How to Change Careers Over 50: Insights From Someone Who Succeeded
With the new average of career changes in a lifetime being 5-7, more and more people in their 50s, that are nowhere near retirement age, are taking the plunge and finding themselves new and more fulfilling careers. The empowering idea that we can take the bull by the horns and change the prospect of just getting through the next few decades, into a vision where we can make our careers work for us, is incredible.
But, as much as we can hear from friends and family “You are never too old for a career change!” and “Just go for it! Do what you love!”, we know, it’s not exactly that simple. We can be 100% positive that we want to make a change, but knowing that and doing it are two very different things.
Amanda Falconer is someone who knew this well, living through it as she executed not one, but two significant career changes by her 50’s – but not without challenges along the way.
“When you leave something that you’ve done for a long time, and you branch out into an area that’s quite different from what you’re doing, it is very easy to think, ‘Oh, I’m an idiot,’ or ‘This isn’t going to work,'” Amanda says.
Finding herself exhausted from a 30 year long successful career in corporate marketing, and then running her own agency, her ultimate career move was to run her own pet food supplement business: Bestie Kitchen.
“I just wanted to do something that was really a creative expression from my point of view and something that I had complete control over as well.”
For anyone looking to make a career move in their 50s, there is nothing more valuable than a real-life insight from someone who has done it, so we spoke more to Amanda about the challenges, rewards, and advice on how to make your dream job a reality.
Navigating the gap between knowing you want a career change, and knowing what career to change to
Years of working in one particular job, along with other various life challenges, can stifle our ability to stay in touch with what makes us tick. The list of career options are enormous, so how do we decide what our next step will be?
“That can be a very difficult period to navigate,” Amanda explains. “And I know, I’ve been through that myself. I see a lot of people going through that – not all as they approach 50 – but that is a very common thing with people who are older in their careers.”
Getting out there and exploring a new interest, not related to work, can be a great way to remind us of where we get our joy. Amanda credits starting a new hobby in improvisation and drama for allowing her creativity and new ideas for her career path to emerge.
“I didn’t think that I was going to end up on television or be an actor or anything. I was doing it because I loved it,” she says.
It’s not uncommon to push our own interests and hobbies aside to cater for long working hours. And at the end of an exhausting day, often the last thing we want to do is engage in another activity. But, what Amanda’s experience is proof of, is that giving yourself the time and opportunity to throw yourself into something you love creates great potential for reinvigoration. And from there, the change you want to make often becomes crystal clear.
Getting over the mental challenges
Making a career move at any age poses some challenges. But none more than anxiety, fear of the unknown and imposter syndrome. Amanda encountered self-doubt in her career move too.
“An eCommerce store may not seem frightening, but my whole background is in business to business, and I come out of industrial marketing. So the idea of actually marketing direct to consumers was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I mean, I’m a very good marketer, I just felt very uncomfortable and like I was on shakier ground.”
Being prepared and knowing that it is entirely normal to feel vulnerable can clear the path for us to face each potential roadblock head-on.
“You need to take a calculated risk because at the end of the day, you’ve got one life and I don’t think you want to get to the end of it and say, ‘I really should have done something else,’ because it will be too late by then.”
The value of lifelong learning
The best way to prepare for a new career is often upskilling. Not only do you learn the new skills you need for a job, you re-engage your brain to learn new things, become more confident, enhance your communication skills and can even build a network of like-minded people that you can connect with moving forward.
Amanda says she is somewhat insulated from ageism as she owns her own business, but toward the end of her marketing career could feel the subtle notions of this discrimination creeping in. Her advice for combatting ageism from hiring managers or recruiters in looking for a new role is to consistently be open to learning new things and being adaptable, no matter what age you are.
“You really need to be a lifelong learner,” she says. “And I don’t know that that necessarily gets you over the ageism, which is sometimes just an unconscious bias that people have, but I think being continually engaged, and learning for yourself is a really important thing.”
Amanda also explains why she is “a very big believer” in ongoing micro-skilling and upskilling.
Aside from the way short courses helped bolster her existing skillset for a new industry and taught her the granular skills she needed to thrive, Amanda says short courses are a fantastic way to explore career options.
“Even if you don’t know what you want to do yet, but you think, ‘Oh, I’m kind of interested in this area,’ go do some short courses. Because a couple of things are likely to happen,” she explains.
“One might be, ‘Oh, actually, I really don’t like this, and I’m shit at it.’ Or, you might think, ‘Oh, this is great.’ And this will uncover future directions.”
Learning as a mature student can have its benefits too. With more experience in life and potentially a more direct focus on what it is you are learning, mature students usually perform well in a learning environment.
Why you should just do what you love
Allowing yourself to recognise your dreams, realising you still have so much time to do it and the prospect of setting a new set of goals to achieve is extremely exciting.
Amanda says, “The phrase, ‘Do what you love,’ is so hackneyed. But in a way, you work for a big part of your life, and you work for a big chunk of your day. And so, I suppose my attitude to life is, ‘Why shouldn’t I have my cake and eat it too.'”
“One of the key things that I’ve learned, is the importance of working out why you work in the first place and working out what you really need in your life,” she explains, “And I think that the fact I’m not looking to have the world’s most lavish lifestyle allows me the freedom to do what I’m doing. Having something which is an expression of my own creativity is really important to me.”
We asked Amanda what the last key piece of advice she has for career changers would be:
“I think it is that work can have a real impact on your health. When you’re doing something that you just know at your core, you don’t want to do every day, it will have an impact on your mental health too. I just think it’s better to do something that you really love and be happier and live a healthier life.”
What will your story be?
Seemingly, the biggest thing to fear in this bold life-changing move is fear itself. With the right preparation, future learning and the exciting prospect of a brand new working life on the horizon, we think anyone can succeed in embarking on a new career, at any age.
If you’re ready to take the first leap in your career change journey, feel free to start browsing the extensive range of courses available to help you reignite your professional passion.
Making a Career Change as an Older Adult: The Complete Guide
In this guide we’ve compiled everything you need to know about changing careers as an older adult.
If you’d like to learn more about starting your career change, what it’s like to be a mature age student, picking a career path, or even writing career change cover letters, all the information you need is here.
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