For many, the prospect of a career change at 50 not only feels like shifting gears but climbing into a new vehicle entirely. With no idea where the gear stick even is. But like many daunting things in life, as soon as you commit to the change, it becomes way less ominous, and in most cases, you will slot into your new role quite easily and have fun with it.
There are many reasons for considering such a huge leap, with the most obvious owing to the experience you now have in abundance. By utilizing your knowledge elsewhere, you have a fresh challenge to embrace. We even have stats to support our view, with the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) reporting that 83 percent of people over the age of 47 who pursued a career change were successful in their endeavors.
A better financial position could be a motivating factor for the change, enabling you to worry less about the best possible income available and more about the most fulfilling role. You probably know what you are getting into, but we should go over a few key points just to aid the transition for a successful career change after 50. We hope you find them useful.
Find Out Your ‘Why & What’
Preparing to make a major career change can be like parachuting out of a plane—thrilling but also terrifying.
–Caroline Castrillon, Forbes
Shifting careers at your 50’s is a huge step that can bring setbacks as well as triumphs, so you need to make sure you’re mentally prepared. To do that, you need to know the two most important things; the why and the what.
The Why: For a successful transition, you need to seriously think about why you’re doing it in the first place. Dig deep into your mind and find out why you’re craving a career switch. It can be because you want to spend more time with your family or do something you always wanted to do but never previously had the chance, due to constraints like stability, fears and financial security, or maybe your current role and industry just doesn’t ignite your passion anymore.
Running towards something is usually better than running away from something. Because if you are unhappy in your current career, every option sounds appealing, usually affecting quite sound decisions.
The What: Ask yourself, ‘What do you want your daily life to look like?’ Once you’ve figured that out, it’ll be easy for you to filter out a career path that matches these expectations and create a game plan.
Get The Full Picture
While you may have 25+ years of experience, the fear of the unknown can make you self-doubt yourself when it comes to changing careers.
Do your homework because you don’t want to go all in without having all the information needed to make the right decision. That’s a common mistake and one you should avoid.
Some things that you can do to gather insights and prepare yourself are,
- Set up informational interviews with people who have a similar role you’re interested in.
- Attend career-specific conferences.
- Tap into your personal contacts. Talk to your friends, family, and mentors to gather as much information as possible.
- Volunteer or work part-time in the industry you want to switch to, for a hands-on sense of what is involved.
These will help you learn the good, the bad, and the ugly of the industry you’re contemplating entering.
Make A Solid Game Plan
You’ve now figured out which industry you want to approach, but now what? You need a roadmap with concrete steps that will help you get from point A to point B. This will make your job search easy. List down your skills, finances, and areas where you lag and work on those.
In addition, create a career plan. Make short- and long-term career goals you want to achieve. Create an organized file of potential employers, job ads, cover letters, networking events, and other activities.
Handling The Finances
It’s important to get your finances in order. When switching careers, you’ll probably start at the bottom of the ladder. This means no paid vacations, holiday bonuses, and maybe even low pay initially. If you’re looking to go for extra courses for a new degree, investigate grants, scholarships or loans to assist you in those.
Fixed Expenses: You need to set money aside for your fixed expenses. Your fixed expenses are those you need to pay for, no matter what the circumstances are. Take a piece of paper and note down your expenses because you’ll realize you have more expenses than what you were noting down in your brain.
Rainy Day Budget: This is the emergency budget in the form of liquid cash, which you shouldn’t touch at any cost. When you’re making a career change, things can get rough, and maybe you won’t be able to find a new job. If your source of income decreases, then your rainy day budget should be enough that you can survive on it for the next 12 months i.e. Fixed Expenses x 12.
Retirement Savings: Don’t use your retirement savings when embarking on the career change journey. Instead, keep them saved. If you have a 401k plan in your current job, here’s what you can do,
- Leave the 401k with your former employer
- Transfer it to a new employer’s plan
- Roll over your 401k into an IRA account
If you withdraw your 401k before 59.5 years of age, you’ll have to pay a 10% tax penalty.
Current skill sets will need to be analyzed and determined if they apply to your future career. Be aware that you might need to brush up for new positions by taking the required courses.
You probably won’t need to obtain a new degree (unless, of course, you want to), with most people preferring professional certifications instead. It’s quite common for career changers to pursue a professional certificate instead. It depends on how significant of a change you’re aiming for. Suppose you’re from a finance background but want to become a counselor. You need to take relevant courses and get the proper certificates to be able to practice.
But if you want to pivot towards a career within your own background, you’ll just have to add some skills and experience to your CV. The quickest way to gather those is through interning and volunteering.
One of the best ways to change careers is to get hands-on experience.
You might consider brushing up on technical skills if you are lacking a little in that area. Jobseekers over 50 often face discrimination during the hiring process, with some employers blaming inadequate IT knowledge. Demonstrate these new tech skills you might have learned in your cover letters, and mention them in interviews.
Use Your Networks
While some employers favor younger recruits over middle-aged prospects, your career resources usually give you an edge over more youthful job seekers in finding jobs. The biggest career resource that you can utilize here is in your networks, by utilizing any connections you’ve gathered over the years. This can provide several opportunities that can make your switch easier. It can be a specific company position, volunteering, getting into a bootcamp or a certification course, or maybe just some career advice to help you land your dream job easier.
Take One Step At A Time
When you’re pivoting towards a career switch, you need to be indiscriminately open; that includes being open to entry-level jobs and working with and under young people. You might have been quite high in the company with your previous employer in your previous job, but when you make a career change (especially in a new industry), quite often, but not always, you might need to start from the bottom of the ladder and work yourself to the top.
A career change at 50 years doesn’t necessarily have to be stressful. On the contrary, it should be something you embrace and head into with a positive mindset, ready to tackle a new challenge. It’s never too late to find a rewarding new career. Lets not forget, you already have the experience and maturity that will make you a very attractive candidate. In addition, you have all the transferable skills you need. And you can always upskill and get more experience if you’re planning on targeting a different industry.
You might experience some problems finding a new role nice and quickly – or it could take a while – either way, if you plan it right, there is no reason you won’t have a successful transition.
About Contributing Writer Oran Yehiel
Oran Yehiel is the founder of StartupGeek.com which helps startup founders make the right moves through unbiased advice, pro info, and helpful tools. He writes about venture capital, marketing & sales, software tools, entrepreneurship, HR and more at StartupGeek.com.