Main Street Blog

What to Do When You Want a Career Change at 50


If you’re considering a career change at 50, you’re probably wondering if it’s too late to make such a big transition at this stage in your life. While it’s easy to look at your age as a barrier, remember this: By 2024, about 41 million people in the U.S. workforce will be 55 or older. 

People are working later in life and across a range of occupations. As such, it’s not uncommon to seek out a career change at 50, especially if you plan on working into your 60s and 70s. 

In this article, we discuss why people are changing careers at 50 and the common hurdles you may face. We’ll also offer top tips for pursuing a new professional direction, the different types of career changes, and how making such a transition is possible. 


Why Make a Career Change at 50? 


While many 50-year-olds are thinking about getting closer to retirement, you might be contemplating how to make your next professional move. Here are just a few reasons that might ring true for you. 


YOU WANT TO LEARN NEW SKILLS 

Times are different now and people are living longer. Fifty years ago, baby boomers had fewer career options. With the advent of the internet, our increasing reliance on technology, and the rise of other industries — like cloud computing and e-commerce — there’s more to learn. 

For example, a recent study found that the “number of jobs requiring average to above-average education, training, and experience” grew by 68% between 1980 and 2015. So, it makes sense that you’d want to expand your horizons and develop new skill sets, be it learning to weld or mastering an in-demand coding language. 


YOU WANT A CHANGE OF PACE

Certain industries and careers are more stressful than others. For instance, working as a school teacher is a demanding, around-the-clock type of role. In fact, one study found that more than a third of teachers leave the profession within two years

If you’re ready to change things up and pursue a career that’s less demanding (or more exciting), research roles that appeal to you. Maybe that means becoming a librarian or a virtual assistant. Or, if you want something more active and outdoorsy, you could explore options in landscaping or gardening. 


YOU WANT TO PURSUE A PASSION 

A lot of people aren’t passionate about their jobs. A recent study claimed that 45% of Americans are satisfied with their job, but only about 20% “feel passionate” about their work. 

While you don’t have to be passionate about what you do to enjoy it, after working for so many years, it might make sense to change gears and pursue your passions. This could lead you to starting your own business or finding a new line of work that allows you to do what you love. 


Common Hurdles for Older Professionals 
While a career change at 50 is possible, there are some common hurdles that older workers face in any work environment. Don’t view these obstacles as deal-breakers, though. Instead, see them as opportunities to understand what you’re up against in the job market so you can better prepare for a new career change. 


AGE DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORKPLACE

Also known as age bias or ageism, age discrimination is when you get treated unfairly in the workplace because of your age. Perhaps younger workers are hired to replace you, or you’re demoted or moved to a different role. 

Fortunately, there are age discrimination laws that protect people who are age 40 or older in the workplace. Still, there are some roles that prefer and target younger people. 

For example, marketing agencies are typically fast-paced work environments. As such, the bulk of applicants and employees at these organizations tend to be those who are fresh out of college or have just a few years of work experience under their belt. 

Learn to spot these types of jobs when applying. You can usually see it in the job description language. Recruiters looking for “digital natives,” “college grads,” or the “right cultural fit” are typically seeking out young professionals.


PAY CUTS AND LONGER LAYOFFS

Pay cuts are common for those making big career transitions later in life. A recent study found that 56% of working professionals over 50 are laid off at least once or leave jobs under tough financial circumstances. An additional 15% of over-50 workers who began with stable jobs in the same study claimed that their pay, hours, work locations, or treatment by their superiors “deteriorated.” 


LESS TIME TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW 

At the age of 50, you have less time to cultivate new transferrable skills that you can carry over to a new job. Ideally, you can apply the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired over the years to your new position. However, you may need to spend a significant amount of time learning the necessary skills before pursuing a different career. 


3 Types of Career Changes at 50


Now that you’ve examined some of the reasons (and common hurdles) for making a career change at 50, here are three types of career paths to consider.


1. INDUSTRY CAREER CHANGE

If you have transferable skills that you can apply to multiple industries, then this may be the best option. For instance, if you’re experienced in IT tech, you could work in a new field while using the same skills you used in a previous role. This is probably the easiest way to switch careers for over-50 professionals. 

2. FUNCTIONAL CAREER CHANGE

A functional career change is not an easy pivot. It’s when you switch disciplines entirely. For example, if you work as a retail manager and want to switch to a career in human resources, then you have a lot of work ahead of you before that HR job materializes. A functional switch is ideal when you have the time and resources necessary to learn the required skills for your target role. 

3. ENTREPRENEURIAL CAREER CHANGE

You can make an entrepreneurial career change at any age. The number of entrepreneurs over 50 has increased by 50% since 2007, which means this is a viable career option if you’re tired of working for someone else, and you’re ready to be your own boss

Becoming an entrepreneur could mean buying a franchise or starting a business. If the latter option is more appealing, then look no further than Main Street. We equip entrepreneurs with the skills and resources necessary for success, including a 5-week training program and monthly check-ins so you don’t have to go it alone.


4 Tips for Pursuing a New Career at Age 50

As you can see, it’s critical to plan as much possible before deciding to switch careers at age 50. Here are some things to keep in mind to help make your transition a success. 


1. UPDATE YOUR RESUME

The first step toward a successful career transition is to update your resume so that it targets your ideal career path. Leverage your experience in your current job and previous positions to highlight what you can bring to the table.

For example, if you’re a programmer who wants to move into a marketing role, you could highlight how your ideas improved efficiency and also implemented creativity or “outside the box” thinking to move the needle. This can be tricky to execute, so if you’re unsure about how to make your resume stand out, talk to a career coach or consult a resume writing service. 


2. BUILD YOUR NETWORK

A successful career change is easier when you know how to build your network. One way to do that is to notify your current network about your decision to change careers. Not only can your colleagues and peers (both past and present) potentially connect you with other professionals, but they can also keep you in the loop on positions that seem like a good fit during your job search.


3. UPDATE YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE

If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, get one. Job seekers, both young and old, utilize this tool to connect with recruiters and hiring managers. Keep your profile updated with your resume, and connect with colleagues to expand your network. It also helps to regularly share posts and comment on trending articles in your field, so you look more active as a professional.

You can also research, follow, and reach out to companies that interest you. By following them, you can start commenting on their posts and looking for introductions through the mutual connections you’ve built.


4. GET CAREER ADVICE 

Making a midlife career transition is a big step, so be sure to seek out as much help as possible. Find a mentor, an old boss, or even a career counselor and get their advice. They may have valuable insights based on your years of experience and can help position you for success in your future role. 


A Career Change at 50 Is Possible 


If you’re over 50 and want a new career path, it’s really a matter of considering your options and cultivating the skills necessary for your new role. While there are some odds stacked against you, the bottom line is that nothing is guaranteed whether you’re 20, 30, 40, or 50 years old. 

Remember, it’s never too late to become your own boss. Take the quiz to see if owning your own business is the right career change for you. With proper planning, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to and reach your goals at any age.
More Resources