Passages in life are as predictable as the sun rising and setting. Your twenties are dedicated to starting a career and being an adult. In your thirties, you build that career and start a family. In your forties, you make sure you are on track to retire and take care of your parents. And then the fifties hit. A half a century—a big pause happens and you wonder, is this it?
Do I really want to work another 15-20 years at this job and at this pace? Depending on where you are, 15-20 years can seem like an eternity or a fast approaching train. If you are wondering if there is anything else out there, the proof is in the data. A recent study shows that 40 percent of people working at age 62 had changed careers since they turned 55.
No one wants to feel stuck.
There are plenty of reasons to ponder a career change and feel optimistic about learning something new, connecting in other ways and enjoying new opportunities. It may not be easy, but career satisfaction is worth the effort as it has positive effect on your health, relationships and life.
If you are at the stage where you have determined you want or need a change, you are probably wondering how to it.
Here are some tips to ponder:
First, deciding what you want to do can potentially take longer than transitioning to that new path. Start by asking if you are unhappy or dissatisfied with the actual job or with the culture. Then zero in on what you want to make you feel fulfilled in a professional setting. In other words, determine if your needs and desires can be realized in your current profession. And, if not, what profession is going to make that happen. This will take some soul searching, a self-assessment, perhaps some coaching and probably a lot of research.
Second, for many, there won’t be the opportunity quit your current job.
So starting at a new career while still having a full time job is all about timing—and location. Take an inventory of your skills and if any of those skills are needed in your current area. If so, you might be able to transition easier and faster. But if not, dig deeper on your skill set and how you can leverage that in a new field or perhaps in a new location.
Next, know that ageism exists.
Despite spending half of your life learning and building skills, you might come up against age discrimination in the workplace. What can you do to counteract the impact?
- Trim your resume to only the last few positions and leave out graduation dates
- Look for companies whose team shows age diversity
- Join networking and professional groups that are inclusive of all age groups
- Emphasize your experience and wisdom
- Invest time in learning new skills or technologies
- Start your own business
You can’t do the job if you don’t know how to do the job. Any hiring requisition will list a plethora of ‘required’ skills. Not all of those are truly required, but you do have to know how to do the job, even if you are applying to be an intern. It is up to you to close the gap in order to get yourself hired or be able to start your own business. Think of online schooling, freelancing or volunteering as options.
Keep in mind, there is no guarantee that you will get hired or your new business venture will take off if you choose to get traditional schooling first. If you want a change, be sure to take into account the amount of investment needed and the best way to get there. Sometimes, going back to school for a full degree is not the best use of time and money. Do the research up front to know exactly why you are going to school and don’t expect the school to figure it out for you.
Finally, know that a new career and the associated satisfaction is a process, not a destination. A career change is different for each person. Some choose to keep using the same skills but change industries. Others choose a radical shift and change everything.
Regardless of what your path looks like, know that the entire process can take months or even years. Don’t be discouraged and keep taking steps forward. Much like your current career, you weren’t the expert and didn’t achieve your status overnight. Keep your thoughts and actions in alignment, celebrate each success and remember why you are doing this.