Best Options Changing Careers Over 50

Best options changing careers over 50

Starting a second career

Posted on: December 19, 2017

Far from coasting gently towards retirement, more people than ever are starting a new career at 50. If you’re considering a change, here’s our guide to maximising your skills, experience and work ethic.

From October 2020 the State Pension age for men and women will be 66 as the government faces the reality of an ageing population, and many of us will work some way beyond.

Far from the twilight years, in your fifties you can easily be facing another decade or two at work.

With plenty of life left, the golden generation are no longer putting up with jobs that don’t push their buttons. Research by the London School of Business and Finance has found that 43% of employees aged between 45 and 54 are seeking new challenges and opportunities[1].

“More people are changing jobs in their 50s than any time before,” says John Lees, career coach and author of ‘How to Get a Job You Love’.

When our working lives can easily exceed half a century, it’s simply old-fashioned to treat people in their 50s as winding down for retirement.

Best options changing careers over 50

In fact, more older people than ever are making the most of their accumulated experience: in the last five years more than a million people aged 50 and over have rejoined the workforce[2].

Why are the over 50s changing careers?

Over-stressed, divorce, empty nest, boredom at work, redundancy or simply an urge to learn new skills: there are plenty of reasons for wanting to change career in your 50s, but for many it’s about satisfaction.

“I craved one thing above all,” Lucy Kellaway told the Times after causing a splash in 2016 when she quit her job as a Financial Times columnist to retrain as a teacher[3]: “the luxury of being useful.”

“Almost everyone said the same thing: you’re mad.

Many of my contemporaries were restive in their assorted jobs too, and while some were planning to slouch towards retirement, others longed to start all over again doing something new, difficult and worthwhile. As I hope to go on living for many more decades, it seems mad to spend my whole life doing one thing.”

She’s not alone in her thinking. Research from Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute (one of the driving forces behind the hygge wave that has swept the world) asked 8,000 Danish workers from every sector where they found professional contentment[4].

The winner, overwhelmingly, was a meaningful sense of purpose.

“For the men and women that I work with, making a difference using the wisdom and skills they’ve acquired is a big driver,” says Ros Toynbee, director and lead coach of The Career Coach. “It’s not about going up the ladder, and they’re not ready to retire – they feel they have bags of experience and energy to give.”

Others are seeking a change of pace and to tackle spiralling stress levels, looking to replace stressful roles with part-time or alternative careers.

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“I wasn’t enjoying the job, and had no job satisfaction or work-life balance,” says Maggie Regis who retrained as a private maths tutor after a career as a GP Practice Manager.

“There were lots of conflicting pressures, constant challenges with managing staff, changing and increasing employment laws, and fundamental changes in the funding of healthcare causing massive workload. I wanted a change.”

Though the work pressures are still there – “teaching is very demanding” – the new role has brought a flexibility and satisfaction that management couldn’t, “not to mention regular holidays”.

“Taking your foot off the pedal doesn’t have to mean that you’ve lost all motivation,” says John, “just that you’ve learned that work doesn’t have to be all-consuming.”

Image: Adobe Stock

Should you consider a career change over 50: What are the realities?

Aside from starry-eyed aspirations of work that is finally fulfilling, there are some serious considerations to take into account when considering a new career at 50.

For one, the money.

Best options changing careers over 50

Starting any new career is likely to mean a pay cut and there has been downward pressure on wages since the 2008 crunch, however if your mortgage is paid off and the children have left home, you’ll have fewer pressures on your finances, which affords you the luxury of working for love rather than money.

Be clear about how much you really need to live comfortably, and motivations for the change.

“I’m part of the lucky generation with houses and pensions,” says Lucy; “a drop in salary doesn’t terrify me in the way it once would have.”

Unless you’re setting up your own business, you’ll find yourself back at the bottom of the ladder, perhaps with an uneasy dynamic of being ruled by bosses young enough to be your grandchildren.

For many relinquishing power and the stress that goes with it is part of the appeal, but make sure that’s you.

Despite successful careers and excellent skillsets, many people looking for a change of career at 50 can find the job market intimidating, deterred by being perceived as too old or, ironically, too experienced.

Resumes and CVs

Though robust age discrimination legislation is in place to protect older people in the workforce, a survey by Angela Ruskin University found that older applicants are more than four times less likely to be offered an interview, regardless of experience.

“Ageism is real and evident,” John adds, “but many employers value experience, maturity and reliability – especially where candidates are still motivated.”

Is it too late to change careers after 50?

It’s never too late.

If anything, it’s a good time for the over 50s to change career. The government is embracing the skills and economic potential of the older generation and actively supports training programmes and apprenticeships for the over-50s[5]. In October last year Aviva executive Andy Briggs was appointed Business Champion for Older Workers to tackle the skills gap and age bias.

Best options changing careers over 50

In February, he called on British companies to increase their number of staff aged between 50 and 69 by 12% over the next five years[6]. “We’re asking employers to consider carefully the overwhelming benefits of having a diverse and representative workforce, and then act on it,” he said, arguing that a different workforce composition could help solve the skills gap and boost GDP.

“Age gives you a lot of wisdom,” says Ros.

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“you’re reliable, a safe pair of hands; you may be able to offer more flexible hours (which is cheaper for an employer) and so on. Reflect on why your age is the reason why you should be hired and say it with conviction.”

The job market and technology have no doubt changed since you started work, but that doesn’t mean they have to be a barrier.

Best over 50 career changes

“Keep your skills up to date,” advises John. “Follow trends in gadgets and software, and don’t refer to the good old days of fax machines.”

Just about every library or local adult education college has easy-to-access, and often subsidised, courses where you can brush up your technical skills and confidence.

Image: Adobe Stock

How to get started

The idea of a new career at 50 can be daunting, but here are a few simple steps to help focus the mind.

Establish your priorities

What do you want from your new role – reduced stress?

How to reinvent your career after 50

Greater flexibility? More creativity? New skills?

How To Change Careers at Midlife

– and tailor your job search accordingly.

Identify your strengths

Online tools such as strengthscope help you to learn where your strengths lie, as can trusted, honest friends. Enlist their help and remember to take all of your transferrable skills, which may not just be professional.

“Mothering requires a range of transferable skills which are often overlooked but should be brought out when applying for work,” explains Ros; “from multitasking, to managing difficult people, events management and more.”

Rewrite your CV

Adjust your CV to a skills-based format, focusing on your abilities rather than your previous roles.

“Don’t draw attention to your age by giving emphasis to the year you started work or by highlighting out-of-date terminology, organisation names or qualifications,” says John.

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“It’s probably not useful to indicate the year you obtained your qualifications; it may seem like ancient history to the recruiter.”

Don’t go beyond 10 years’ work experience and say ‘experienced’ if you’ve been in one career for a number of years. If you’re unsure, hire a professional CV writer.

Make sure you’re on LinkedIn

The Google of good people, you need a LinkedIn profile: “if you’re not, it’s the equivalent of having no birth certificate,” says Ros.

“You simply don’t exist in the job market Make sure your head and shoulder picture looks smart, professional and contemporary. “If you can learn how to use Groups and to share your expertise with others asking questions or you are willing to learn how to blog, you’ll demonstrate that you are tech-savvy no matter what your age,” adds Ros.

Use your contacts

Network, network, network.

Best options changing careers over 50

We drum it into fresh-faced graduates and if you’re changing career in your 50s, now is the time to cash in. Speak to friends, former colleagues and associates to both find out more about new careers, get introductions to the right contacts and learn about jobs that aren’t being advertised.

Remember, maturity can be an advantage

Age brings the benefit of experience and we can draw on this to say calm when dealing with problems and overcome setbacks, so don’t apologise for your age or lack of recent, relevant experience.

Think about a career coach

It can be useful to have an external influence to focus your thoughts, set goals, keep you on track and act as a cheerleader.

Retraining at 50

Ignore those who sneer that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks: you can.

Though university is an option for a complete career transformation, don’t assume that you have to retrain – that’s often a long-winded distraction. Be realistic about how much time you can commit to training before starting afresh: a seven-year medical degree won’t leave you with much time before retirement.

Short courses, work experience, and self-taught programmes can often fulfil the same function, and there are countless YouTube and Lynda.com videos that can help you learn skills such as social media and presenting.

If you are looking for a drastic change, consider an adult apprenticeship.

Record numbers of over 50s are joining dedicated programmes for older workers[7] (from major companies such as Barclays, the National Express and PwC), encouraged by the Department of Work and Pensions[8] who point out that older workers are less flighty than young employees and likely to stay in one job for longer, making the investment in their training worthwhile.

“Find out the skills that are in demand by employers and to ask on LinkedIn or within your network how you could go about learning it,” suggests Ros.

If you’re over 55, take this job and love it

“There’s courses for just about everything but ensure you are investing money in the ones that are the best ones. PRINCE2 for example is not as in demand these days as project managers who have completed Agile or Scrum Master qualifications.”

What new careers are there for the over 50s?

The best opportunities are the ones which you think you will enjoy and are convenient for you in that they work for your lifestyle.

B&Q, BT, Centrica, M&S and Sainsburys are among the employers who have gained a reputation as an over 50s employer. Here are some of the best jobs for over 50s:

Consultant

If you’ve been working in the corporate world for a number of years, use your experience to guide other companies.

Teacher

With thousands of teaching vacancies, retrain to pass your knowledge on in the classroom.

Registered nurse or home aide

Flexible and vocational, nursing can be a rewarding job and fit around other commitments.

Counsellor

If you’re empathetic and keen to help others, retraining as a counsellor could offer a flexible way to  help others.

Entrepreneur

Recent data from the Labour Force Survey found the over-50s make up 45% of Britain’s self-employed workforce.

If you’ve got a burning idea, turn your skills to your advantage by going it alone.

Consider a portfolio career

A mix of part-time and freelance work could help you strike the balance you’re after – the gig economy isn’t just for grads.

If I Could Change My Career At 60, So Can You

It’s flexible and allows you to work for the clients that you want and have greater control over your working hours.

A Change is as Good as a Break

With plenty of support and opportunities for a career change at 50, it’s a good time to take the plunge. Start by sketching out your skills and values to identify the best fit for you.

Best options changing careers over 50

Next, write yourself a skills-based CV and make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to scratch before shaking the networking tree for contacts and bagging yourself a new lease of life. Remember – experience and maturity make you a valuable and reliable candidate; age is not a dirty word.

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