Are you thinking about a midlife career change? You often hear people say that it’s impossible to change jobs after a certain age but that’s not my experience. If you’re adaptable, willing to learn and prepared to be competitive on salary, then for some employers at least, your experience counts for a lot. Having successfully applied for several roles in my mid-fifties, I know this to be true.
I also applied for several roles where I was unsuccessful and I learned a lot from those experiences. For one thing, I realised I needed to edit some of my experience out of my CV so as not to look ‘over-qualified’. My first objective with each application was to secure an interview. I felt that if I could get that far, I would be persuasive in a face to face situation. And, as my technique improved, often, that turned out to be the case.
Job searching is a pain and editing your CV is boring. But, at least it you get it up to date once, it’s easier to update it each subsequent time. I found that the best benefit of job searching was that it helped me clarify what I wanted to do.
Before long, I realised what I really wanted was to run my own business. That’s when my focus changed and I began working on a business plan, honing my skills, setting objectives and a timescale and preparing to make a change. I didn’t discuss my plans at all in the office but I did share my thinking with a few close friends. One or two thought I was crazy to leave a well paid, permanent and pensionable job in my mid-fifties. “You’re so brave”, they said, meaning “foolish”. But others were supportive and gave me the confidence that ultimately led to my career change just over a year ago.
I can see clearly now the train has gone!
Of course there are things that I miss about the corporate world — former clients and colleagues, the monthly pay check — but I had outgrown my role and was ready to try something new. I don’t miss the hours of commuting on crowded trains, endless meetings and office politics. Work is more enjoyable now and there are fewer distractions.These days I mostly work from home on assignments that are varied and interesting. It’s both exhilarating and scary. The scariness is the challenge. It’s what helps me prioritise my goals. But every successful assignment is exhilarating and builds confidence.
It takes a while to learn to relax, trust your instincts and have faith in your ability but if you’ve always worked hard and achieved your goals when working for others so why would you not be successful working for yourself?
Planning your midlife career change
I’ve met a lot of women in the last year who’ve also opted for a midlife career change. If they have one thing in common, it’s that they didn’t rule themselves out by believing that their age was a barrier to change. Yes, they had doubts and challenges to overcome. But they were prepared to give it a go and to work to achieve their goals.
So, if you’re thinking of changing careers, what’s my advice? Firstly, take the time to work out what it is that you most enjoy doing and then look at all the possible ways you might be able to make that your career. The first person to convince of your abilities is yourself. When you achieve that, persuading others becomes easier. If it turns out that there are roles you can apply for, brush up your CV, editing it to emphasise the skills that best match your desired future role. Be realistic about your needs and your earning potential and don’t rule out taking a pay cut if that’s what it might take to achieve your goals.
Once you get to your fifties you begin to realise that life is short and it’s important to make the most of it and be happy. If your current role doesn’t do that for you, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere. There’s no harm in looking. And, if you do find something you’re interested in, don’t rule yourself out of applying. You never know, you must might secure a more enjoyable and satisfying future.