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Changing Careers After Age 50

Turning 50 years of age and attempting to start a new career was unheard of in the not so distant past.

This was because many employers in the workplace did not want to consider hiring someone whose longevity in the workforce might only offer 15 good years. This sentiment has changed dramatically over the last decade and more employers are seeing the benefit to hiring someone with age, maturity and experience.

Hiring someone over 50 years of age brings a level of quality and stability companies find highly desirable on a team and in a department. If you are 50 years of age and are worried about making a career change because of your age, reconsider. The times have changed.

Now, nearly 40 percent of those 55 years of age or older are seeking employment. Many of them are opting for a career change, moving away from industries they have been in for decades to embrace new challenges or to pursue careers in an area of interest.

Learning how to highlight the significant skills and talents you bring to an employer as an older worker is the key to competing with those who fall into the younger age brackets. The following strategies help you accomplish this goal.

Consider Age-Friendly Fields

Many industries consider older workers desirable over younger, more inexperienced workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the following fields tend to hire older workers in higher percentages. These numbers are listed by the BLS in the thousands and were current as of 2016:

  • Professional, management and related fields – Almost 14,620.
  • Material moving, transportation and production – 4,191.
  • Office and sales – 7,991.
  • Service – 4,947.
  • Natural resources, maintenance and construction – 2,692.

The following occupations maintain at least 25 percent of their workforce over 55 years of age:

  • Tax preparers.
  • Travel agents.
  • Medical transcriptionists.
  • Legislators.
  • Real estate sales agents and brokers.
  • Furniture finishers.
  • Museum curators, technicians and archivists.
  • Clergy.
  • Copy markers and proof-readers.
  • Bus drivers.
  • The Self-employed.

Self-employed is included on this list because many older workers take the experience they have spent a lifetime gathering and use it to become their own bosses. It takes a certain amount of self-discipline, people skills and a support network to successfully own and operate a business on your own. Most older workers already have this in place and it only takes a few additional steps to make it work.  

Lifelong hobbies suddenly offer a new line of revenue, allowing mature workers to segway out of the traditional workforce and into something that remains viable well past retirement age.

If you are interested in investigating self-employment, consider the following fields that lend themselves well to self-employment and entrepreneurship:

  • Animal trainers.
  • Agricultural managers including ranchers and farmers.
  • Door-to-door salespeople.
  • Authors and writers.
  • Illustrators, sculptors, painters and other fine artists.
  • Hairstylists, hairdressers and cosmetologists.
  • Sewers, dressmakers and tailors.
  • Massage therapists.
  • Street and news vendors.
  • Singers, musicians and related workers.

Consider Part-time Employment

If you worked for several decades, the nest egg you have built may allow you to consider part-time work. Scaling back while entering a new vocation offers many benefits including fewer work hours. Part-time work has the potential to become full-time work in some cases and often acts as a probationary period for the employer to get to know you and your work ethic.

The BLS indicates part-time employment is greatest among those 65 years of age and older, with 27 percent of those 55-64 years of age working part-time. Only 18 percent of those under 54 years of age engaged in part-time work. This means many employers are interested in hiring older workers part-time and see the benefit and cost-effectiveness of doing so. The following are areas identified by the BLS as hiring a large percentage of mature workers on a part-time basis:

  • Crossing guards.
  • Funeral attendants and embalmers.
  • Dental hygienists.
  • Cashiers.
  • Product promoters, models and demonstrators.
  • Cafeteria, coffee shop, food concession and counter attendants.
  • Restaurant, coffee shop and lounge hosts and hostesses.
  • Recreation and amusement park attendants.
  • Transportation attendants, except for flight attendants.
  • Ticket takers, lobby attendants and ushers.

Update Your Resume

Regardless of the vocation or occupation you pursue, your resume must shine. Resumes are now scrutinized in a different way than they were in the past.

Most large organizations require the job application to be submitted online and the resume to be uploaded—some ask for cover letters, some do not. This is because the companies receive so many applications and it is not humanly possible to go through them all, so a software program skims the first round initially.

Documents that do not have enough relevant and matching keywords to the job description as posted often do not make the cut.

The strategy with your resume is to make sure those keywords are in there and to include only relevant experience pertaining to the position advertised. Update your resume with any new skills gained over your work life, as well as awards, training seminars, certifications and other acknowledgments and accolades.

Update your references and make sure the contact information is still the same and the individual is still willing to provide a reference.

Happiness Equals Security

Many older workers do not embark on a new career thinking of the financial gains, but in the end, many do enjoy a greater financial reward than planned. This is because quite often mature workers with decades of experience have access to positions and jobs with flexible hours for higher pay rates.

Additionally, most older workers have amassed some sort of financial cushion allowing time for a new job to transition into a higher paying one. Most statistics show that jobs chosen later in life are often those coming with a large degree of enjoyment. In the end, the happiness factor figures into the overall success of the career change well into, and sometimes past, retirement age.

Jobs taken as a matter of opportunity or interest, as opposed to experiencing a layoff or being fired, are more likely to offer a larger sense of fulfillment as well.