With age comes wisdom; by that logic, you’ll have acquired an unbelievable amount of work knowledge by the time you’re 50. That’s also when some people decide to pivot to a new career—maybe to follow a dream while it’s still possible or to slow down and smell the roses before it’s too late. Sometimes the decision to pivot is forced upon us by something like company layoffs.
Regardless of the reason, this guide helps you use all the knowledge you’ve acquired to successfully transition to a new career in your final act before retirement.
1. Assess your career story.
Before you leave behind your current career, evaluate it by creating the following lists:
- Key skills you’ve acquired, especially highly transferrable ones like leadership, communication and problem solving
- Your major accomplishments and achievements
- Likes and dislikes about your current position
- Pros and cons to leaving your current field
Some pros could be lowering stress or getting out of an unsatisfactory situation, while cons could be loss of seniority, status, stability or a particular size paycheck.
2. Identify your goals.
Next, pinpoint why you want a change and consider its impact on other aspects of your life, including your finances and family.
Say you want to follow your dream of starting your own business. It could take several years to get off the ground, during which you might have to dip into your retirement savings. Are you willing to take that risk and is the dream worth potentially delaying your retirement? Are you physically and mentally up for the challenge? Is your family on board with the idea?
If your goal is to downsize your career to a less stressful job, assess how it could impact your current lifestyle and net worth. Before making a change, you might need to create a new budget to account for how a lower salary impacts your needs, wants and savings goals.
Maybe you want to upgrade your career to earn a higher salary. That could free up your budget, potentially enabling you to fulfill some bucket list items, such as socking away additional money for a more comfortable retirement, buying a second home or joining a country club. However, higher paying jobs typically come with more responsibilities and stress. Are you and your family prepared for that?
3. Research new careers.
If you don’t know exactly what career you’re looking for, start exploring your options. Sites like Glassdoor, Indeed and Monster provide information on companies, salaries and career advice as well as job listings. Other ways to learn about different careers include these:
- Read articles and reviews about growing industries or companies in your area.
- Check jobs openings at companies that interest you, looking for a match to your skills and goals.
- Attend meetings of professional organizations related to fields that interest you and/or join social media groups dedicated to them to find out more about such careers.
Working with a recruiter or career coach can also help you identify a good fit given your interests and background. Trusted colleagues who know you well might also have suggestions.
Once you settle on a new career path, you may need to acquire some additional skills to qualify for jobs in that field or to make yourself more marketable. Free and paid courses in a variety of career-related subjects are available at sites like Open Culture and Coursera or directly from top universities like Harvard, MIT, Stanford and Yale. Google and LinkedIn also offer professional development courses.
4. Create a fresh resume.
One of the best ways to showcase skills that easily transfer from your current career to your aspiring one is to begin your resume with a personal brand statement that includes a professional summary and a list of your skills. Next, use these tips to produce a polished resume that is effective and age agnostic:
- Choose a modern font like Calibri, Cambria or Verdana.
- Be concise and limit it to one or two pages.
- Describe job experiences and responsibilities with strong action verbs.
- Match your listed skills to those on job descriptions.
- Only include roles from the last 10 to 15 years unless older ones are highly relevant.
- Avoid graduation dates, an Objective and references available upon request. They date you.
If your career change involves less responsibility or less seniority, hiring managers may view you as overqualified. Avoid this by focusing only on the skills and roles that directly relate to the field you’re entering. Another trick is to address your overqualification in your professional summary with a statement like this: Director of operations ready to downsize career and lend key industry experience.
Resume experts also suggest creating distinct resumes for particular job openings. This doesn’t mean reworking the whole thing. Just adjust your personal brand statement, in particular, your list of skills to match as many of the job description keywords as you can.
5. Prepare to answer, “Why the change?”
Once your new resume helps you land interviews, hiring managers will likely ask why you’re changing fields so late in your career. They’re not just asking out of curiosity. They want to know if their investment in hiring and training you will pay off. It’s best to respond honestly and openly about what’s drawing you to this change, how your experience applies and what your end goals are.
This could be ensuring them of your desire to work for another 10 to 15 years or more and backing up that statement by laying out the goals you hope to achieve in that time in your new career. If you’re planning to retire sooner than that, talk about your desire to make a difference in the final years of your career while emphasizing your ability to mentor younger colleagues in developing universal skills like leadership and communication.
Most importantly, prepare your answer to this question and others beforehand. Practice in front of a mirror or a friend so that your responses come across as concise, compelling and thoughtful.
6. Employ your network.
At age 50, you’ve developed a wide network in addition to a lot of knowledge. Reach out to your contacts, letting them know you’re making a career change and would appreciate introductions to people or opportunities in your desired field. Finally, make sure to follow up with a thank you to those who help you. This will keep your network strong in the final stretch of your professional life.
Editor’s note: Quorum is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this article and derives no benefit from these businesses for placement in this article.