Radical Career Change After 50: Jobs That Matter

For many people, it’s a daunting enough to consider finding a new job once you reach a certain age. Most people have families to support and other major financial responsibilities which make it seem impossible to consider a big career change. However, in my experience as a career coach, I have worked with several people who have made tremendous career changes after the age of 50.

What motivates people? In many cases, people realize that they feel they are missing the opportunity to contribute to something bigger than themselves – to have a career with more meaning. Here are some of the ways people have successfully made changes:

  • A government employee who had reached a high level of management had an awakening after her long-term spouse passed away. She began to question whether her job was really contributing tangibly to the greater good. Following her passion and commitment to her faith, she sold her house, quit her job, and moved to a country in eastern Africa, where she worked building schools, distributing food and nutrition aid, and helping establish health programs. She went from handling $1 billion budgets to raising small donations which would have an even bigger, visible impact. She could see directly how she was saving the lives of children every single day. When she returns to the USA, her new skills, combined with her prior career, would make her a strong candidate for a position in international development or nonprofit management.
  • A graphic artist who had a strong background in print media found himself laid off when his knowledge area and expertise were not in high demand due to industry changes. After beginning a new blog, revamping his resume to focus on the digital media aspects of his prior positions, and emphasizing his transferable skills in media, he was able to find a different position in communications with less of a focus on print media, all in the nonprofit sector.
  • An aerospace engineer who had reached a high level of management in his company, also decided to retire early, and focus his efforts on global issues. After a radical transformation of his resume – taking out all of the aerospace and engineering related jargon – he took on several volunteer opportunities, went back to graduate school to get a degree in public administration, and leveraged his established network to find an opportunity in a nonprofit organization building schools for girls in Afghanistan.
  • The founder of a food company decided to redirect his efforts to nutrition and used his business background and education to become a faculty member at a business school teaching about corporate social responsibility.

What did these career-changers all have in common? They focused on their transferable skills; they filled gaps in their experience with volunteer work and education; in many cases, they planned their jump into a new field years in advance and took calculated risks. It should be acknowledged that it is easier to take the leap when someone is in a place where they have fewer responsibilities and more money saved, but even in cases where people made changes due to necessity and not of their own choice, it has been possible for people to rebound from setbacks by networking, building new skills, and learning the language of a new employer rather than focusing on the past. With a positive focus and determination, radical changes can and do take place for people at all points of life.

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