​Changing Careers in Older Age: How to Navigate the Transition

Life can take sudden unexpected turns. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. That job you’ve enjoyed for so long can suddenly feel empty and stale. Worst is when you’ve grown complacent with it, thinking everything’s fine, and then your career ends with an abrupt layoff. Everything takes a brutal nosedive down the drain, and you’re left without a job and not knowing what to do.

Fear not, because although it may be difficult, it’s possible for you to make a successful career change even with your advanced age. Many have done it, and with a little bit of guidance and perseverance, so can you. These lessons have proved useful for people that have gone through what you are experiencing now.

Know thyself

Socrates once said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ By knowing yourself, you become aware of what matters most in your life, and this will be key to making the right career decisions. What are your talents and skills? How do you react to feedback and frustrations? What problems do you have with failure or success? If you have concrete answers to these questions, you’ll be more honest with yourself with the challenges you’re bound to face moving forward.

If you’re struggling to figure out what you want or are overwhelmed by your choices, it can help if you obtain the services of a career counselor or career development professional.

Overcome the fear

A career change is a major turning point in your life, and like all turning points, it can be fraught with anxiety and uncertainty. Remember that you are not alone, and many career changers like you feel afraid and uncertain at some point in the transition process. Recognize when your fear is starting to get the best of you. Open up to family and friends about what you’re going through, and how it’s making you feel. Communicating with your loved ones can provide you with the support and strength you need to overcome your fears. In addition, try reading up about people who have gone through similar situations and learn from their success stories.

Don’t rush

At your age, you’re less likely to put up with any nonsense, and so the only way you can be satisfied with your next career move is to find a job that matches your personality, values, interests, and aptitudes. Now the question is, what does the right job for you look like? Here, you have three possibilities: a new position in the same field, a career in another industry requiring your same skills, or a completely different job and industry altogether. Depending on where you stand physically, emotionally and mentally, each of these routes can lead to greater happiness and fulfillment. Make a list of occupations that are a good fit for you, then explore them one by one. As a starting point, here are some of the common occupations for older workers, according to the Urban Institute analysis of Health and Retirement

•Management consultant

•Community school teacher

•Administrative assistant


•Personal care aide

•Real estate agent

•Commercial driver

For someone who hasn’t really thought about making a career change until now, chances are you’ve had little opportunity to take stock of your life. To avoid making any seriously regrettable decisions, take as much time as you need to determine the direction you want your life to take in the years ahead.

Be flexible

As a person of advanced age, keep in mind that you won’t be as enticing to a recruiter or hiring manager as someone in their prime. And so you’re going to need to “Roll with it. Adapt. Darwin. I-Ching,” so to speak. Your next job may mean a smaller paycheck, not to mention some drastic lifestyle changes may come with it, such as moving to a smaller home or a less affluent community. Ultimately, you need to stay flexible when it comes to thinking about your future. The good news is that many jobs will still suit you and let you use your talents.

On the topic of being flexible, you don’t have to limit yourself to a single full-time job. Consider volunteering, working part-time or temporarily, and even starting your own backyard business as viable career moves. A combination of these may be necessary for you to achieve financial stability.

Harness your network

Now is the time to reactivate your social circle, if you haven’t done that already. Look to past and present colleagues for information and assistance as you move forward with your career change. Don’t have any social media? Note that Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are great platforms for sharing information, ideas, and feelings, which can make a huge difference in your future goals. These platforms are great for finding people you’ve lost touch with and could prove helpful in your transition.

Pick yourself up, try again

It could take more than a few tries before you land a position. You might fail a few times but have faith in yourself that every door that shuts will lead you to a new and often unexpected opportunity. You’ll get to your destination eventually, but the only way to get there is to keep striving for it, in spite of failures. The more you fail, the more you’ll learn, the less scared you’ll be the next time you try. Remember that there’s no way around failure, only through it.

Update your resume

When was the last time you updated your resume? You certainly don’t want to submit a resume that you had written many years ago. In this day and age, when they have application tracking systems combing through resumes digitally, an old resume is likely to be ignored. The latest information on your resume should at least be six months old. Not to mention, you’ll need to tailor your resume for your new career. Make smart use of the summary and objective sections to tell your story and highlight your transferable skills and abilities.

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