This week one of my career workshop participants asked whether it is actually realistic to think a career change is possible in your fifties, especially after a break from paid employment. It’s not the first time this has come up in my careers practice so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the topic.
As someone who is turning 50 this year, I can see how my perspective on age has changed over time. I used to think that 50 seemed old but now I’m here I have to say I feel youthful, fit and healthy and love that I have wisdom and significant work experience to complement these attributes. I have absolutely no doubt that I still have a lot to offer the world of work and can demonstrate that.
I guess this brings me to my first point, mindset. What are you own thoughts about your employability? If you think companies are not going to want you, guess what, you’re right! You will go into the process inadvertently looking for signs that they are judging you as too old for the role, particularly if the interviewer(s) are younger, and this will unconsciously impact your performance. It is important that you get in touch with your skills, strengths and achievements and go into the process feeling confident and knowing how you can add value to the target role.
One of my past clients found herself unemployed in her 60s after her position was made redundant. While she wasn’t planning to embark on a totally different career path, she said to me “I don’t think I’m going to get another job because I’m too old”. I had no problem convincing her that I felt she would be successful because she had had a wonderful attitude and many achievements and skills to offer a future employer. While it took around two months, and some proactivity on the part of my client (she took her resume to organisation she was interested in working for), she secured an excellent position with a great company which was replacing a retiring staff member.
Knowing, and being able to communicate, what you can contribute to a company is paramount to success. Take stock of your skills, prepare your achievement stories (refer to my 27 March blog – “How to Ace Your Interview Responses” for a guide to doing this), and focus on establishing a strong link between yourself and the role. These don’t have to be limited to a work context and can be transferable from previous roles.
A few years ago I attended a workshop at the Career Development Association of Australia’s (CDAA) annual conference discussing a study which looked at the outcomes for a group of unemployed mature age adults. Of the 55+ age group (155 people), 62.3% secured employment and 65% of those who placed in a role had undertaken a career and resume review, engaged in job search training and/or career coaching. This information suggested to me that age is likely not what restricts those of mature age from accessing employment.
If you don’t already have a good understanding of career development and what it takes to be successful in job search reach out to someone who does. If you don’t have those skills in your network, the CDAA has a great tool on their website to search for a career practitioner. Of course, you can always call Donna at Career Vitality on 0419 120 601 for local or remote career coaching consultations.