Changing Careers After Age 50

At the age of 50, you may be only a decade-and-a-half away from retiring, after spending years on a single career path. You may have considered making a change before, unsure of if you were able to do so.

You may even have decided it is now too late to change careers. However, this is not necessarily true, as many American workers change careers after they turn 50.

You will need to be aware of the risks involved, as well as the time and effort required to research your desired career path. However, you should also consider the benefits a career change could bring to your life as you decide whether to take the plunge. You should also have a plan in place to help you take your first steps toward your new job. In addition to building a plan to find a new career, you should also build a financial plan, so you are safely covered for all your expenses while you are transitioning into a new career. Use the following information to help make an informed decision.

Benefits

The career you currently have could be the result of a choice made when you were younger and simply needed to earn money. You may have little interest in the work, itself, or you may even actively dislike it. Maybe you made your way up the career ladder, and are now managing, rather than taking part in the work you want to be doing, yourself. Changing careers could give you the opportunity to take a job where you feel excited and motivated again each day.

Having worked for decades, you will have a much better sense of yourself and your abilities than you did when you first entered the workforce. You may have grown the confidence you need to take on a challenge as large as a new career. Making the change soon after you turn 50 is also a good idea, as it can become more difficult the longer you wait. However, those in their 60s can also change careers with great success.

A new career can be a great psychological benefit. If you have a job you dislike, this could put a strain on your health and cause you daily stress, while a new job could bring relief. The positive impact of real career satisfaction is also significant. In addition to this, if you are approaching retirement age, the prospect of leaving work, altogether, can be daunting. Many Americans choose to take on a new career, perhaps a more relaxing or enjoyable one, instead of leaving the workforce, altogether.

Challenges

Changing your career at any age can be difficult, and there are a few challenges particularly related to a career change made after age 50. It is important to be aware of any risks you might be taking when you make your decision. For example, if you have outstanding debts, such as a mortgage payment, the risk of taking a job with a lower salary might not be worth it. If you are also supporting your children in any way, this could present a further financial difficulty.

If your dream job is very different to the one you currently hold, you may find it necessary to retrain – or even get a degree – in order to attain your new career. While this is certainly possible, it is also expensive and time consuming. It might be more difficult to grow in your career in the shortened amount of time left after you have obtained your qualifications. If you will need to take out a loan in order to attend a college, this could be added financial pressure on your new job.

Transferable skills can help you adapt to – and thrive in – a new career. However, some careers may place a high importance on skills you do not have, forcing you into competition with those younger than you. Unfortunately, there are some employers who may also have an age-biased hiring policy.

Choosing a New Career

For some, the question of whether to change careers might be based around a specific goal. You may have had a dream job for years, always thinking you would do it when you had the chance. You might have also discovered a recently developed industry that you think you would do well in. For others, the desire to make a change might come first, and the decision of which new career to pursue will follow.

When choosing your new career, you might be willing to try something very new and challenging. However, it is best to start with a list of the skills you already possess, and determine how each of them might be transferred into a new field. This will enable you to take full advantage of the years you have already spent working. You may even find a different type of job is available within your current company.

You might want to look for a job based on your long-held, but undefined, passions. You could try writing down all the elements your dream job might involve, and then researching jobs to see what overlaps with the items on your list. This could include anything from working with a special skill to moving to a new location.

Practical Steps to Take

If you are seriously contemplating making a career change after age 50, you may have already considered the pros and cons. After assessing the risks and benefits, a few, practical steps you can take include:

  • Consulting a career center or career services office, which can help you determine what jobs might be most suitable for your skillset, through career assessments and aptitude tests. If it is within your means, you could also consider making a private appointment with a career counselor.
  • Researching the new job, or jobs, you are considering. Even if you are making a change primarily for career satisfaction, the salary should be enough to cover all of your expenses and monthly payments. The hiring and growth outlook for the industry should also be promising enough to justify the risk. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has all of that information, and it is searchable.
  • Considering the timeframe of the new job, which is also important, as you should be able to rely on your skills and experience to guarantee faster growth than those just entering the workforce. You will have a shorter time in which to develop and succeed in your new career, and a potential head start may be a deciding factor.
  • Thinking about how the job, itself, should be suited to your abilities, including the day-to-day tasks involved. Although you may be interested in a particular industry, a job in that industry for which you do not have passion or aptitude will only be a source of frustration.
  • Trying out your new career before you commit to it, perhaps by starting it as a hobby or via joining a volunteer group that will give you a similar experience.

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