Can you change career when you’re in your fifties?

Can you change career when you’re in your fifties?

In the days of ‘jobs for life’, way back when, few people would have opted to retrain after a couple of decades in their chosen career. Workers typically stayed with the same employer, doing the same role they’d initially trained for, until retirement beckoned like a light at the end of a tunnel.

Nowadays, with fluid careers and what may amount to numerous roles during our lives as working people, we’re in employment for many more years than previous generations, with, most probably, far more transferable skills under our belts, too.

Someone fifteen years away from retirement in our parents’ time may have thought about changing careers but most probably didn’t act on it. But what about today? How many of us will fully retire when the time comes in today’s ‘be anything, do anything, at any time’ world?

Logically, and even seeing it written down here, it doesn’t seem much of an issue to retrain in a different industry when retirement is still a decade or so away. But in reality, does ageism still exist? Is it as easy as it may sound to jump ship into another sector as an ‘older’ worker? It may not even be a choice – once the word ‘redundancy’ gets batted around, is it accurate to say that older workers are more likely than younger colleagues to be on the ‘superfluous to requirement’ list?

There are positives to retraining later in your career: by age 50-55, you’ll probably have more financial freedom, with your children less likely to be dependent on the contents of your purse or wallet. You’re also brimming with knowledge and experience and carrying a raft of skills. Unlikely to have to factor childcare into your hours, you’ll also be very familiar with the world of work; you’re a definite catch to employers in any sector.

There are also (perhaps perceived) downsides, however: as you near retirement age, you may need to address health issues that could affect the hours you work or the type of job you do (of course, this is a generalisation – and there’s nothing to say this wouldn’t apply to younger employees). If, for example, you’ve given thirty-plus years to a heavy, manual job, there’s bound to be some element of wear and tear on your body. You may also face the perception form others that, as an older employee, you won’t grasp new concepts or instructions as quickly as someone half your age, particularly if you’re in an industry that relies heavily on changing technology.

Research carried out by the London School of Business and Finance found that a staggering 43% of employees aged between 45 and 54 are seeking ‘new challenges’. Says John Lees, author of ‘How to get a job you love’, “More people are changing jobs in their fifties than ever before.” And it’s not just the feeling that their career isn’t cutting it anymore – many people find transitions in their personal life are the motivation to change career to something more enjoyable or fulfilling - such as divorce, empty-nest syndrome, the loss of a loved one, etc. Far from feeling that they should be slowing down and coasting into retirement, candidates of this age group have plenty of energy and commitment to put towards a career than they perhaps had in their twenties.

Recruitment agency websites can help such experienced employees and their desire to retrain, by identifying which sectors would be beneficial to move into, i.e. ones that capitalise on the candidate’s existing skills and experience. Recruiters can also tease out from them what’s missing from/unfulfilling in their current role. Recruiters are the people with their finger on the pulse, and any employee looking to find out more about an unfamiliar sector would do well to tap into this wealth of information. And, once you’ve retrained, they can also help secure employment in your new sector.

The only over-fifties that can today be considered as ‘over the hill’ are those who have retrained as mountaineers…

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