I’ve been looking forward to writing this article because there are so many myths and unhelpful beliefs out there about what it means to be over 50 and unhappy at work. Of course, I’ve had people of all ages tell me they don’t like their jobs. While younger workers tend to be more open to jumping ship, the over 50 set tell me time and time again that they believe their only choice is to “stick it out” until retirement. I want to dispel the misconception that after a certain age it’s “too late” to make a career change. I just simply do not believe this to be true. With the average age of retirement rising, folks over age 50 may have 15, 20, or even 30 years left in their working life. Let’s not think for a minute that a second act is not a viable option here. It most certainly is.
People over 50 have an amazing opportunity to showcase their extensive work experience while remaining perfectly capable of learning new things and acquiring additional skills. Let’s change the dialogue here and dispel the myths! Here are 3 Small Steps to Take When You’re Over 50 and Need to Change Careers (dispel the myths edition). The myths are:
“I won’t be able to compete with the younger generations’ technical skills.”
Wrong. So much of new technology is incredibly user friendly and intuitive. I’m not saying you need to create the next Facebook or spend 8 hours a day learning Fortnite but you can certainly progress beyond a typewriter! (I’m totally joking here, obviously. I know many folks well into their 70s and beyond who are highly computer literate). Sure, it might take some patience and getting used to, but you can pick up new technological skills and adapt. Who knows? You might really love learning more about social media or coding or any number of things! The hardest part about learning something new is rarely the actual thing you are learning. The hardest part is usually that you keep getting in your own way. Don’t give up before you even start. If you are open to it, you will see that the digital age is not so scary. It actually opens up the door to many amazing opportunities and makes many aspects of work easier and more efficient. If you can do a job without technology, then you can certainly do it with technology. There will always be someone more comfortable with the latest and greatest gizmos. Don’t let that stop you from doing whatever you can to expose yourself to different technology. Take an interest and see where it leads. There are often learning opportunities available for free at libraries and adult learning centres.
“Nobody wants to hire someone over 50”.
Wrong. Experience is important. Leadership skills, work ethic, sound judgment, life experience, work experience, focus and loyalty. Just a few of the attributes employers seek and older workers tend to have in spades. Not to mention a strong network. Employers want the best person for the job. Period. Sure, all things being equal, there will be some employers who will choose to hire a 20-something over a 50-something. There will also be times when the reverse is true. I’ve had plenty of clients in their 20s and 30s tell me they believe they weren’t hired because of their age. Yup. The 20-somethings felt they were perceived as not having enough experience and the 30-somethings noted they were perceived as less reliable or focused because they had young children at home or would leave in short order for maternity leave. So, you see, there is no perfect age. Yes, there will be employers who will discriminate based on age, skin colour, gender etc. and that is a shame and unacceptable. Some reasons will be so out of your control that they are almost laughable—a client once told me he did not get a job because he reminded the HR person of her ex-husband. So, if it’s not in your control anyway, why focus on it? An interesting fact is that the unemployment rate for people over the age of 55 is often lower than the overall unemployment rate. Food for thought!
“If I change careers at this age, I’ll look foolish.”
Wrong. People who matter won’t mind, and people who mind don’t matter. If I look foolish for taking control of my own life and happiness then sign me up and call me foolish! Of course, it will require a shift in identity to change your career if you’ve been doing something else for many years. It might feel a little awkward at first. Who cares? It might also feel amazing! So what if some people don’t understand why you desire change. There’s just as much chance you will garner admiration and envy from others who wish they had the courage to do the same! There are many famous later in life career change success stories out there. Just Google Colonal Sanders, Ronald Reagan, Judy Dench, and Laura Ingalls Wilder for some inspiration!
It makes sense that your interests and priorities change as you get older. Why not accept and embrace this? You only have one life. Don’t let silly myths be the only thing stopping you from living it wholeheartedly.
Want help following through on your career goals through small, step-by-step actions? I'll guide you for free in my Sunday Night Letter.