At What Age Is It Too Late to Change Careers?
I'm a big believer that there is no growth in comfort, and there is no feeling of discomfort quite like knowing that you need more out of your career. The dread of spending the next 15 to 20 years doing the same thing while knowing that you want something else feels like a betrayal to yourself.
But when you take a look and see that you are much closer to the retirement line than the starting line of your career you may be asking yourself, at what age is it too late to change careers?
As a career consultant, I can quickly assure you of what you may have been told already: it is never too late to start doing what you love. We have all seen the videos of people with advanced age getting their first degree, jumping out of airplanes, or becoming a Covergirl at 70. You did not sign a contract resigning yourself to dissatisfaction until you retire.
There is still time to do exactly what you want. So lLet's tap into figuring out what you want next and how to get it.
Establish What You Want
You know you're no longer satisfied with what you're doing, but do you know why? Now is the time to get clarity.
Are you looking to change jobs because your current role is too stressful? Are you looking to chase a long-held passion? Are you looking to learn something new? Get clear on why you want to make a change.
Next, establish the type of transition you need to make in your career.
- An industry transition will allow you to do what you are doing now but doing it for a different industry.
- A role transition will allow you to work in the same industry you already know but working in a new capacity.
- Or perhaps you're looking to start with a clean slate in a new industry and role, which would be a massive undertaking, but not impossible to accomplish. When you know the type of transition you need, it makes it easier to figure out what your next steps are.
Make a list of what you want and don't want out of your career. On your "don't want" list include tasks that you haven't enjoyed, skills you have no interest in developing, and roles that you feel would be a bad fit for you. Hate sales and no interest in IT? Write that down.
Write down a second list of every job you have been curious about and what interested you about those positions. When you think about those roles, how does it make you feel when you think about doing that kind of work every day?
Consider what a really tough day would look like in that role and industry (if you're not sure, now's a great time to leverage your network and ask someone who does!): does the job still appeal to you then?
Do Your Homework
Now that you are clear on the types of positions you are interested in, it's time to do some research. Start checking out the job descriptions and company pages for roles and companies that get you excited. See if they are aligned with your vision of what you need next in your career.
Salary isn't everything, but at this point, you should have a good idea of what you need as you approach retirement. When you look at the salary range of the positions that you are interested in, ask yourself if the salary will bring you closer to your retirement goals. Also, check the company's career page and see if they have retirement plans and stock options as benefits for employees.
When you look at the job descriptions for your ideal career path, how many transferable skills do you currently have for that role? If you are looking to make a role transition or switch both industries and roles, it's likely that you may not have all the skills and requirements that the job descriptions are asking for.
If the job you really want requires you to have more skills than you can apply to the position today, you should consider a "jump job," which is a job that is in between where you are now and where you want to be.
For example, if you have a background in operations but your dream is to be a Marketing Director, you may have enough marketing experience from side projects to apply for a Marketing Manager role as a jump job and can later work up to the Marketing Director position.
Regardless of the amount of transferrable skills you have, it's very likely that you will need some level of job-skill training. This can vary from joining some free introductory discussions and taking some assessments/training courses online, to moving towards a certificate or a degree.
Your time is important, so assess the amount of time that this training is going to take before moving forward with a career change.
Take a look at joining local conferences and meet up groups that focuses on professional development in the role you're interested in. Check out books and articles related to this position. The goal here is to quickly become a subject matter expert, which will elevate your personal brand and open you up for new opportunities.
Get to Networking
Networking continues to be the best way to get an "in" for a new job, so it's important to utilize and grow your network while you look to transition into a new role. At this point you should have a good number of contacts in your network, so now is the time to warm up and reach out to former colleagues and peers to let them know you are looking for something new.
Get smart about networking online. Getting your LinkedIn on point is vital when you are shifting your career. This will allow you to showcase the job skill training that you are working on and highlighting all of your transferrable skills.
Your personal brand is important so be sure that your picture is a current high-resolution picture. A dated or grainy picture tells people "I am out of touch," which is what we want to avoid.
Connect with younger generations that you've worked with as well. Do not count them out because they have less experience than you in the workforce, as they may have more experience than you in the new role you want to move to. They also may be able to keep you abreast of conferences, job-skill training and other events that could be beneficial to you in your search.
Your extensive history in your field and industry shows your loyalty, expertise, and dedication. Don't look at that as something that's holding you back, but rather as a springboard that you can use to jump into a new field.
Coupled with online courses, personal projects, and other kinds of job-skills training, you can show employers that you're someone worth taking a chance on because you have a demonstrated interest in learning and self-development.
There is always time to do what excites you and keeps you centered. To make the decision to change careers takes commitment and bravery, and your legacy is worth every bit of both.