Initially, for those who go straight into work from school or college, to those who attend university and gain a degree, the career timeline from 20 to 30 is often about fact-finding, qualifying and establishing yourself into a chosen role or initial career choice. However, from around the big 3-0 (which itself arrives brandishing the prospect of approximately four more decades of duty and diligence in the workplace) many are now finding themselves considering a career shift.
Making yourself available for a new career in your early 30s offers potential employers the best of everything: you’ve shown that you’re reliable, qualified and trainable and have a good work experience which offers some excellent transferable skills, yet you also offer plenty of potential (and energy) for moulding into their in-house style or for training in a specific role – perfect for them and ideal for you, if you’ve been thinking of a career change!
Of course, the big 4-0 is slightly different. This milestone birthday is famous for triggering a reality-check on our personal and professional lives and is the time when many of us make decisions about what we want to be doing for the next decade or three (now that retirement’s further away)!
As a result, changing your career at this time, something which used to be seen as a symptom of a “mid-life crisis”, is now a frequently common-place result of having spent twenty years in a job which has now run its course or become harder to proceed in beyond a certain point as fast-tracked graduates nip at the heels of ‘established’ employees; it’s now entirely accepted that your 40s may bring a new career and alternative prospects for the next three decades.
But it’s not only career prospects which can influence your choices in your 40s. This is also the decade when work-life balance can be hard to achieve, as children either arrive or fly the nest or elderly parents start to need care and support – all of which can affect domestic arrangements and finances, factors which have a key bearing on work arrangements and choices made at this time.
And there are plenty of positives in making a career swap at this time. Being in your 40s means your past counts: with plenty of experience, transferable skills and strengths to offer potential employers, plus a good knowledge of how and where you perform best. Your future prospects are also good at this time as, thanks to retirement being extended, a candidate in their 40s is ideal for permanent roles where experience and loyalty count.
Because taking routes into a new profession in your 50s is more common than you’d think, but slightly different from the routes taken in your 20s and 30s. Looking for a new career in your 50s can be all about what you know (and possibly who you know) as your past experience really counts. Key ways to forge a new career in your fifties include:
The clear advantage you have over the 30-somethings is your experience and the fact that this may be the stage when your responsibilities may have relinquished enough that your choices are your own and not influenced by the ‘must do’ factors in your life.
However, although the 30-somethings have their own advantage: making the wrong career choice in your 30s allows you plenty of career time ahead to make additional changes or to take risks. There’s less luxury of this in your 50s but what you can do instead is carefully plan your move and use the benefit of your experience and work-place wisdom to help you make the right choices.
Take time to really focus on the question of what you really want in your professional life: what kind of new career you might like to do, or change you want to make. Then, use this context to consider the personal implications of any change you might make, such as:
Bringing all aspects of your professional and personal life into consideration will help you focus in on what’s important and achievable, meaning a more considered search and informed choice-making. After all, changing career in your 50s isn’t so much a mid-life crisis as a mid-life opportunity to secure an alternative career that should suit you in the short or longer terms, across all aspects of your life.