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Top tips for changing your career in later life

29th November 2019

As you grow older, you may begin to feel as though you’re stuck in a monotonous daily routine. With each passing week, the realisation that you’re stuck in an unfulfilling role may start to creep up on you, eventually leading to unhappiness in the workplace. However, despite these feelings, apprehension regarding a change in career path may stop you from trying something new. 

Ros from The Career Coach understands that there are many different reasons why people are looking for a change in job: “many men and women are changing career for all sorts of reasons (divorce, empty nest, wanting to learn new skills, feel valued, because they are stressed and want more balance or because they have been made redundant) and all of us need to work longer because of pension ages moving back.”

Hannah Salton, Career Coach and Consultant recognises people changing career later in life, offering this insight: “Sometimes people think they are too late in their career or have worked at one place too long to change career. In my experience, the biggest actual challenges are the internal limiting beliefs and lack of confidence people have about exploring the job market or changing career. Companies value experience and career changers always have a wealth of transferable skills, so it’s just a case of working out what they are and how they can demonstrate that to others.  

“It can feel overwhelming to explore career change at any age. I would recommend trying to put a bit of structure around something which can often be rather unstructured. Create an ideal timeline with an action plan and next steps – and consider working with a coach or mentor to keep progress going. Manging your confidence and motivation is a big part of changing career.”

The process of changing your career path, particularly if you’ve spent decades working in the same industry, can seem daunting. Nevertheless, there are some tips that you can follow to guide you on your way to your new occupation. From looking at your skills and sourcing a job to enlisting in the help of a career coach, take a look at how to get started below.

Where to begin?

Before you dive into the hunt for a new job, it is important to think about what you need from this change of career. A mortgage, family commitments and bills need to be paid each month; however, it is likely that you will experience a pay cut as you pursue something new. With this in mind and your children have already flown the nest, fewer monthly outgoings mean that later in life may be the perfect time to change career.

Many people may find it easy to pinpoint where their dissatisfaction with their job comes from. Maybe a restructure in the business has left you feeling less valued or perhaps you would like to pursue something that makes a difference? The first step before changing your career path is figuring out what elements of your current job you would like to avoid in the future.

You may find that there are some quick fixes to these issues that can happen in your current position, such as speaking to someone at work or taking on some new responsibilities. If not, it’s good to keep these in mind in your search for something new.

Margaret Buj from Interview Coach helps people enter a new career path in later life. When asked what advice she would offer to people who are interested in trying something new, she shared: “It’s really hard to pick just one piece of advice, but if I really had to choose one, I’d say ‘take small actions towards a career change on a daily basis’. Once you have an idea of what role/industry you want to go into, taking these small actions will help you make progress without making you feel overwhelmed. The actions could include emailing someone on LinkedIn who works in a field that interests you, arranging a time to speak to someone, or researching a course you want to do. You don’t need to spend hours every week on your career change – these small daily actions can really add up.”

“Yes, it can be harder but making a career change could come at a cost, regardless of your age. You might need to retrain, and you might be unemployed for a while you’re studying, you might need to fund your education. You might have a family to support, which might make it impossible for you to simply quit your job and retrain. I also think there are certain industries which simply prefer to hire young graduates in their 20s as opposed to someone a lot more experienced who wants to change industry, so do your research first. Having said that, being older and experienced can also help if you want to set up your own business for example, as this is where maturity and experience will really help you succeed.”

After analysing your skillset, it may be hard to visualise yourself working in another industry. If you’ve spent the past few decades in the same career with your education and training specifically catered to this one role, deciding how you can apply this to something completely different can be hard. Breaking down each aspect of your current job, you could find skills you never knew you had. For some, you may find that you have thrived in the creative aspects of your role. Alternatively, managing a team may be your forte, so focus on these aspects when you begin your job search.

How to apply

“One piece of advice for changing career? Go for it – but be informed about how to go about selling yourself and your skills in this new digital job market”, shares Ros. “Ensure your CV says ‘experienced’ and doesn’t include old qualification dates. Lead with the transferable skills and the important qualities you bring (reliability, wisdom, the flexibility of hours which means you are cheaper for the business). Get onto LinkedIn and build a profile there, using it to reach out directly to employers you are interested in working with. (Not being on LinkedIn is equivalent to no birth certificate in a digital age). Use your contacts to learn about roles that would suit you. Ensure your digital skills are up to date and if they are not, seek out courses at local colleges or through learning platforms like Lynda.com and add them to your CV.

“Ageism is a reality despite age discrimination laws, but the good news is that more workplaces are opening up to new ways of recruiting to eliminate bias and are making concerted efforts to make their workforces far more diverse. You must believe in yourself. Don’t say ‘they won’t choose me’. It’s a lie – you really don’t know until you put in an application. Say ‘There’s only one of me’ and demonstrate what you bring that can uniquely solve the business and people problems of the organisation you are reaching out to. A final rule of thumb – if you can do more than 60% of the job description, put in an application. Often these are ‘wish lists’ and employers are realistic that they might not find one person who brings all that to the table, so it’s fine to apply! Good luck!”

If you’ve been in the same job for a while, chances are that your CV will need updating. Although employers cannot discriminate older applicants, such as those who use stair lifts, you may feel more comfortable leaving off details such as your age and when you graduated university. The same applies to your work experience; although you may have worked in the same business for plenty of years, why not just mention your most recent position. Unless you’re going for a senior position where experience is key, selecting the most relevant experience can make the information on your CV easier to digest.

Your CV should display the journey that you have made to get to the point you’re currently at. Carefully scripting a narrative that shows the transferable skills you’ve picked up throughout your career is important allows you to highlight some of your talents. This is something that Bonita from Hypnotherapy Associates believes: “You have a lot of transferable skills from one job to another that you may not realise. For example, I changed career from investment banking to be a therapist and the knowledge of the corporate environment when helping clients was invaluable, along with the aspect of finances and marketing to run my therapy business, in general, was crucial.”

After looking at your CV, you may feel like you’re at a disadvantage changing your career slightly later in life. However, Bonita doesn’t think that this is something that can hinder you: “It can be easier as you have a lot of life and work experience to draw on. The main thing is to stay flexible and be prepared to do some quite junior aspects of a role and put in the time and energy to learn new things without ‘running’ at the first sign of discomfort. Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone - that is where ‘the magic’ happens.”

Things to remember

Nikki Alderson, a specialist coach for empowering female lawyers shared these quick tips to remember before you take the plunge and change your career:

  1. “Before taking the entrepreneurial leap, I strongly recommend working the dream around the day job….” Quote from my book, Amazon No. 1 bestseller Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching.
  2. “Be aware of your mindset – this can make or break your ability to approach a career change with enthusiasm, positivity and confidence. Changing career later in life means you have a wealth of cross-transferable skills and a huge network. It’s just about knowing how to harness those to the best effect.
  3. “Whilst it is important to have an end goal, work backwards by putting plans in place to achieve it, and take action to achieve it, as Marie Forleo said: “Start before you are ready.” Don’t wait until you have done the research to death, dotted every i, crossed every t and got the t-shirt too. Whilst doing all that, you may miss golden opportunities to learn and upskill in a new position.”

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.