If you are approaching, or in your 50s, the chances are that when you started your career you expected to have a job for life.
In the intervening 25-30 years, however, the job market has changed beyond recognition.
A job for life is now the exception as opposed to the rule leaving periods of great worry and uncertainty every time it comes to a job change.
This uncertainty is also, however, a source of great opportunity and the chance to do something fun and meaningful.
One of the biggest concerns people have as they age is that they will get too old for the market.
This can be of particular concerns in cutting edge industries which use or develop a lot of new technology.
The good news is this:
Unlike the previous generation, modern 40 and 50-somethings are pretty tech savvy. If you have been working for the past 20 years you will be familiar with computers, email, VOIP, smartphones and industry specific programs.
As long as you show a willingness to learn and adapt this should not pose a problem for you.
If you are trying to break in to a new company make sure that you are able to demonstrate your technical abilities and your adaptability. If you are looking to strike out on your own do not be daunted by your age.
It is never too late to start again doing something you are really interested in.
If you are searching for a job in today’s market you could be competing against a lot of younger people.
This means that you need to make sure that you and your skills are relevant. Stay up to date; make sure that you can evidence any career or technological development courses you have done.
Keep your resume up to date (don’t forget your LinkedIn profile), a good tip is to check your resume every 6 months so that it is ready to go the minute someone asks for it.
Finally, go to as many professional networking events as you possibly can and speak to new people as well as cultivating existing relationships.
Whether you have spent too long in your original field and want a change, you are looking at career options post redundancy or you are returning to the work market after raising your children, your 50s present the ideal opportunity to reinvent your career to do something for you.
For many people their 20s involve finding a job and settling in to the work market after gaining their qualifications. The 30s and 40s are spent consolidating their career and working up the promotion ladder.
For many people this is combined with the dual responsibilities of bringing up children and servicing a mortgage.
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By the time you are in your 50s you are likely to have financial assets behind you but will almost certainly still need to work in order to generate an income stream.
For those who continue to enjoy their careers, their 50s is the time to push for senior promotion.
For many others, however, particularly those who work in physically active jobs (for example construction or military) or those who work in intensely mentally draining jobs (such as investment banking and law), by this time in their lives, they may have had enough.
Even if the career was fulfilling in the early days, 25 years at high stress and activity levels can leave people drained.
The effect, when combining these factors, is that your 50s is the perfect time to strike out and do something different.
Retirement used to mean giving up work and relaxing at home.
These days retirement, particularly early retirement can be the perfect opportunity to start on a new career path.
If you want to continue to use the skills you learned in your original career, you may be able to tweak what you do in order to maximise your time doing the things you enjoy. If you enjoy your work but no longer enjoy the corporate culture, you could consider setting up your own company, either on your own or with other people of a similar mind set.
Alternatively, if you enjoy certain aspects of the work but not others, you could decide to freelance.
A successful head of department or principal teacher might want more time at the ‘chalk board’ and decide to retire but sign up for the local ‘cover bank’.
A technical engineer might decide to do freelance or contract work – parachuting in for specific projects while no longer having long term responsibility.
Going back to your career roots, what led you to become interested in the first place can be immensely liberating. It is often also extremely lucrative!
By the time you have reached your 50s, however, you might just have had enough. As an accountant you might never want to see a balance sheet again.
If that is the case think about what motivates you, what passions you have and look to whether or not you could use that to start a new career. You might want to write, develop that cutting edge new product idea or start a restaurant.
Analyse Your Prospects
Just because you have a dream or an idea for what you want to do for the rest of your working life does not mean that it will become a reality.
You will need to use the skills you gained over your years at work will help you to analyse whether or not you have a good business idea, research the competition, find your potential customer base, formulate an effective plan and get it off the ground and running.
If your dream job has possibilities but will take time to come to fruition apply for any and every job you can in the meantime. You will need an income stream to support you until you can get things moving.
Work also gives the opportunity to network which is vitally important.
Your 50s do not have to mean the end of having fun and gaining satisfaction from your work. You do not have to struggle another 15 years (or more) in a job you no longer enjoy.
Take the time to analyse your prospects and go fight for them. The right career fit is out there for you.
This article has been written as part of Job Action Day (www.jobactionday.com) – empowering workers and job seekers.