How to navigate changing careers in your 50s

The increasing amount of layoffs and restructuring happening in the wake of the pandemic seems to directly support the already existing trend in more established career folk choosing to pivot their paths into different industries and fields of study at a later age. A midlife career change can be invigorating, challenging, necessary, fun, or a combination of them. Many times, if you are looking for a new career at a later stage in life, it can be more difficult to follow through with the interest because of added life stresses like bills (insurance, mortgages), children or other familial obligations, health issues, and more. Interest in a career change can be triggered by a changing sense of purpose, a decreased interest in your existing work, financial necessity, newfound hobbies, and other shifts in life. If you’re looking for avenues and resources on how to change careers successfully at 50 and above, we have a few simple tips up our sleeves.

First of all, what are some of the most sought-after careers for this age group? If you’re seeking a career change at 50, the AARP has listed ten popular, lucrative, and safe job field options for you to consider. We have a few particular standout favorites from that list of career changes at 50 ideas. Sales representatives are in demand across the country, specifically in the wholesale and manufacturing industry and largely concentrated in Colorado, Kansas, and Maryland. Marketing, promotions, and public relations representatives positions are cropping up everywhere, as the ability to tell a story and hook a client, customer or audience is on the rise. Having people in varying demographics with different perspectives can greatly help a campaign or company to enrich the lives of their audience.

The need for computer occupations such as computer scientists, programmers, and software engineers is on the rise. These positions vary in scope depending on talent and education but do require quite a bit of continuing education and software knowledge. Another ideal job for those over 50 is that of operations specialist, including human resources (HR), cost estimators, appraisers, logisticians, analysts, and more. Though these positions usually require an advanced degree or certificate, they can be incredibly advantageous positions for older people with a wide network, lots of work experience or the ability to apply work experience to the task at hand, the incredible scope of capability and charm.

To be able to transition into another career can be a challenging process, and unfortunately, there are biases that exist that have historically made it more difficult for people over 50 to be welcomed with open arms into different industries. But there are quick, productive steps to landing a stellar job with a company that will value your career goals and respects you as a contributor to the team, no matter what your age or how long you’ve been employed in your industry.

Create an online portfolio

Approaching a new career at 50 and over is, admittedly, a challenge. Regardless of if you’re branching into an entirely new industry, getting a promotion, or simply switching positions within your existing career path, it’s important to have an online portfolio. An online portfolio or website will aid a potential employer or partner in assessing your skills, updated knowledge, and to understand the breadth of your work in a very palpable and upfront way. Having a portfolio with work samples, brands and companies you’ve worked with, article links, references, and spec work all organized in a clean way is often the key to captivating the hiring team, especially when you don’t have any particular ties with the company. We are big believers in utilizing WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Adobe Spark, Canva, and Behance as portfolio platforms to easily attach to your work. WeTransfer, Google Drive, and other transfer services work as well to deliver assets or electronic press kits to potential work partners or hiring managers, but having the ability to automatically view everything without necessarily downloading it is one of the great freedoms in a hiring manager’s process.

Utilize social media accounts

Taking advantage of social media platforms can help anyone beginning a career in technology, marketing, design, digital media, or most creative positions. Many job applications and accompanying processes have been moved to a digital space, so having social media accounts where members of your potential coworking group can get a glimpse of your personality and even the way you conduct yourself in networking and social situations. Anyone trying to get a job in the digital space can use their social media accounts as extensions of their design, writing, search engine optimization (SEO), and/or photographic abilities. Instagram Tik Tok, Pinterest, and Facebook are also full of people within your desired industry in the public and private groups/forums, attending digital events you may find out about on social media, and searching hashtags you are using to get your resume out to the right people. They’re called “social networks” for a reason. They bring people together. And now, more than ever, people are reaching out, engaging, and creating lasting connections via technology and staying productive by developing art, getting hired and onboarded at new jobs, and learning entirely new skill sets and languages.

There is a dark side to having a digital presence, as necessary as it is for some positions and remote work in the modern workspace. Hiring managers often check up on social media activity for any crude behavior or circumstances that might prevent you from associating with their brand, so be sure to maintain a relatively professional demeanor. In other words, it would be wise not to use Facebook as a diary and troll people or do anything in a public domain space that would incriminate you or otherwise be awkward or offensive if you did it in person.

Make Grammarly your new best friend

For those of us who are not walking dictionaries, are not familiar with a thesaurus, have deteriorating eyesight, or perhaps do not always have the ability to remember what participle rules apply in AP versus MLA style writing, spell check has been our best friend since Macintosh computers began their reign in the 90s. But the Grammarly extension for your web browser is next level, plus it’s easy to install and super user-intuitive. It throws in copy suggestions based on the tone of your writing, shows you copy editing solutions, and much more. Not only does it help you present more professionally in your career, but the quality of your communication – and the fact that you are effortlessly familiar with user-friendly new technology – can drastically affect the impression hiring managers have of you.

Make your cover letter work for you

Without context, a career change can be baffling – and sometimes downright worrisome – for hiring staff. Big changes can indicate instability and confusion, things that can be difficult to detect in new or potential hires. In order to make your career change work in your favor, pay special attention to small details in your cover letter.

Address your career change. Bring up what inspired it, how your skillset from your past lives directly contributes to your ideas of and plans for success, and any collaborative ideas you may have for the brand off the bat. Don’t shy away from hard truths, lessons learned, and the facts and circumstances that led you to this next step on your journey. This leads us to our next big bit of advice.

Acknowledge your age as a positive when applying to jobs

You may be new to your career desires or industry, but that doesn’t make you a spring chicken. You’ve been in the workforce, you’ve learned and evolved your skillset, and you have a lot to offer the workspace. Don’t downplay your abilities because you feel discontent or uncomfortable about your age or the circumstances you may find yourself under. Trying something new is difficult at any age, not to mention completely changing your everyday patterns, disrupting your work/life balance, and challenging your mind with entirely new work.

Imagine that you are a plant. A plant grows accustomed to its chosen habitat or it doesn’t. It thrives with ideal humidity, feeding, and lighting conditions. It is beautiful because you’ve achieved a sense of harmony together, a schedule that allows for it to grow at an increased rate. And sometimes, when you move a plant and adjust its environment, it can take time to get accustomed to that space. It can adjust slowly, drop leaves, or show signs of stress. Any big change – especially the change of a career, something that takes up so much of your energy and time in life – can trigger stress response.

Maybe you never saw yourself trying to curate a list of “career change at 50 ideas,” but sometimes the journey is more unexpected and adventurous than we could have guessed. It is important to remember – at any age, but especially over the age of 50 – that this process is inherently stressful. It could be a breeze or incredibly difficult, but we guarantee it will be worth it, especially if you are proactive about the job search and increasing your knowledge base. At the end of the day, your career is your responsibility, and your happiness is key.