Should you consider a career change after 50?
These days, it may seem like every spotlight is on Millennial workers. What is their work style? How are they changing the workplace? Is avocado toast in the workplace a thing? Why do they change jobs so often? On the latter, the reality is that career mobility and changeability isn’t just a Millennial thing–many workers of all ages find themselves ready for a new path. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average Baby Boomer holds 11.7 jobs throughout their career. The changes may be subtle (moving up a ladder or lateral moves to a different company), or more drastic (changing careers altogether).
If you’re wondering about whether to make a mid- or late-career change of your own, here are some factors to consider.
Are you prepared to move “backward”?
While a career change can sound good in theory (especially if you’re feeling like you’re in a professional rut), it’s likely to involve some drastic shifts. Salary, benefits, seniority–all of those may be less than you’re accustomed to if you’re starting over in a totally new field. Are you prepared to accept less money or vacation time in exchange for getting a foot in the door?
What experience do you have?
Even if you have to go back to the square one of an entry-level job in your new field, your years of experience don’t just go away. You’re bringing a history with you, no matter what. As you think about what you’d like to be doing with your career change, it’s important to take a step back and think about the history you’ve accumulated. It may not be directly applicable in a totally new field, but instead of thinking of your past job life, like “My responsibilities were X,” try framing it as “When I worked on X, here’s what I learned about leadership/management/teamwork/etc.”
What are your skills?
Hard skills (like certifications or job-specific skills) may or may not make the jump to your next career. But like with your experience, you should be thinking of how to translate them into the kinds of soft skills that will transfer over. For example, your specific coding knowledge may not be super-relevant to your next job as a teacher, but your coding skills help you think efficiently about how to organize and present information. So as you prepare to write your new-you resume, think hard about the buckets of skills you already have and how they can be applied in unorthodox ways.
What education would you need?
And for any skills you don’t yet have (or will need to build) in your new career, you’ll need to consider what you’ll need to do to a) break into your field, and b) keep growing and developing once you’re in it. This may mean taking classes online to brush up basics, or it could mean going back to school, full-stop, to get a certification. For example, many career-changers end up in the healthcare field–an industry that often requires specific, detailed knowledge and certification before getting even an entry-level job. Are you prepared to balance your current job with classes, or to quit your job and spend the time and money to get the education you’d need to move forward?
What’s your retirement plan?
If you’re changing careers, then this is not your standard “work for The Man for 30 years, get a gold watch, and retire into the sunset” scenario. You’re making a significant commitment to a new phase, potentially for the rest of your working life. But at some point, you’ll still need to consider the retirement endpoint. Finance is typically the crucial factor here–if you disrupt your career after 50, it might mean making changes to your long-term plan as well. Talking with a financial planner can help you figure out what future retirement scenarios look like.
If you’re thinking about making a big career shift, don’t let inertia or fear hold you back! As long as you put careful thought into the possibilities and likely realities of making big professional changes, you should be able to find the right path for yourself.