Are you at a career crossroads? Maybe you’ve been in the same line of work for most of your life but now you’ve hit your 50’s things are in sharper focus. It could be you’re facing unfair ageism in the workplace, or boredom of the same old same old, or a realisation your life clock is ticking and a fear you’ve not fulfilled your dreams? Or maybe you haven’t worked because your life has revolved around looking after your family and you’re thinking ‘what the hell am I going to do now?’
If like me, you’re a woman in your 50s, it can sometimes feel like you’re living in a parallel universe. Allegedly we have no idea about tech, after all us Generation X-ers weren’t brought up with it. I mean seriously! Do they think our brain dies when we reach 50 and we aren’t capable of learning new things? If there is one thing the pandemic has taught me, it’s that the world has been able to carry on to a certain extent because of our digital literacy. If you didn’t know how to get on to a Zoom call, you were going to be socially isolated – fact. Most of us started to work from home and did tasks we never thought possible remotely. Digital is now embedded in our way of life and it’s not going anywhere. But I wonder if employers still have us midlifers pegged as digital ignorants? And for that unjust reason, might choose to employ a younger, digital native over us? It can’t be proved but I do have my doubts.
Moving out of one career or comfort zone to a new place most definitely has its challenges. It’s scary at any time of life, but with a back drop of assumptions, personal fears and confidence wobbles, doing it in your 50s certainly feels harder from the outside looking in. But let me ask you a question? Have you heard of any of these people: Penny Lancaster? Ray Kroc? Col Sanders? Ronald Reagan? They all changed careers in their 50s. Personally I love that Penny Lancaster, wife of Rod Stewart, went from being a lingerie model to a police special constable at the age of 50!
As people are living longer, many are working longer. So if you work till about 70 and start a new career at 50, that’s 20 years you could be doing something differently – and maybe even more happily.
So, what’s stopping you?
Q: Is it a fear of failure?
A: JK Rowling was turned down by 12 publishers before landing her book deal for the Harry Potter series. She believed in herself and persevered. She broke the mould and others didn’t have the vision she had. She was ahead of them, except there was one who could see….
Q: Is it a lack of confidence? ‘I’m not good enough at anything. What would I do?’
A: Well, why not seek out your strengths and passions by asking three questions:
- What did you always dream of doing when you were a child?
- What do you friends and family think you’re good at?
- What do you absolutely love doing?
The answers might focus you in a direction you never dreamed possible.
Q: Is it a lack of skills?
A: That’s surely the easy bit. There are so many courses available, many online. There are free ones, government funded ones, learn-on-the-job opportunities. And don’t forget your transferrable skills. Even if you haven’t ever worked, you have done so much and learned all sorts of things. Maybe you are a wicked cook, or seamstress, or dog walker. Everything we have done in this half century of life builds a CV. It’s just a matter of packaging it in a way that employers understand it.
So, how do you look at these seemingly huge barriers and realise your dreams? That’s the $64m question.
Here’s my starter to get you on the path to a new work life:
Get a bit of R&R…. Reassess and Reignite.
Start by looking at yourself coldly and objectively. What are your strengths? (ask friends and family). What are your weaknesses? What do you love? What are your needs? Do you have a secret ambition, like to write a book – apparently everyone has one in them? Have you ever felt the drive to be your own boss? What’s holding you back? What’s causing your frozen inaction (if you have it)? Do you have the funds to upskill? Do you have the funds to potentially take a drop in salary? What do you need to live off?
Have a look at careers that favour women in their 50s. Estate agent, tutor, financial services, healthcare, writer, administrator, hospitality. These are all ones that come up a lot I’ve found. Could you see yourself as any of these? Identify ones that suit your practical ones such as working from home, part time, job sharing. There are some great websites that can help such as https://restless.co.uk/ and https://www.workingwise.co.uk/ and https://careervoyage.co.uk/
Look at your skills, those you’ve learned and those you’ve got qualifications for. Are any transferrable? Supplement with some up to date ones. You can do crash courses or even evening ones while you are still in your current job. Why not contact a company in a field you are interested in and ask what they look for in candidates? What might the barriers to entry be for someone like you and what can you do to make yourself more relevant?
Get up to speed with the way people do things nowadays, particularly if you’ve been out of the job market for a while. From the way you present your CV – there’s loads of advice online on this; zing up your LinkedIn profile; talk to people, as questions, try different strategies, get your head around key words and the algorithms recruiters use, upskill in tech.
Embrace failure. It will take a long time to get what you want. Just build that into your process. It took my son 60 summer intern job application rejections before he landed the golden one at the United Nations. How he ever persevered I don’t know! With each set-back try and learn why it happened. Ask the recruiter if it’s at all possible. Each set-back is an opportunity to learn and improve, and it builds your resilience – an essential in this game.
Adopt a growth mindset. Picture yourself in a situation of success. Believe in your ability to learn and improve. This might be really difficult if you have nagging doubts, but all I can say, is ‘just keep swimming’. In time when you do it enough, it will just become second nature.
Believe in yourself. That you are valuable, capable, courageous and optimistic. People warm to people who like themselves. It uplifts them, makes them good about themselves and in turn want people like that to be part of their team.
Rebrand yourself. Step in to the new role before you have got there. Behave like you are in it – own it! Use the words and terminology of the industry; make new connections in that sector on LinkedIn; perhaps write thought leadership pieces or observations which support your new interest; maybe change your dress code to fit the style of the industry.
It can be a brave new step, but perhaps one in to a better, more fulfilling place. If now isn’t the time, then ask yourself when is it? In the words of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers ‘this is not a dress rehearsal’!