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Part of Western Governors University

July 22, 2019

Student Success

Tips for a career change at 50.

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The older you get, the more difficult it seems to get out of your current job, and into a career you’re excited about. Maybe you’ve been in the same job or industry for years, and it seems like you should just stick it out until retirement. Maybe you chose your profession when you were young, and now new interests or passions make your current job feel menial. Maybe you were too scared to pursue your true passion when you were younger, and you’re regretting your career choices. Whatever the case may be, it’s never too late to get into a career you love.

If you’re 40, 30, or 20, changing your career can look different than when you're 50. Learn how to make the leap at any age with the help of WGU.

If you’re in your 50’s, know that you still have the option to move to a career you’re excited about. You aren’t stuck until retirement; you can make the move now. Seize the moment and get going into a new career today.

There are a few key steps to follow if you've decided to take on a midlife career change. Be sure to think carefully, follow through on all your ideas, and get excited about the potential new career you can have.

Older woman at job interview

Identify your skills. The first step to getting into a new career is identifying the skills you already have. Look at any education you have, the jobs and industries where you’ve worked, and the skills you’ve acquired over time. This could be specific technical skills, like certain software programs or business techniques, or soft skills like communication and prioritization. 

Look at the skills you have, and the skills you most enjoy, and determine how you can best utilize them in a new career field. Be prepared to explain to a potential employer how these skills can transfer or help you in a new job. When you're in your 50's, a career change is all about demonstrating how your past experience makes you an exceptional choice for a position. You want to plant the idea that a midlife career change is the best option for the company, not just for you.

Determine what field you want to pursue. You may just want to pursue a slight deviation from your current job or industry, like moving into management or administration in your career, or you may be looking for a huge change, moving into an entirely new profession and field. 

Whether a big or small change is in your future, you need to make sure you know exactly what you want to go after. Do the research into jobs and industries so you understand what to expect. Having specific ideas in mind will help you, especially if you’re worried time isn’t on your side. When you're in midlife and decide it's time to take on a career change, you want to be sure you're choosing a field that you're excited about finishing your professional life in. Don't go through a career change only to realize that this new career wasn't what you were wanting either. Be thoughtful and considerate before you change careers, especially when you're older.

Obtain new job skills. Once you have a specific job and industry in mind, you need to be prepared to get the skills required of that job. Often this will mean going back to school and furthering your education so you have the right skillset to meet career requirements. Luckily with WGU, you can keep working at your current job while you get the training you need to make your career switch. You can keep up with all your responsibilities, while preparing for the career you’ve been dreaming about.

You may also need experience in your industry to get the job training you need. For example, if you want a career as a teacher, you’ll need some demonstration teaching experience. If you want a career as a nurse, you’ll need time in a hospital or practice performing clinical work. WGU offers these opportunities so you can feel confident in taking the next step in a new career. In business and IT fields, you may need to find internships or job shadowing opportunities that can help you develop new skills.

Older man making career change

Use your network. As you’ve spent years in professional and personal circles, you’ve likely developed personal and professional relationships. It’s important to utilize these relationships as you prepare for a career change. Identify friends and acquaintances that currently work in the field or industry that you’re hoping to get into. Ask them questions about the profession and see what they recommend. These people can help you get all the information you need about your potential new industry.

These professional or personal connections can be useful to you as you are job hunting as well. If your connections know that you are interested in changing careers, they can help you find a job once you’re ready to make the jump. They can help you get into their same job or company, or can introduce you to more friends and acquaintances that can help you land the perfect place for you. Don't be afraid or worried about utilizing your connections; networking is important for any kind of job, and employers are often excited to work with people that have been specifically recommended to them.

Take charge of your resume and cover letter. Make sure your resume reflects all the experience you’ve gained in your professional life. Your resume is a great place to highlight how your past experience and skills will work in a career change. Your resume is also the ideal place to talk about new degrees or certifications you’ve gotten. It can be smart to ask someone else to review your resume before sending it out so you can pick their brain and get feedback. If you have connections in your potential industry or field, ask for help in creating a resume that will stand out.

If you’re making a career change when you’re older, utilize your cover letter to explain the reasons behind your change and how your previous experience can help you in a new field. Really take the opportunity to convince a potential employer why they should take a chance on you, and how your age and experience is a huge benefit to their organization. Your career goals are well within reach, and your dream job could be just around the corner if you're willing to take a chance and put in the work.

Be flexible. When changing your career in your midlife, you’re going to have to be a bit more flexible. There will likely be fewer job options for you, and sometimes starting over will mean that you will need to work for a lower salary or a lesser title. Remember that this career change transition is all about following something you’re passionate about, and these sacrifices will be worth it.

Make plans so you have savings and other securities so you can be flexible with your salary and benefits of a new career. Being prepared will make the transition much less stressful, and full of excitement for you! If you understand what the realities will look like in the long-term, and are prepared to retirement and have the security, there's no reason why you can't make a career shift. If your day-to-day will be improved and you have the long-term preparations made, you can start anytime.

Starting over in a new career at age 50 doesn’t have to be an impossible dream. You can make your dream a reality by preparing and taking charge of your life. WGU can help you have the job you’ve always been dreaming of, no matter how old you are.

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