I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life: 9 Job Ideas for Career Changers Over 50
While we associate the phrase “I don’t know what to do with my life” with teenage high school leavers embarking on the working world for the first time, there’s no age limit on career uncertainty. Changing careers into your 40s and 50s is a real challenge, but there are plenty of financially secure, low stress, and fulfilling career paths out there.
Realising you aren’t happy in your career, or that you no longer have a clear direction can be scary. You may feel like you don’t have loads of time to retrain or gain experience to work up a new career ladder as a teenager would when starting their first job. As well, ageism can lead to resistance and even discrimination from potential employers. All this means that starting a new career will be one of the most challenging and emotionally draining tasks of our lives. The challenge becomes even harder if you aren’t sure exactly what you want to do.
Considering Your Options
One of the best places to start when imaging your next career move is to think about what work you’re suited to. This could mean thinking about your life purpose, making a list of things about your current career that aren’t working for you, as well as a list of things that are working and you’d like more of.
Goal-setting may be useful. What would your dream job involve? Are you looking for a position that’s more challenging and stimulating? One that will allow you to progress on the gains you’ve already made? Or are you burnt out by the challenges of your past careers and looking for a lower stress career for the coming decades?
Is your current career not financially rewarding enough? Or is the money okay, but doesn’t allow you to make the kind of impact you’re hoping to?
There’s a range of options to suit all these scenarios. Some involve building on your existing career, interests, skill set, and experience, others may involve retraining and upskilling – which those in their 40s and 50s are increasingly ready to do. It’s also worth remembering that you may have more useful experience and transferable skills for a range of careers than you think.
Discover Your New Perfect Career
This list offers career ideas based on five different needs you might have:
Careers for people who want a bigger challenge
Idea 1 – Self-employment
A lot of people who are unsatisfied with their working life are looking for more of a challenge. Self-employment is an opportunity for taking your own life and career into your own hands. Australian government data shows that entrepreneurial activity is higher among people in older age groups, likely because those in their 40s and 50s have had their entire life to accrue expertise and experience in a range of areas.
Self-employment can take many forms: from opening your own company or startup, to taking on consulting, coaching, or freelancing work as a sole trader. Some of the most common industries for self-employment include:
There’s a huge range of niches for successful people.
Self-employment can be tough. It involves a lot of things: making calculated risks, getting out of your comfort zone, working hard, knowing the ins and outs of your industry, and learning how to run a business. The payoff is the freedom to design your own path.
Low Stress Careers for People Who are Burnt Out
Burnt out by the 9-to-5? Or 9-to-late? Burnout can make you feel like you’re in a rut, making it hard to get motivated and leading to procrastination. Over time, burnout is associated with mental health issues. There’s many opportunities to change into something more fun, or slower paced, allowing you to lead a better life.
Idea 2 – An Outdoorsy Career
One idea is to try taking your work life outdoors. Jobs in tourism – such as outdoor activity guide (like teaching people to rock climb or scuba dive) or tour guide – allow you to show off the natural world to people on a life-changing holiday.
If you have a green thumb, jobs in gardening and landscaping will allow you to enhance the beauty of outdoor environments. Park rangers also work in breathtaking environments, helping to conserve Australia’s unique plants and animals, parks and waterways, often interacting with interested visitors.
Idea 3 – A Career With Work/Life Balance
Another idea is to work in sectors that will allow you to leave work at work and enjoy your leisure and family time. These jobs may be amenable to part-time or casual employment, or flexible work arrangements such as working from home, allowing workers to take control of their daily lives. Many administrative, bookkeeping, IT and technical roles don’t tend to bleed into personal time. General roles in community organisations require time-limited, low-stress commitment with the added bonus of being able to help out the community in direct, tangible ways. These include:
- Sports clubs
You could take on roles such as:
- Crossing guard
- Book shelver
- Visitor information guide
- Exam supervisor
Financially Secure Careers For People Who Want Stability
Idea 4 – Financially Secure Employment
After decades of work, you may feel as though you need a career that will offer solid employment opportunities, enough money, and good superannuation and benefits. There are a range of options for financially secure careers.
Some roles include:
Both IT and trades offer secure jobs with good salaries. The idea of retraining to either of those industries may be overwhelming, but it is possible.
Mature apprenticeships are available to older people looking for experience in trades like construction, plumbing, electrical, and hairdressing. While it takes a few years to start to earn significantly above the minimum wage, these are skill shortage areas where life experience is looked upon favourably.
IT is similarly one of the fastest growing industries in Australia, with average incomes above $80k. People with great tech skills can be employed in a wide range of industries across the world. There are a range of courses available for upskilling too.
Other potentially secure and lucrative careers include consulting (using knowledge you’ve gained in your career to give business advice), and the wide variety of roles in the local/state/federal public service. Executive assistant roles are well-paid and secure for people who’ve amassed great organisational, communication, and business skills over their career. As well, if you’re good with numbers and across the investment world, you could train as a financial advisor to give people advice on growing their wealth.
Careers for People Who Want Fulfillment
It’s common for people to have thrived in competitive industries only to wonder: how does this help the world? There are a range of dream jobs to help you leave a positive mark.
Idea 5 – Work For a Non-Profit.
The non-profit sector needs people from a wide range of industries – communications, marketing, accounting, finance, IT, strategists, people who can raise money and raise awareness. Moving to the non-profit sector could be as simple as doing a similar job to what you’re doing now, but for an organisation and a cause you believe in.
Idea 6 – Turn Your Creative Hobby into a Career.
Maybe in your spare time you’ve been an avid photographer, illustrator, or basket-weaver. Maybe you love writing, or playing video games. One way to get greater fulfillment is to parlay those creative expression skills into a dream job. A range of creative roles are in high demand, pay well and can form a full-time career. You can also sell items on websites such as Etsy or at markets as a side-hustle, with the potential for it to turn into a full-time gig.
Idea 7 – Teaching
Teachers give back by helping others learn important skills. You can teach what you’ve already learned over your career life in TAFE, or adult training environments, or train to teach a subject you love to secondary students. As well, there’s huge demand for early childhood educators; individuals who play a formative role in children’s development and who reap the satisfaction of encouraging children as they learn and grow.
Idea 8 – Politics
If you have strong beliefs about how to improve the lives of those in your local area, state, or Australia-wide, you could enact important changes through involvement in political life. Just as the non-profit sector needs a wide range of professionals, so too do political parties and organisations. You could also work directly as a staff member for a politician, helping them to manage feedback from constituents, and get key messages across. This might also include managing their day-to-day life: from committee involvement, public event attendance, social media engagement, and media comments.
Dream Jobs For People Who Want Career Progression
Idea 9 – Office Jobs with Opportunities to Climb the Career Ladder
If you’re getting to a stage where you’d like more responsibilities, higher pay, and a key role in mentoring and managing others, there are a range of professions where this progression can be made relatively directly.
Business analysts translate between technical teams and business teams. Basically, they understand what IT professionals are saying and doing, and they can communicate that to less-techy arms of the business, so that both can collaborate productively. The position is a good starting point for a sequence of promotions to roles such as project manager, through to other management jobs in IT and business.
Financial analysts assess businesses by analysing financial and performance data. They may produce financial plans and analytical reports and projections. As you gain seniority, there are pathways in a range of managerial roles, even executive roles like CFO. Although, at these levels you may be expected to get further business qualifications while you work, such as an MBA.
Office managers are responsible for the efficient operation of administrative tasks in an office. They’re involved in hiring and training admin staff, keeping detailed records, and managing the office budget. Office manager is a great role for people with existing admin experience, and something to work towards if you’re new to administration. From there, office managers can be promoted into other senior managerial roles, human resources roles, or executive roles such as COO.
Trouncing Ageism on Your Career Journey
Although there are real barriers to moving into different careers in your 40s and 50s, there are a range of possibilities. Whether it’s moving into a more low-key or challenging role, whether you use your existing skills or retrain to develop new ones, a career change can lead you to more enjoyable, fulfilling work life.
If you’re ready to embark on your career change, these tips will help you avoid ageism on your job hunt.
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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