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Changing careers at 50? Here’s everything you need to know

May 17, 2022 - 13 min read

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Is it a good idea to change careers at 50?

4 types of career changes at 50

4 pros and cons

Your next move: think about these five final tips to make a career change at 50

The past couple of years have been full of change. And it would have been hard to miss all the stories of people changing jobs, cities, lifestyles, and taking on entirely new careers. 

Now, you’re one of the people contemplating a career change. Maybe you’re inspired. Maybe you’re frustrated. Or, maybe you find yourself making a career change at 50 involuntarily. Layoffs and disruptions have hit many people and their companies, upending their carefully laid plans and making the career path they thought they were on less appealing. 

It's easy to get stuck in a routine that bores you. Maybe your job doesn't make you as excited as it used to. Maybe with all the changes in the workplace, you feel like there's nothing special about your work anymore. Maybe you've hit a wall, or a ceiling when it comes to your career.

It’s the age of the multi-career. 50 really is the new 40, or 35, for some people in terms of their work lives. In 2018, professors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott’s book The 100-Year Life explored what a fulfilling life might look like as more and more people live longer. It crystalized the idea that most people will likely have several careers in their lives.

And regardless of the actual length of a life or a career, you want to make the most of it by finding enjoyment and meaning in what you do every day.

So, change careers at 50? Heck yeah! 

It might be time for a change, and a new career could be just the thing you need. 

But a midlife career change? That sounds challenging. Plenty of worries might come with a career change at this age: Is 50 too old to change careers? Will I encounter ageism in my new field? Do I have enough transferable skills to switch industries? How will I match up compared to the other job seekers?

These are good questions, and it's okay to feel nervous at the thought of looking for a new career or jumping off a career path. But with some guidance, positive self-talk, and the right attitude, anyone can make a change at any age.

 

 

Is it a good idea to change careers at 50?

Anyone changing careers faces some risks, regardless of their age — and being 50 doesn’t mean you’re too old to make a career change. It's another type of life change, and throughout your life, you've had to adapt to change many times before.

It should never feel too late or inappropriate to make a change that will make you happier. Remind yourself that you've already had years of experience. You have experienced skill sets that others don’t. 

Either way, your plan to change careers should be well thought out. It shouldn't be a decision you make because you're having a midlife crisis or existential crisis. Don’t make this change impulsively after thinking critically about your physical and mental health and financial well-being. Take the time to think things through; there’s no rush.

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4 types of career changes at 50

Your idea of a career change may differ from someone else's. You don’t have to switch to a brand-new industry to shake things up. Some career changes mean transitioning from full-time to part-time work or even turning to freelancing. Others mean you stay in the same industry, but your career goals or professional goals change.

Here are four different types of career changes that people experience:

1. Functional career change

This is the type of change where you don't leave your industry but just look for a different job. You could even stay within the same company.

This type of change often occurs when people get promotions within their companies; someone who worked as an editor at a publication could take a new job as a content manager. They remain with the same company, but use the skill sets of being an editor to develop new skills as a content manager.

2. Industry career change

For this type of career change, a person keeps their roles and job duties, but they change industries. The industry they enter is often one where they don't have any experience.

An example of this type of change could be someone working as a lawyer specializing in employment or labor shifting to handling criminal defense. It may require some online courses or research to make this career transition smooth; still, it's not impossible or out of the ordinary. 

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3. Entrepreneurial career change

This is one of the most common career changes that people at 50 make. They decide it's time to put the corporate world behind them and jump into self-employment. Being their own boss and putting their startup idea to the test is often a dream come true. The entrepreneurial spirit takes hold of them.

4. Double career change

A double career change is the hardest of all. It may really feel like starting over in life. It happens when a person changes both their career and industry. This is when someone decides to quit being a dentist and become a ballet dancer.

You can't expect to have many transferable skills when you enter a new career like this, but you do have the intangible skills and experience from knowing yourself and building relationships with others. You’ll likely need to develop new skills entirely and seek career advice from those in your new industry. 

After having a career where you had seniority and experience, a double career change means that you’ll start with no experience and few connections to the industry.

4 pros and cons

To help you decide if a career change at 50 is the best thing for you, we've compiled a list of pros and cons. Take the time to think about how these pros and cons impact your professional and personal life.

Pros

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1. It's a fresh start

A career change is your chance to change your routine. If you feel burnout at your current job, it's an excellent opportunity to branch out and try new things. Your new role could fulfill you more and be a successful career. 

2. Your mental health will thank you

Your current job could be putting a strain on your well-being and mental health. After you make a change, you'll see your anxiety and stress levels reduce, and you can find more time for fun things in your personal life. Your future self will thank you for making smart moves that benefit your mental health.

3. You have new learning opportunities

A new position gives you the chance to expand your skill set or improve rusty ones. You could be learning how to manage your startup or getting acquainted with a whole new industry itself. Either way, you’re keeping your brain sharp and adding a level of excitement to your work. 

4. It keeps you passionate

Your previous job might have sucked the passion you felt for work, but that doesn't mean you can never get it back. Changing your career path at a later age means that you understand yourself enough to know what works and what doesn't.

You have a better sense of your purpose, making it easier to follow it. The best career changes at 50 are the ones that let you discover and develop your passions.

Find someone who will help you stay on track. A BetterUp coach can provide the perspective and accountability you need to find clarity about your life's purpose and help you find a career that reflects that.

Cons

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1. You could see a cut in pay

This con depends on your career change, but your new position might not pay as well as your previous one. If you’re going from full-time work to part-time, you’ll for sure see a pay cut.

This won’t be a huge issue if you're still comfortable financially, but it’s something to consider. Do you have kids that you’ll be sending to college soon or a decent amount of debt you need to pay off? 

2. More education and training is required

Before leaving your current job and looking for a new one, research if you need extra qualifications. You can also talk to a career counselor for more information on your new desired job. Taking additional classes isn't a bad thing, but it might not be ideal for you at the present moment, which will delay your transition.

3. You might encounter ageism

Older people can experience ageism in interviews or discrimination in the workplace that prevents them from joining an industry full of predominantly younger people. An older person’s competence might be doubted, even if they have years and years of experience and all the skills the job requires. Potential employers might choose a younger person solely because of age.

4. People could see you as overqualified

One problem that irks people is when they're passed up for opportunities because their potential employers think they’re overqualified for the job. They assume that you'd want more money for the job or that you'd be bored of it.

Yet, when changing careers, someone with years of experience often has to look at more junior roles because they don’t have the industry knowledge or functional skills.

Your next move: think about these five final tips to make a career change at 50

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Challenges are inevitable whether you’re trying to become your boss, switch industries entirely, or stay within the same industry. Some jobs for people over 50 need no degree, while others require specialized training. There’s no formula to determine how to make a career change — at any age.

The job search won't be easy, but having a career change at 50 has many benefits. Here are five tips to take with you as you explore new career options:

  1. Update your resume to reflect all of your accomplishments and skills.
  2. Get on social media and create a LinkedIn profile to stay connected.
  3. Consider all of your options with care.
  4. Take your rejections with stride and stay motivated.
  5. Listen to advice and support from friends and people within the industry.

You're taking control of your present and future life and making changes for the better, and for that, you should be proud of yourself. You're doing this for you, not for anyone else. 

If you’re planning a major change, you don’t have to do it alone. BetterUp can provide the guidance you need to develop your skills to feel confident during your job search and excel in your new position.

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Published May 17, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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