Career Change At 50: 12 Surprisingly Easy Steps To Make It Happen
What would you think if I told you 80% of people aged 45 and up consider changing careers, but only 6% of them actually do?
A career change at 50 scares a lot of us — especially if the job you have now at least provides some stability.
And those careers you’ve looked into all require skills you don’t have yet.
But experience has taught you that growth often means change.
And if you’re reading this, I bet you’re willing to take some risks if they’ll lead you to a life you can be proud of.
You just need to know where to start.
Starting Over at 50
Why is it so daunting to undertake a career change at 50 when you’re still fully capable of learning new skills and have a wealth of valuable experience to draw from?
For some, the cost is a major factor: getting any kind of college degree or skills training takes money.
Others point to a shortage of time; their current careers may not pay enough, but they keep them plenty busy.
So, when are they supposed to learn the skills they need for a different career?
And what if their employers learn of their plans and retaliate against them?
Fortunately, with the options we now have for flexible online training and degree programs — as well as for low-interest student loans — you don’t have to stay trapped in a job you hate.
But it does pay to consider the following:
- What skills you already have
- What skills you need to develop in order to get the job you want
- What experience you have that can help you
- What training you need to get a job in your chosen field
- What experience you need to have an edge over your competition?
- How you’ll rebrand yourself as a skilled professional in your chosen field
- How you’ll market yourself to become more visible to employers?
- How long it will likely be before you can apply for the job you want
- How much money it will take and how you’ll finance this change
- What the transition period may cost you and the people close to you
- Whether the people close to you are on board and accepting of the risks
- What the options are in your area for employers in your chosen field
- Whether anyone you know can help guide you as you change careers
- What your life will be like five years from now if you do nothing
- How your life experience has formed you into the person you are now
- How that experience makes you uniquely suited to the career you want.
Once you consider all these questions, you’ll be better prepared to do what is necessary.
So, what do you have to do to get the ball rolling?
Career Change at 50
Keep in mind the average baby boomer held 11.8 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Job hopping isn’t a new thing. And having changed careers more than once doesn’t make you indecisive or unreliable.
For many of us, our job hopping is at least partly due to our being told at a young age that in order to succeed, we needed to attend a four-year college and earn a degree in one of the highly-recommended fields (preferably one that related to our strengths).
For some of us, it has plenty to do with our being encouraged to find our purpose in marriage rather than anything apart from that.
Now, in our 40s and 50s . . .
- We’re struggling to pay off college debt while working for a job that looked better on paper (or on TV).
- Or we’re looking for a way to support ourselves and our kids after the end of a marriage.
- We might even be looking for a way to pursue a career we talked ourselves out of years ago.
Whatever your background, there’s no shame in trying to make your last few decades of employment something you can look forward to.
It’s no accident that a very small percentage of people in their 40s and 50s in the U.S. are working in the careers they thought they’d have when they were 18.
But how do you make a career change at 50 without risking everything?
It can start with something as simple as taking a class or signing up as a part-time college student for an online degree program.
It can also start with a part-time job in a different field with a more understanding employer.
You also might catch the bug while mentoring someone else or doing volunteer work.
Any of these can lead to the development of new skills, as well as valuable experience in a new field. And your future employers will be grateful for all of it.
So, to keep it simple, consider the following 12 steps:
1. Determine which careers are the best fit.
Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics website to see the fastest growing jobs and consider which ones match your skills, interests, experience, and strengths.
2. Find out how much they pay.
Check out salary.com to see whether a particular career will pay you what you need or want to earn.
3. Check out your immediate options.
Visit CareerOneStop to see what careers you could do with the skills and experience you already have.
4. Calculate your cost of living.
Once you know how much your favorite careers pay, use the cost-of-living calculator at Payscale.com to see how much money you’d have to earn to maintain your current (or desired) standard of living.
5. Learn what you need.
O*Net Online provides deep information on thousands of jobs, including the education level of your competition and the required skills and credentials.
6. Rebrand yourself for your new career.
Change your LinkedIn profile to reflect the career you’re pursuing.
Entrepreneur magazine’s website even has a section on personal branding that’s worth a look.
7. Develop a social media presence.
Focus on the channels favored by the people in your chosen field. And if you don’t yet have a LinkedIn profile, now’s the time to start one.
8. Make a plan and put it in action.
Once you’ve chosen a career, determined what you still need, and started rebranding yourself, it’s time to make a plan and act on it.
Look through the job search organizational tools on SimplyHired to learn how to set up email alerts and to search for and apply to jobs.
9. Create an elevator pitch.
Imagine someone who could help you get your dream job just asked you, “So, what do you do?”
How would you want to answer the question if you had only 30 seconds to do so?
10. Surround yourself with positivity.
Spend more time with people who encourage you, recognize your gifts, and build you up. And do the same for them.
11. Keep track of your progress and accomplishments.
It’s encouraging to see the trail of actions you’ve taken to get yourself closer to the career you want. Use it to keep yourself motivated.
12. Don’t give up.
No matter how distant your goal seems, keep working at it. So many people give up because they don’t realize how close they are to their goals. Keep stepping forward, even if you can’t see your goal through the fog.
New Career at 50 Ideas
Depending on your experience, skills, and interests, any of the following careers might pique your interest. But there are many options besides the ones listed below:
Health Specialties Teacher (Post-Secondary)
Imagine teaching health specialties-related courses at a local college or training program.
Nurse Practitioner (NP)
There’s always a need for skilled and caring professionals in the medical field, and the work is as demanding as it is rewarding.
Computer Software Engineer
Many in this field have the option of working remotely (at least partly) while developing cutting-edge software and applications.
Physical or Occupational Therapist Assistant (PTA)
If you’d like to work in either of these growing fields but would rather not pursue an advanced degree, the projected annual salary for these careers is around $60K.
Information Security Analyst
If you’re interested in helping organizations protect their information and computer systems, this is a growing career with a median pay of better than $95K per year (or about $47/hour).
Work full-time as a respected professional in the medical field without the extra years of specialized (and expensive) medical training.
Operations research analyst
While some employers require a specialized supplemental degree, this career is ideal for those who enjoy using advanced mathematical and analytical skills to solve complex problems.
If you love writing, and you love technology, you can earn a respectable income as a full-time technical writer.
Mathematician or Statistician
Typically, employers will want to see a Master’s degree for either of these careers, so make sure you love the work before you take this path.
Whether you go the traditional or indie publishing route, aside from writing your book and getting it ready for publication, you’ll also need to learn how to market your books and develop them into other products or services.
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Are you ready to make a career change at 50?
A career change at 50 doesn’t come without risks.
But if what you stand to gain from it is worth those risks, you deserve all the information and encouragement you need to make the change you want.
Whatever job stands out to you and makes you want to change everything, hold onto it.
Find out what skills and experience you need to cultivate for it.
Careers are more than a way to earn a paycheck; they’re part of your bigger picture.
And they can help you find the direction your life needs to take — even if you can’t clearly see the steps ahead.
Every step in a better direction matters.