Changing Career at 50 and Above: An Occupational Guide
Thinking of changing career at 50 years old and above? You’re not alone.
Frequently, older adults seek to transition to new work. But it’s a challenging process.
In this article, we’ll investigate the reasons for change, common challenges and potential ideas pertaining to a new occupation.
Reasons for change
The UK workforce has never been so agile. Let’s see why you might need or want to change:
In a time when industries are facing widespread technological disruption, it’s imperative for workers to future-proof themselves where possible, especially in high-risk professions.
After all, your job could be here today and gone tomorrow, and without planning for worst-case scenarios, you could face the unenviable prospect of unemployment in the twilight of your career.
Consequently, older adults are increasingly arming themselves with additional skills and knowledge or prospecting new industries to stake their claim.
As a society, we’re enjoying increasingly longer lives.
Thanks to health education and preventative medicine, we’re maximising our wellbeing well into later life.
Whereas 50 may have once been considered the finale of one’s career, our work lives are now extending into our 60’s and beyond.
With the experience possessed by many seasoned career veterans, there’s no shortage of time to retrain for a further 15-20 years in a new field.
Longer life expectancy creates added financial responsibilities and the need to ensure that we’re preparing wisely for eventual retirement.
Some over 50’s who’ve focussed on material wealth in the earlier stages of their career might choose to wind down and pursue a path of greater fulfilment and happiness.
For others, upskilling and entering a higher earning bracket for increased pension contributions might be on the agenda.
If you’ve worked the same job for your entire career, you may be suffering from a case of fatigue and monotony.
Perhaps you’ve climbed to the top of your current career ladder or simply desire a fresh new challenge.
Reaching 50 might provide an important wake-up call to pursue long-held ambitions, re-invigorating your professional life.
After chasing financial security, many of us begin to realise that there’s more to life than money.
With an established savings or investments portfolio, you may seek more altruistic, rewarding work.
In fact, many of Mirthy’s public speakers are motivated to offer their services for that very reason, delivering entertaining talks and sharing their experience for the benefit of the local community.
If you’ve trodden a traditional path through education and employment, you may have ended up in an uninspiring job to pay the bills and provide for your loved ones.
A career change at 50 into a role that resonates, either working in a different field or as a later life entrepreneur, can reignite a passion for what you do, creating renewed energy, excitement and meaning.
For those who’ve had hectic careers, a transition to a more relaxed role might be more enticing, forming a precursor to retirement.
This could include reducing working hours or entering a less demanding role, providing more bandwidth to enjoy life outside of work, while still benefiting from the physical and mental stimulation that employment provides.
There are many reasons for people seeking change, but when the rubber meets the road, it can be a challenge. Let’s see why.
Finances are often a limiting factor for over 50’s initiating a career change, perhaps due to family responsibilities negating the possibility of retraining and starting from scratch.
Transitioning at such times when money is tight can create significant stress and place strain on emotional health and personal relationships.
Ageism does exist in some professional settings and may be a factor for older adults changing career at 50 or above.
As a society, whilst we’re becoming more comfortable with career transitions, especially in later life, some might feel that potential employers aren’t as receptive to their applications or that they’re overlooked in favour of their younger counterparts.
Perhaps a corollary of societal stigma is the mindset of making a big career shift in later life. Older adults might feel that they’re too old to make a change.
They’ve invested in their social capital over an entire career and starting again is intimidating.
They might doubt their capability to adjust to the modern marketplace which harnesses new technology.
Changing career at 50 is a decision seldom taken alone, as many older adults have spouses and children to consider before making a transition.
This can add extra pressure to an already stressful situation.
With dependents relying on security and provision, abandoning a stable career in search of greater fulfilment requires potential sacrifices, both emotional and financial.
When we’re young, there’s the perception that we possess unlimited time to experiment with different jobs.
As we age, however, it can appear that we have less wiggle room to test new directions. Perhaps you’re a multi-passionate individual and want to make a change, but are unsure what’s best.
If you only have time for one career change, it’s imperative to put sufficient thought and research into potential options before committing.
Changing career at 50 and above: ideas for new occupations
Are you mentally prepared for the switch? Okay…here are some ideas to spark inspiration.
If you’ve always worked for someone else, you might be desperate to start your own business and be your own boss.
Entrepreneurship provides the freedom and flexibility to pursue a direction aligned with greater passion and purpose.
While starting a successful enterprise is undoubtedly challenging, it’s often one of the best decisions later lifers make.
Freelancing can be a great way to transition to a more fulfilling role in later life.
The benefit? You can continue with your current job and test the waters, accruing relevant skills and experience before making a full-time switch.
Freelancing covers a range of pursuits and professions, from sales and marketing to photography and interior design.
Science and technology
The world is being re-imagined daily, via new breakthroughs in science and technology. It’s an exciting time, with innovation at the forefront of every field.
This presents a unique opportunity, whereby investment in your education can effectively position you for emerging roles.
Whether that’s getting to grips with 3D printing or learning the next new programming language, you can put such skills to good use in changing career at 50.
Older adults bring a wealth of life experience to bear in teaching children or their peers.
Many of our online hosts not only entertain, but simultaneously educate and inform.
If it’s more traditional education you’re after, perhaps you could retrain as a teacher or teaching assistant, nurturing the next generation in preparation for their own future careers.
If you’ve been consigned to an office throughout your career, you may yearn for more hands-on work.
Learning a trade like carpentry or plumbing can fulfil such needs, mixing creative thinking and practical skills.
Becoming a master craftsman is no mean feat, but is a rewarding journey, with tangible outcomes and happy clients enjoying the fruits of your labour.
Health and beauty
If you want to become more active in later life, there’s no better excuse than undertaking a role in health and beauty, where it’s essential to practice what you preach.
Working as a personal trainer, nutritionist or massage therapist are just a few examples permitting genuine human connection as you assist your clients with their lifestyle transformation.
Many career switchers seek a transition from office work to spending time outdoors and in nature.
Even better, when working with animals, either in a veterinary position, rehabilitation centre or pet sitting role, you can improve your health simply through the activity-related demands of the job.
So not only do you benefit from spending time with an assortment of fluffy friends, but you also feel better for it!
Later life is a great time to give back and altruism provides a great sense of satisfaction and purpose.
This option might suit those transitioning to a part-time role or someone who’s financially independent enough to dedicate time to charities or social enterprises.
However, this needn’t be the case. Many paid positions are available in the third sector, either for passionate individuals or those who possess in-demand skills and experience.
Humans are caring by nature and helping people improve their lives can paradoxically enhance your own life. The feeling of supporting others in times of need is genuinely rewarding.
Furthermore, older adults are well suited for such advisory roles, drawing upon an abundance of professional and personal experience.
The emergence of roles such as life, health or executive coaching provide a pathway for later life transition, none of which require specific qualifications.
Career change tips
Liaise with loved ones
Determined to make a change?
Rather than storming into the bosses office, resignation letter in hand, it’s sensible to discuss the situation with your loved ones ahead of time.
Making a career change is stressful enough, so their support is vital.
In addition, you can flesh out a plan together, which might mean agreeing on sacrifices that can be made as you pursue a new path.
Before making a change, research your options thoroughly.
This could involve speaking to people who currently work in a role you aspire to or investigating proposed job specifications and requirements.
You can often browse online forums or specific communities on websites like Reddit.
You might even try to attend talks from Mirthy members who have experience in relevant fields of work or study.
Continuous investment in your education isn’t only applicable to times of transition, but rather to a life well-lived.
If you can adopt a growth mindset and engage in the practice of lifelong learning, you’ll be better placed to make a change and apply your skills to new endeavours when opportunities arise.
While theoretical knowledge is all very well and good, it’s no substitute for hands-on experience.
After all, you don’t really know how you’ll adjust to new career without a modicum of exposure.
If you can develop a network in your target industry and offer free help in exchange for a learning opportunity, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself into ahead of time.
In a world which is constantly re-inventing itself, as individuals we must become comfortable adapting to change.
Even though this process is arguably harder in older age, it’s by no means impossible, especially with the correct mindset.
Although changing career at 50 can be a daunting process, Mirthy's hosts are testament to the fact that facing your fears and taking inspired action offer the ultimate reward.
If you want to develop some career change courage and explore your interests, why not try public speaking?