Yes, you can make a career change at 50 (and here’s how)

Imagine turning 50 and realizing that the career you once loved is now completely stale? You couldn’t imagine doing this job for another 15 days, never mind another 15 years. But you can’t make a career change at 50, can you? It turns out that you absolutely can. Ladders spoke with George Civiletto, an entrepreneur from Fredonia, New York, who successfully made the big switch from the greenhouse business to owner of Tuscany Fresh Meats and Deli in his late 40s.

First, make sure you really want to change your career

Career changes can mean complicated adjustments to your daily focuses, schedules, and lifestyle in general. These huge changes are amplified for someone who’s been in the same industry for the past 30 years. Civiletto mentions there’s a lot to consider before you dive deep into making the switch.

“The most important thing if somebody is looking to change careers is to get into a career that they have a little passion about,” Civiletto said.

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To make sure you have a passion for the actual work portion of the job you want to switch to, Civiletto recommends gaining some behind-the-scenes experience of the role you want to pursue.

Gaining experience is key to making a career change at 50

The first thing to do when considering a career change is to seek out relevant experience. According to Civiletto, actually getting to work in the industry will not only reveal if you really want to make the switch or not but also give you the confidence to make the full time switch.

Getting a behind the scenes look at day-to-day operations is key to making a switch at this point in your career. Gaining experience will help you decide if you really want to make this career change, what it will look like when you do, and give you some knowledge when you’re applying to new jobs.

In order to do this, Civiletto took an unpaid apprenticeship with a friend who owned a deli in Buffalo, New York. Civiletto wasn’t bringing in any money through his work at his friend’s deli, but he gained a behind-the-scenes look at what it took to run a successful deli.

“You get to see behind the curtain … the uglier side of it, the work side of it see if you like it,” Civiletto said.

While the experience and knowledge he gained was priceless, it was finding his passion that really made the unpaid work worthwhile.

“Once they have more knowledge about how their potential job change might work, it makes that transition so much easier because you have the confidence to do it,” Civiletto said.

Gaining relevant experience will look different for everyone. While Civiletto went with an apprenticeship, other options are taking a part-time job, freelancing, and even volunteering.

The responsibility that’s added when you’re going to open your own business

Many times when people discover new passions later in life that transitions into opening one’s own business. While being your own boss sounds amazing for someone at age 50, becoming a business owner with absolutely no experience can be incredibly daunting.

Taking online or in person classes might be the way to go in order to ensure success. Of course, the feasibility and necessity of taking business classes varies on a case by case basis. But no matter your situation, Civiletto recommends that all new business owners hire a trusted accountant in order to avoid drastic mistakes in the first few years of business.

Close skill and knowledge gaps

Once you get a peek into your desired industry, it’s much easier to understand what you already know and what you still need to learn. In the age of the internet, skill and knowledge gaps are easier to close than ever before.

Online courses are becoming increasingly popular, which is good news for anyone that doesn’t have time for in-person training.  Lynda, LinkedIn Learning, and Skillshare are tools that can help fill any skill gaps.

Skill-based volunteering can also aid in gaining experience and strengthening skills. Organizations like Catchafire and Points of Light can match you with volunteer positions that will help you hone whatever skills you’re working on. Don’t forget, relevant volunteer experience also looks great on a resume.

With training courses, volunteering, and work experience, you’ll be able to come from behind and take the industry by storm.

Recreating your resume for a career change at 50

The best friends to anyone looking to make a career change are transferrable skills. These are the skills that you can take from your current or past roles and use in your newly-desired position. Take a look at the job descriptions for the role you hope to land and notice any buzzwords, required skills, or preferred attributes. Be sure to include these when rebuilding your resume.

Notice we said rebuilding your resume. In order to make your resume as clear as can be, you’ll want to start with a blank document and completely makeover your resume by adding in only relevant experience and skills. This might even mean leaving out a big piece of your career and adding some volunteer work that’s more closely related to the industry you’re looking to break into.

By age 50, your resume may be three or four pages long, but when you’re looking to make a major career shift, it may get paired down a bit. According to Amanda Augustine from TopResume, “relevancy is the name of the game.”

Irrelevant experience and information will probably distract any potential employers and confuse them on why you’re applying to this job. If there are roles or job responsibilities that you can spin into a relevant experience for your desired role, go ahead and spin like Rumpelstiltskin.

How to frame your cover letter when you make a career change at 50

When making a career change, your cover letter is the ultimate opportunity to explain any gaps in your resume.

Chances are, a hiring manager will probably be pretty confused after reading your resume. The cover letter lets you answer any questions and silence any doubts that they have about why you’re the best person for this job they’re trying to fill.

The most important part about a career change cover letter is clearly indicating how the skills and experience you have fills the needs of the employer. Your passion and story behind the career change make for great emotional content, but you won’t land any interviews if the hiring manager can’t tell off the bat how you would be able to perform this role and meet the company’s needs.

Here is where you craft your argument for why your unconventional background makes you the perfect candidate for the job.

The advantages of making a career change at 50

The biggest advantage of making a career change at age 50 is happiness, according to Civiletto. The great part about getting older is that you find out what your true passions are and what makes going to work not feel like work.

“Once somebody does it, it’s liberating,” Civiletto said. “You’ve moved on to the next chapter and you’re excited again about getting up in the morning and what you’re doing.”

By now you’ve probably been in the workforce for about 30 years, so you’re no stranger to the workforce. All you need, according to Civiletto, is a little bit of experience to gain the confidence to dive into your new industry.

The challenges of making a career change at 50

Added responsibilities at age 50 are one of the biggest hindrances that keep people from making a career change at age 50. Children, mortgages, car payments, school payments all become reality for some people at age 50. While these responsibilities could scare you out of a career change at 50, Civiletto insists you don’t let them hold you back from pursuing your passion.

Besides the financial freedom, all you need is the confidence to make the switch. That confidence doesn’t come from being arrogant or conceited, but from going out into your desired industry and learning more. At the end of Civiletto’s apprenticeship, he was absolutely 100% positive that his business would thrive.

“The most important thing is overcoming the doubts and the way to do that is to build your confidence and the best way to build your confidence is to get a taste of what you’re trying to do before you make that jump,” Civiletto said.