Changing careers after 50

First of all, you can do it. Life is too short to stay in a job you hate or where you feel underutilized.

But ask yourself these five critical questions:

  1. Should I start my own business? You’ve probably heard the term encore entrepreneur – individuals who start a business after a previous career. These entrepreneurs, usually older, are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. It is definitely worth considering going out on your own,  but know the answers to these questions:

    1. Are my skills and experience strong enough to attract clients?
    2. Is there a market for my services? You’ve got to understand who your client is; why would s/he go to you; are there enough of them out there – in other words, is this a sufficient market? What would these clients be willing to pay for my services?
    3. Do I have the ambition and work ethic to soldier through the ups and downs of a new business? There are deep valleys when you first start a business. Do you have what it takes to get through periods with no clients? Do you have the creativity to always be thinking of new markets and new ways to reach your current client base?
    4. Can I afford to do this? This is related to the question above. How long can you go without clients? How much will it cost to start your business? What can you do to keep your costs in check?
  2. What are my transferable skills? Let’s say your career has been as a commercial loan officer but you don’t want to do this anymore. In fact you don’t even want to work in a bank. Break down what you do in this position. For example: you’ve done research to determine if an applicant is appropriate, data collection, analysis, customer service and marketing (communicating with the applicant, selling the bank’s services to the community, etc). These are all marketable, transferable skills…meaning they are valuable in other industries such as nonprofits, foundations, and large and small companies.
  3. Am I thinking outside the box? This is related to question two above. It’s very easy to “think small” especially when you’re scared of leaving or are sick-to-death of your current job and just want to jump fast. Think big! Just because you’ve worked in a bank your whole career doesn’t mean you have to move to another bank. The whole work world is open to you if you understand your marketable skills and begin to think creatively about where those skills could be used. And don’t forget to make a list of places you want to work. What would make you happiest at this stage of your life? Is it working for a particular foundation? If so, research that foundation and be very clear about the value you can provide them. Then go for it.
  4. Are my presentation skills strong enough? It’s very important that you not only understand the value you bring to a company but that you’re able to present your skills/experience confidently and concisely. This takes practice and often working with a coach or consultant will pay off in the end. It’s sometimes hard to see what we have to offer and how best to present ourselves. A good coach will help you do this.
  5. Am I projecting the right attitude? This is very important, especially for those who’ve been laid off or are beyond sick of their current job. Your attitude could be a huge detriment to getting a new position. Do you think you project anger, frustration, a why-me or poor-me attitude? Ask your friends or spouse/partner; they may be a better barometer. If the answer is yes, you’d better change your attitude right away. Any negativity will show up in your body language, facial expression, reactions to questions – and in loads of other, subtle ways. You are not a victim. There are no jobs for victims.

And a final bit of advice: If you’re currently employed, stay in that position until you find another job or start your own business. You’ll be coming from a stronger place in the job market if you are currently employed. Plus there will be less financial pressure for you to jump into another job.

Keep in mind that these may be the last years for you to make a difference, to contribute in ways you’ve always dreamed of, to do the job you’ve always wanted. Don’t. Wait. Any.  Longer. Go after it. Now.