your hand. Moving into a new industry – one where you don’t have all that insider knowledge ready to go – can be disorienting.
That means it’s time to do your homework. Look through job postings and review websites like GlassDoor for salary ranges and information on other workplace perks. Talk to contacts, if you have them, about their own experiences over the course of their careers. Gather all the information you can about your new field, so you can start your job search from a place of well-grounded knowledge.
If you’ve been in the same role for a while, it may also be worth your time to refresh your understanding of the hiring process. Forewarned is always forearmed, and you’ll feel much more confident if you can walk into your interview knowing roughly what to expect.
Remember: while all this research will help you make smart decisions when negotiating salary and benefits, it will also make a great impression at the interview stage. Hiring managers want to see candidates who are committed to the role. What shows more commitment than putting in the time to understand your new industry?
You’ve evaluated your existing skills, and spent the time developing new ones. You’ve learned everything there is to know about your new industry. Now that the groundwork is complete, it’s time to build the foundation of your new career – a new and improved resume.
Your new resume should focus on the skills, education and experience that will benefit you in your new role. Since the industry you’re job searching in is new to you, it’s important to foreground what you can bring to the role beyond direct experience. Make it clear from the first look why any hiring manager would want to talk to you!
If you’re finding it hard to pull it all together into a great resume, we can help! We have over 30 amazing resume templates, to help you design the perfect resume for the role you want. You can even use our resume samples for the industry you’re searching in, if you’re not sure where to start.
Your resume is ready, and you’re about to embark on your first job search in your new field. Here are a few ways to give yourself a competitive edge, no matter where you are in the process.
As an older worker, one of the biggest advantages you have is your professional network. You’ve probably been working for almost 30 years, by the time you’re 50 – that’s plenty of time to make and cultivate contacts and friendships, both in your former industry and outside it.
When it’s time to job search, reach out to some of those contacts! Even if you don’t know anyone in the industry where you’re hoping to work, your contacts might. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for introductions; you never know who you could meet as the friend of a friend.
You might even have non-work friends or family members with connections in your industry of choice. If so, now is the time to ask them for leads or advice. And if you haven’t made use of your school’s alumni network in a while, consider getting back in touch and letting them know you’re moving into a new field of work.
Networking can be exhausting work, but the right connections can give you a huge advantage when you’re job searching. Particularly when you don’t have experience in an industry, knowing the right people is a serious boon. So dust off your address book and get to work!
The other major advantage you have is your existing work experience. At 50, you’re a seasoned employee with years of experience behind you. Even if you’re moving into a different field, your long tenure in the world of work will help you approach the interview process with the confidence you need.
Interviews often use behavioral questions to gauge how potential employees react to stressful situations. The good news is that you’ve probably been in most of those stressful situations already! Use your prior experience to showcase your adaptability and poise under pressure, no matter the industry you were in at the time.
Obviously you need to demonstrate a willingness to learn, too! A common worry for hiring managers interviewing older workers is that they won’t be as teachable as a younger hire. But you also need to show that you can apply your past experiences to a new work environment.
Interviewers will ask questions that enable you to draw on those experiences. Remember, not everyone applying for the role will have the advantage of a prior career! Treat your experience as a competitive advantage, and use it accordingly.
Job searching can be unpredictable, particularly when you’re searching in a new industry for the very first time. That’s why it’s important to keep your goals realistic, and to have a plan in place. That way you’ll be prepared if things don’t go the way you hope at first.
Think about how long you can afford to be unemployed, as well as who can help you if you need a little extra support while job searching. Consider the worst that could happen if you can’t find a career in the field you’re hoping for. That way, you’ll be prepared, and you can respond to whatever comes your way with confidence.
But being realistic doesn’t just mean planning for the worst-case scenario. It also means managing your own expectations, and being prepared to make compromises if you’re struggling.
Be prepared to take a step or two down on the career ladder, at least at first. Since you won’t have the experience you had in your previous field, getting a foot in the door in a new industry can involve a little compromise. Starting your new career in a less senior role, or with a slight pay cut from your previous position, can give you a way in to a new career that may ultimately lead you to even better rewards over time.
Remember, a career isn’t just one role. It’s a longer journey than that, and it can start from anywhere. A lower-level role now could still lead to the career of your dreams in the years to come.
Content Writer + Resume Expert
Waverly is a freelance writer, former HR officer and current international traveller. They believe in doing your research, showing up prepared, and bringing your passions with you to work. They've helped countless job seekers create better resumes and cover letters to improve and grow their careers.
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