As with some things in life, career change becomes more complex as we get older. It isn’t quite as simple as our 30s. As an executive around age 50, career change is a financial issue as much as it is a personal development issue. As the years advance, there are mortgages, children’s college education, and other financial/lifestyle factors to consider.
Depending on your financial situation, you may be in a better position to make a change or even retire from your primary career to pursue earlier professional dreams. Some worry that age is a factor. Age shouldn’t be the criteria to stop you from making a change. There are many executives who only began to hit their stride at age 50 and did amazing things in their 50s, their 60s and even in their 70s.
Risk factor is another concern. Will I find a job? Will I be happy in my new career? There is no risk-free plan for career change. But, you can shape the odds by doing it right.
Here’s a guide:
- What are your skills, strengths and interests? The key to any career search is to uncover your unique strengths, motivators, unique differentiators, and skills. Identify what energizes you (your sweet spot) and how that translates to a new career. Also, consider your present career. What aspects of your current position do you enjoy and may want to concentrate on? For example, do you develop/coach people and really love to do that. Training and development may be a possible option for you. Drill down on the things you like to do, and this will make it easier to identify a career that aligns with your talents.
- Realize that work cannot make you a happy person. Many people think that the work they perform is a direct reflection of their individuality. A career cannot entirely fulfill you as a person, nor will a new position resolve what may be the root cause of your dissatisfaction if it’s personal. This is a time for some deep reflection of what’s important to you, your experiences, and the things that are in all areas of your life. While a different career may seem better, in a short time you could find yourself back at square one if you don’t deal with the underlying issues first that caused your dissatisfaction in previous jobs.
- Create a financial plan for the lifestyle you want. Changing your occupation is difficult not only on your psyche, but also your wallet if you don’t handle this carefully. Before you embark on a change, get your finances in order, pay down your debt and put money into your savings account. Going into a new career with a financial nest egg behind you will give you more confidence and lessen fears.
- Set realistic, achievable goals for your career. Only you can determine the outcome of your mid-life career quest. It will require sheer determination and a commitment to yourself. Begin by discovering your true career goals through self assessment (books or online assessments) or by working with a coach. Once you have identified your goals, chart your plan, observe your progress and be accountable.
- Tap and expand your professional networks. Hopefully, you have built and maintained personal and professional contacts over the years. The people you have in your circles can be good allies when it comes to a mid-life career change. Use social media to connect with people you know and tell them about your career aspirations. Talk to those who are currently working in your target career to gain better insight. Ask for referrals to help you identify new opportunities to land your new job sooner.
- Be a lifelong learner for continued career success. Education is a critical aspect of switching to a new career field and making you marketable. Getting a college degree, expanding your knowledge base through continuing education, developing technical skills or earning industry certifications, if relevant, show a serious commitment to a new career—and that you have the current skills to back this up.
Making a career change isn’t easy, but can be the best decision you ever make in your career if it’s for the right reasons.
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