Your options when considering a mid-life career change

As the working years get longer, there is an increasing number of people considering a mid-life career change. Maybe you should too. Here are some factors to consider, options you can take, and hot tips if you decide to make the change.

The days when hitting 50 marked the gentle downhill coast into retirement are coming to an end. Today retirement is marked at 67, or even later. This means that most people have one-third of their careers still to go when they turn 50. So it’s not surprising that if you are a 50-something you might be considering a mid-life career change to maximise your skills and experience. With another two decades left in your working life, contemplating a professional shift is not just a valid decision but an exciting possibility.

Research from the London School of Business and Finance suggests that in the U.K. 43% of employees aged between 45 and 54 are seeking new challenges and opportunities. It even shows that 34,000 people over 50 have signed up for apprenticeships. Most people turning 50 already have 25 years or more work experience and skills under their belts, even those who have taken a career break for parenting. That background has given them a whole portfolio of additional skills which are becoming increasingly valued.

Remember also that mid-life for some can start even earlier. For those who entered the job market at 18, someone in their late thirties also has 20 years’ experience.  They may also welcome a career pivot.

Reasons for considering a mid-life career change

considering a mid-life career change

There are a number of reasons why the over 50s are returning to the workforce or considering a mid-life career change. They range from empty nesters, divorce, death of a partner, loss of savings and even boredom. They simply want to do something different in their third age.

After years as an editor for a photographic magazine, Donna aged 51, decided to put her academic background as an English graduate to a different use. She retrained as a teacher. “I wanted to add value somewhere. It seemed an ideal place to start. I have two teenage kids and felt I could make a difference to the way their generation looked at language use and literature. I was worried that so many were losing the opportunity to tap into a rich culture and heritage as we become addicted to devices and text-speak.”  

Although teaching is a high-pressure job, having holidays that coincided with her sons was an added bonus. “They will be leaving home in 3 years and it gives me the opportunity to spend more time with them before the go.”

Agile and energetic

Healthy, energetic and mentally agile. This demographic is a generation willing to embrace training to develop new skills for a second or even third career, especially if it provides increased job satisfaction. Employers are starting to realise that someone considering a career change isn’t necessarily looking for an easier life. With strong people skills they have the experience and maturity to understand and motivate team mates or reports. They can tap into strategies to navigate the ambiguity and conflict commonly found in today’s workplace.

3 Main factors when considering a mid-life career change

considering a mid-life career change

#1 Budget

It’s important to make a thorough evaluation of your budget and expenses. Many employers will expect older workers to take a pay cut if they are going into a lower level job. The 50-somethings are part of a generation who usually own their own homes and have some retirement savings, so taking a drop in salary may not be that risky and scary for them. Sophie took out a bank loan to re-train as a nurse using her apartment as collateral. Currently interest rates are low, although that may change, so make sure you have good professional advice or do you own research on banking conditions.

#2 Loss of status

One of the main concerns of potential employers is how older employees will handle reduced status, working with and for colleagues and bosses who could be decades younger. The worry is that this change of status could make them a flight risk. Marilyn went to work in a law firm after a long career as a board level Executive P.A. where her new boss was over 20 years younger. “It requires a different mindset. I learned to only offer an opinion when asked, even though I could see that there were much more efficient ways of doing things. When you hit 50 you have frequently been exposed to all the problems that you can encounter in an office. But I needed a lot of support on the technology side. Communicating by What’s App took some getting used to. But eventually it’s all about getting on with people.”   

#3 Overcoming bias

There is no doubt that ageism is one of the most prevalent biases. Women in the workplace suffer greater discrimination on the basis of age than men. This is confirmed by a gender pay gap, reduced promotion opportunities and more limited access to skills training. Men are frequently considered to acquire gravitas as they get older – a lot like a vintage wine that increases in value as it ages. Wendy Pontefract is Regional Industrial Hygiene Manager, Americas and eastern Europe at SGS. She says that she sadly believes  “Ageism is on the rise, and starts at an earlier age for women than for men.”

There are many situations where that experience gained from having miles on the tires can be a positive advantage. Yet there are some who say that women in particular suffer from age bias. Suzanne Lucas, Speaker and Writer says “I wish ageism was on the retreat, but I don’t see it. I see a lot of companies focusing on the young and talking about how we can engage Millennials and Gen Z. Well, it’s your GenXers and Baby Boomers who you need to engage as well. Because I’m getting older, I really hope that it’s on the retreat!”

But on the contrary women in this age group tap into Post Menopausal Zest which gives them higher energy levels, a lust for life and creativity that they may not have experienced when they were younger. Josie Mayhew offers hope with her positive experience. “Employers value maturity, people skills, experience and reliability, plus the fact that I was not going to get pregnant. I have no responsibilities. That was an added bonus.”

In the U.S., research from the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates two possible reasons why older women face greater age discrimination than men on the job market. Firstly, women have to combat the general gender bias as well as age. Secondly, women are judged more strongly on their physical appearance than men. However Dorothy Dalton, in her role as a talent management strategist says, “I am increasingly coming across men who don’t hesitate to incorporate a nip or tuck into their career strategy to enhance their prospects. We live in an era where youth is king and the men have commented to me on the advantages that they genuinely believe make-up offers women!”

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8 hot tips to get going when considering a career change

considering a mid-life career change

There is no doubt that for anyone considering a career change at 50, it can be an intimidating prospect. Here are some tips on how to go about it:

#1 What are your new priorities?

It’s important to reflect on what your new personal and professional goals will be for this stage of your life and career. What is your longer term vision for this stage of your career and how has it changed?

Download our Career Reflections Worksheets to guide your thinking

#2 What value do you add?

Understanding your strengths and what you can bring to the table will be helpful. Incorporate your added value into your interview soundbites, CV and LinkedIn profile. It can be challenging to showcase the depth and range of your experience while being open about your age. There are conflicting views about how much experience to highlight.

Dorothy Dalton, says “I get frustrated when someone tries to imply they are still in their thirties. I think it’s important to embrace your age and experience. Sell it with confidence, own your achievements, especially if you are considering a mid-life career change. There is no need to go into minute detail about your very early career. An over view is sufficient. If you are too oblique it makes recruiters worry  you might be concealing something else. For most headhunters anyone who leaves their graduation dates off their profiles and resumes is telling the world they are over 50 anyway. We can add and subtract.”    

#3 Identify your transferable skills

Carry out an audit so you are clear on your transferable skills. Which ones will you highlight going forward and are relevant to your new and chosen profession? Older job seekers have hard skills which never date. Negotiation, mergers and acquisitions, budgeting, forecasting, sales skills, not to mention all the well honed soft skills.

Jacqui Poindexter, Master Resumé Writer has some recommendations. “The key takeaway for these articles is the way your career story evolves, but the essence/foundation is fundamentally consistent. It’s as if the ‘veil is being lifted’ as to what’s important/what’s not. It’s also about not being NOISY but providing value.”

If you need support assessing your experience before considering a mid-life career change, check out the 3Plus Career Audit with competence testing and full report.

#4 Rework your CV

Rework your CV to pull together all this work. Jacqui Poindexter continues, “Show via interview stories (plus on-the-job-actions once hired),  a willingness to take a step back. Demonstrate that you won’t grumble about “out-of-job-scope ‘serving’ tasks/projects.” Eagerly step up to the plate. You’ll be amazed at the leadership advocates you will attract to propel you forward.”

Résumé formats have shifted in the last ten years to accommodate modern recruitment methodologies. All CVs now have to be optimised and look and sound up to date. Make sure you are using the current terminology for your chosen sector.

#5 Create a strong online presence

Your digital footprint will be important and even your email provider and email signature-send tells about how up to date you are. Choose a gmail address and create an email signature to include your LinkedIn url. It will be the same as sending out your CV in a very discreet way. Make sure you know your way around LinkedIn and other social media networks. It’s important to be and sound up to date.

Maximise your LinkedIn in 10 minutes a day. Download the 3Plus eBook.

#6 Network

Over the years you will have built a strong network. Take a look at it and see who might be able to help you strategically with your new career aspirations. Make sure that you are connected to your real network on LinkedIn. This illustrates that you are familiar with the way current hiring managers and recruiters look for candidates. Phyllis Mufson, US based Career Coach suggests “Taking the time to learn how to conduct an up-to-date professional job search will go a long way to demonstrate to employers that you are still vital, learning and growing.”

#7 Think about a career coach

Engaging professional support can be invaluable to help focus and guide your thoughts. This person will offer many short cuts and can take the pain out of making the wrong decisions. You will also have neutral input through which to channel any feedback. Plus they will be able to be your personal cheerleader to help you stay motivated and on task.

Monique Valcour, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach insists “Don’t waste your precious time and energy on things that are draining or unfulfilling. Reshape your career into a vehicle for the expression of your best self.” 

Check out the 3Plus Career Booster Coaching Program to send your career into orbit!

#8 Be willing to retrain

There are a wide range of choices now, from free online courses on YouTube and blogs offering tips, to bespoke course which can vary in cost. Select the best ones for your chosen goals that meet your budget. You may not want to commit to a new professional path that will put you in debt, unless you feel confident that you have it covered or will recoup the investment later.

Donna Svei, Executive Resumé Writer, suggests that conveying gravitas and appearing as a role model will be a decisive factor. “Be an example of who younger professionals want to be when they’re your age, whatever your age.”

7 Career options when considering a mid-life career change

considering a career change

For anyone over 50 considering a career change, there is always a range of options. Here are some suggestions:

Amy Beresford, Director of Talent Culture suggests “All jobs/professions are hot ones for 50 something career changers – especially HR.”  She adds “No, unfortunately ageism is not in retreat. When a company markets their company as a young and fun bunch, or we want digital/sm natives in their jd’s, or they require the dates that you attended college on their application, this leads you to believe that ageism in recruitment is alive and well. Employers who care about diversity and inclusion, and compliance with the law, need to audit their internal practices and look at their culture to ensure this isn’t happening.”

#1 Consulting

If your background is in the corporate world, you can tap into that experience. Target a consulting services company in line with your background and expertise.

#2 Teaching, training 

The teaching profession is always crying out for committed and grounded teaching professionals. If the school room is not for you there is always adult education and corporate training.

#3 Tech opportunities

Many tech companies are actively looking to diversify their work forces. They are especially keen on those who already have better than average tech skills and are willing to retrain.

#4 Caring professions 

With aging populations there is always a high demand for people willing to take on carer roles. This can also be around providing services to senior people in health support functions, such as  physiotherapy, podiatrist, nutrition and other related functions.

#5 Coaching and counselling 

If you’re empathetic and keen to help others, retraining as a counsellor or coach also offers ways in which you can support others.

#6 Entrepreneur

If you have skills and experience that you can market as an entrepreneur this could be an exciting and fulfilling option. In the UK 20% of new businesses are being founded by over-55s. Middle-aged entrepreneurs are experiencing a boom.

#7 Consider a portfolio career

There is no reason why you can’t take on a variety of roles to build up a portfolio career. Jasmine combines freelance work transposing medical documents with her new business, renting out catering equipment for major events.

Key message

The key takeaway is to own who you are and go for your dreams with passion. But at the same time you also need to be strategic and thorough. Good luck!

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Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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