The Intern, a movie starring Robert De Niro as a 70-year-old intern, may come as a bit of a shocker to many. What’s great about this movie isn’t that De Niro’s character goes back to the first rung on the ladder in search of a sense of purpose. The lessons in the film about talent and ageism are quite real. To put it bluntly, we still live in a world where you’ll face hurdles if you’re looking to start a new career or reboot an old one. The HR Digest spoke to a few people who made a career change after 50 in search of a better pay, work-life balance, and a sense of purpose in life.
Most people happily plod along working at a job till they retire. They are the lucky ones. There are many who are actively disengaged from their jobs and wish to do something else. According to a Gallup poll, compared with engaged employees, actively disengaged workers of all ages are far likelier to report stress and physical pain. They have higher cortisol levels and blood pressure, and they are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or to call in sick.
This disengagement is more noticeable among people in their 50s and above. They feel stuck in a groove. This ennui is more noticeable among the college-educated as they generally have higher expectations from life and jobs.
Howard H. Stevenson, a Harvard Business School professor emeritus, has explained it very succinctly, “There’s a difference between 20 years of experience, and one year of experience 20 times. People do the same thing and they don’t grow. They don’t face new challenges.”
Many are able to transition from their old jobs to a new interest easily, they are the lucky few. But for others, responsibilities and mortgages bog them down.
But times are tough nowadays. The Pandemic has seen many people laid off. A number of industries are facing a downturn, the automobile and the hospitality industries being cases in point. Along with this, technological changes bring their own shifts in the workplace. When this happens, it is the 50 plus and 60 plus people who are pink-slipped first. There is a general belief that the younger generation is a better bet. The older ones have had their innings and can be eased out. How feasible and practical it is for the company and the economy’s health is a moot question.
And for others there is no alternative but to seek another job, even if it is not what you were doing earlier.
So what all is needed to make a career switch at 50?
Before you change careers after 50, read this
Be aware that going the traditional way is not going to work. Hiring agencies and the applicant tracking systems that are the rage nowadays are biased towards the young.
For the older age group, networking is the answer. Activate your peer group, your game buddies and the alumni stream and get the word out.
Another thing that one must learn is to tailor the resume to fit the job. If you see a job ad that seems to match your search then try to fit in. By this time, you will have gathered enough experience to wing it in any field. Be it sales, marketing or fund-raising or just leading tours through your historical town.
Most importantly, if you are unhappy in your present position, seeking an alternative is a healthier and happier choice. You will be less stressed and anxious.
Be sure not to under sell yourself. You bring experience to the table that is hard to come by.
The cons are that you may have to take a pay cut if you move away from your area of expertise. If possible, upskill. Acquire some extra training or certificate. It is always better to be extra prepared.
You’ll face a major technological bias in the workplace especially if you’re one of those people who change career at 50 into a completely digitalized industry. But tech skills are easy to acquire, and most are designed intuitively and easy to navigate, one has to just get over the initial hesitations.
Hiring managers are also concerned about team alignment and whether an older person will fit in. But diversity at the workplace matters. Experience and the sheer general workplace knowledge that a person who has been working for donkey’s years bring is always advantageous.
Launch on Your Own
A great option is to go at it on your own. Instead of again trying to fit in in an office, floating your own gig or enterprise is also a great idea. One can write or edit, become a tutor, or a real estate agent. If you are so inclined, start a small online store from home.
There are many part-time options available such as medical data organizer, online administrator, and even counselling. It does not necessarily have to be for mental well-being. One can counsel as a social advisor, on marriage, education or finance. There are many short-term courses available for these roles.
Any career change after 50 needs planning, a willingness to come out of your comfort zone, activating your network, and being prepared for a little financial adjustment.