After many years spent in the same work environment or industry, wanting to switch careers is natural. It might seem an intimidating task. But keep in mind that the professional and personal experience you have built over time is a precious asset. Of course, changing careers in this period of your life comes with different changes compared to the ones faced by younger professionals.
Wondering how to change careers over 50 without a degree? While each individual has different needs, here’s a general outline of the process:
- Understand why you want to change career
- Consider the types of career change
- Redesign your resume
- Consider returning to school
- Explore your options
Indeed, changing careers does not have to be a frightening task if you know where to start. Let’s have a look in detail at how to undertake this transition smoothly.
Is it possible to change careers over 50 without a degree?
First off, for how intimidating it can be, you should know that changing jobs over the age of 50 without having a degree is possible. Indeed, for certain positions, employers have learned to understand the value of experience over qualification. Even better, you can aim at meaningful, relevant, and mentoring jobs for which knowledge in the field is essential.
Other characteristics that can make you the ideal candidate for a position are:
- Established decision-making skills
- Self-assurance and confidence
- Stability and loyalty
- Communication and management skills
- Practical, collaborative attitude
These features are more common in older professionals who have spent years in a specific industry.
If you are looking at being the owner of your own business instead of changing to a different company, studies show that the most successful start-ups are funded by individuals older than 45. In any case, let’s find out what are the steps you should not overlook when deciding to switch careers.
Step 1: Understand why you want to change career
Not all mature professionals’ reasons for switching careers are the same. Indeed, there can be several fueling factors that encourage someone to pick a different job or go back to learning.
Understanding the reason behind the choice is essential to identify what is the right direction to take. Even more importantly, your goal gives you an indication of what the viable alternatives are and what options you should discard.
Over half of the total number of professionals in the U.S. are dissatisfied with their position or work environment. Some of these stats might be relatable to pay and income. But other contributing factors involve personal and professional relationships with bosses and coworkers.
Therefore, dissatisfaction is not only dependable on the amount of money perceived at the end of the month. It is essential, in this case, to understand why you are changing career? Is it for financial reasons, or does your decision derive from other causes?
If you need more income immediately, moving to another industry might not be a smart choice. Find out how long it will take you to perceive a satisfying salary starting from the bottom of the ladder.
More flexibility, less stress
Another primary reason behind a career change is to look for more flexibility in schedule and a better life-work balance. Indeed, a responsibility-full position that you managed perfectly during your first years in the field might have become too much to handle. Alongside this, other family and health-related duties might have grown in importance over time.
However, seeking a less stressful occupation does not mean that your productivity level or creativity are decreasing factors. Therefore, you should understand which aspects of your current profession are causing you stress. Then, aim at finding a new career turn that does not include these responsibilities or similar high-paced tasks.
Better life-job balance
As we have seen, stress can be a leading factor that causes many mature professionals to change careers. Stress can also derive from a poor life-work balance, the inability to spend the time you want with your family, or a lack of personal space.
In this case, many professionals opt to launch a new career in the consulting or freelancing business. While the income might not be steady, there is no limit on how much you can earn as well as how free your schedule can be.
As a younger worker, you might have picked a specific job because it offered security, provided a steady and decent income, and fitted with your preferences. However, now that you are more financially stable and the industries are more diverse, it is time to reevaluate what position would allow you to see yourself happy and satisfied.
Analyzing your passions, hobbies, and interests can help you find out which jobs you should apply for. Self-actualization is essential to progress into the next years in your career, as well as transitioning into retirement. This status includes living life fully, taking responsibility for your actions, and being open to changes and challenges.
Pursue a passion
Have you always wanted to be a gardener or artisan, but you never had the chance to? Now a steady income might not be a constraining factor as it was when you first started working. Moreover, the support from your family and friends can guarantee you to have increased freedom of choice when it comes down to your next career move. Take up the opportunity to follow a path that resonates with your passions.
Step 2: Consider the different types of career changes
No two career changes are the same. Some professionals prefer to simply switch from a position to another within the same company or even department. Others, instead, opt for a more drastic shift and end up changing environment, tasks, and even geographical areas. That’s exactly what happened to me when I burned out at 53. I simply had to change everything.
Below you can find the types of career changes to consider and how they relate to your motivation for this decision.
Switching the industry can be extremely challenging, as you will find yourself in a completely new workplace or environment. However, you can opt to work in a similar position as you have been working for years. While you might need to adapt to new requirements, pace, and habits, you can use the skills you have been employing in the past years.
Willing to learn new skills? A functional switch offers you the chance to stay within the industry or company you know best and apply for a different job in another department. This type of change is excellent if you prefer to avoid having to build new relationships, and you like the comfort of an environment you already know. However, this switch might require you to learn a craft or knowledge from scratch.
A total change
If you feel like there are no opportunities for you in your company or job position, you can opt to change both. This task, however, might require you to be flexible, adaptable, resilient, and open to acquiring new knowledge. Such a drastic shift is perfect if you are looking to try out new experiences and finding a more comfortable fit for your passions.
Step 3: Redesign your resume
Once you have decided what type of career switch you are after and you are clear on what are the personal and professional goals you are seeking to achieve, it is time to get your resume ready. To do so, it’s essential to craft a CV that will impress your future employer.
While it is illegal to discriminate based on age, among other factors, some issues could still arise. Moreover, it is not unlikely to be turned down by a hiring manager if the company believes that your skills and knowledge are not up to date.
Some tricks can help you craft a resume that does not explicitly focus on your age, while still offering an exhausting overview of the experience you gained over time.
- Switch to a functional resume – unlike a chronological resume, a functional resume highlights the knowledge and skills you can bring into the company. This type of format allows you to accentuate your qualifications and achievement, rather than the years you have worked in each place. Alternatively, you could opt for a combination of the two types, without reporting historical employment dates older than 15 years.
- Create an ad hoc CV – with all of your experience, your resume might end up being over two pages-long. A 2018 study, however, found out that employers look at a resume for no longer than seven seconds on average before making a decision. When crafting a specific CV, position your skills by the top and include only relevant experience and knowledge.
- Show off your qualifications – while education and training dates might add extra focus on your age, highlighting your achievements accentuates your abilities. While doing so, refrain from adding sentences such as “more than 30 years of experience.” Instead, add a more general “10+ years of experience.” This trick helps the hirer focus on the experience, rather than wondering how old you are.
- Show that you are connected and up to date – of course, designing your CV in a modern, polished way is essential, but it is not the only thing that matters. Including your LinkedIn profile shows that you are connected and ready for networking. Moreover, showcasing your abilities with newer technologies, practices, and innovations can help you gain some extra points!
There’s no reason to feel overwhelmed when getting your CV up to date.
I had to craft my first CV ever from scratch at 53! If I managed to get several positions at this age with no experience preparing a CV, so can you. And if you need a few tips on how to do it, you can read our article “CV Advice for Over 50s: 10 Actionable Tips.”
Identify your skills
Building your resume is not just essential to present it to your employer, but also to understand what your skills are. While it is easy to list several relevant soft-skills such as communication, time management, and emotional intelligence, you might not be clear on what hard skills you can offer.
If you are planning a drastic career switch, you are ready for a total change that involves your personality as well as your skills. Crafting a new resume can help you portray yourself in this way, allowing for new possibilities and variations.
Step 4: Networking
Re-entering the world of networking after years of job security where you did not have to prove yourself can be pretty tough. However, some tips can help you find the job you have been desiring and convince a company to hire you.
- Know yourself – having to prove your skills to employers even younger than you might not be the most exciting process. However, you have a depth of knowledge in the field that not many others can achieve. Therefore, know which skill, ability, or craft you can bring to the company. Then use it as your main strength is.
- Understand that age should not make a difference – while you should not try to hide your age, network as if there was no difference in age. More importantly, make sure you showcase your confidence and professionalism before inquiring about a job.
- Mentoring and learning – you might be extremely knowledgeable regarding a specific industry or job, yet some things have changed. Strategically, find a mentor who is younger and can lead you through the innovations you are still not so familiar with. In turn, you can become a mentor to a less-experienced professional and pass on your knowledge.
Using social media to build your brand
Social media might not be exactly your strongest point. Yet it is at the base of modern networking – if done well. LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools to master in this case, and statistics regarding the possibilities this platform offers are outstanding.
Indeed, it increases retention rate by 40%, and over 70% of employers tend to check out your online persona before making a decision. Moreover, over 75% of professionals looking at finding a new job are communicating this decision through LinkedIn. This data tells us that many hirers search for talents in such platforms.
Step 5: Consider a course
Once you are up to date with everything related to modern networking, it is time to look for a job. However, if you are struggling to find the perfect match, you should consider whether it is worth investing time and money on a qualifying course.
Returning to college might not represent an attractive perspective to you, especially if you were looking at increasing your income in a short timeframe. However, other education options can help you close the skill gaps in your experience and resume.
It is also vital to notice that there is an endless range of courses you can easily find online, but not all of them are relevant. Conducting your research before signing up – and paying for – a specific training is essential. To pick the right ones for your situations, ensure that they include hot topics you have learned from your investigation.
These teachings should include:
- The industry developments you don’t feel confident or familiar with, especially the latest ones.
- The knowledge and skills that are currently lacking in the field. These are also the most sought after by relevant companies and the ones worth mastering.
- The trends that will affect the industry in the near future.
- Relevant and actionable teachings that can help you improve your resume.
Obtaining such qualifications can increase your chances of landing the job, as well as making you a more desirable candidate in the eyes of your future employer. However, there are a variety of courses to consider, and picking a specific one can be intimidating. Below you can find a rundown of what to expect.
If you have decided to retrain yourself, but you are not sure how to juggle pre-existing responsibilities, opt for an online qualification. These courses enable you to follow a self-paced learning path, which can reduce time pressure and is suitable for different learning styles.
Online courses also help you reduce the time spent commuting. And you can easily follow your classes from the comfort of your living room. One of the most significant benefits of online courses is that you continue working for your previous employer while attending. This allows you to leave your job perfectly equipped to find your next one.
If you are up to date with relevant innovation, but you lack the one skill you need to progress to a different department, specialized courses are perfect to close this knowledge gap. They aim at filling you in with the aspect of your job you are not familiar with, leaving you ready to join a new team.
Such courses can be either online or on-campus, full-time, or part-time. If you are thinking about a functional career switch, but you are happy to stay within the same company or industry, speak to your employer before applying. Indeed, many companies offer incentives and even financial help for such training.
Learning new skills
Retraining yourself is an excellent choice. Yet it is not the only one! Of course, going back to class or college will allow you to gain an understanding of a topic or skill. However, this might not be enough to secure the job you are after.
Depending on the particular industry you would like to move to, you can also consider an adult apprenticeship or in-field training. These are optimal choices for anybody looking at tapping into an industry in which they have fewer hard-skills than needed.
Step 5: Explore your options
Now you are fully equipped to face what the market has to offer! Start by finding out what your options are in terms of job offers and conditions. Undoubtedly, not all available positions will be suitable for all applicants. And you should restrict your choice only to the options that enable you to meet your goals.
For example, if your goal was to enjoy a more flexible schedule, taking up a well-paid 9-to-5 job might not be an optimal choice. On the other hand, somebody who is looking at following a passion will aim only at the jobs that are in that specific field. Here are some of the factors you should consider before sending out your first application.
All industries are in continuous development. In some cases, such changes happen when an innovation comes in, while in others, a product just becomes obsolete.
If you have been planning to stick to the industry you know best and undertake a functional career change, you will need to be aware of the upcoming trends. Similarly, some sectors in which you would like to work in might be short-lived, which makes it not worth retraining in a skill relevant to those.
Open your own business
If you are not changing your career purely to see an increased income straight away, opening your own business can be an excellent source of personal and professional satisfaction. If you are pursuing a passion, your business can be an expression of it. Alternatively, you can use the knowledge built over the years to create your brand within the same field.
Of course, there are some disadvantages and risks associated with launching your enterprise over 50. These include:
- Less time to make up for the initial losses
- Many professionals encouraged to open a business are knowledgeable in their field but are not entrepreneurs.
- It requires substantial investments in properties, licenses, insurance, and equipment.
- It can be dangerous if you are safeguarding your retirement savings.
However, there are also exciting benefits that can lead you to not only enjoy your job but also achieve self-actualization personally and in the workplace. If you are not after increased incomes, starting your small business can offer you the chance to learn something new and find renewed purpose.
In any case, coming up with a detailed business and financial plan, as well as seeking the help of a professional, is essential to avoid having to shut your still-young company too early.
Consulting and teaching
After many years of experience, you are a knowledgeable individual who lived through the development and forming of an industry. If you are now after a more relaxed schedule, less workload, and projects that are not as stressful, teaching and consulting might be optimal choices.
Indeed, such occupations give you the option of defining your work-life balance without having to learn a new skill from scratch or applying for jobs. Best of all, you can have the chance to pass on your skills to the next generation of entrepreneurs. However, even in this case, networking is essential!
As a consultant, you will need to communicate your achievements, qualifications, and capabilities to your potential clients to secure a job. Most of the enterprises searching for the services you offer also operate through online and social media platforms.
To increase and consolidate your client base, you might need to consider creating a professional website. You will also have to promote your social media handles.
While it can be tricky to have enough customers to improve your finances, teaching and consulting have unlimited financial potential, once your popularity increases.
If you are looking for a job that allows you to enjoy a flexible schedule, yet you don’t consider yourself a consultant, freelancing enables you to make the most out of your skills. You can work on your projects from home if you are working remotely. And you would have something new to dedicate yourself to regularly.
Of course, building a client base even in this case is essential and can take time. However, this is an excellent way to overcome geographical barriers and work on international projects to which you would not have access otherwise.
Step 6: Allow for time
If you have followed all the steps, yet your job search is not showing the immediate results you were hoping for, don’t fret! It takes time and effort to switch careers after 50, but it is undoubtedly attainable!
However, the time it takes for you to find a new job can depend on many factors. Among these, the most prominent ones can be your geographical area and the industry you have decided to join.
Indeed, not all regions or countries boast the same job opportunities, and these can be limited to a specific sector. Therefore, how fast you will be able to complete the switch depends on what compromises you are happy to make to find a new job.
For example, if you don’t mind moving or commuting to a different city, accept a lower-paying position, or renounce to a more flexible schedule, suddenly the number of options increases. However, if you are happy to wait longer for the perfect opportunity to come along, you might not need to compromise at all.
Changing careers over 50 without a degree can be an intimidating task, but it is attainable. Indeed, education and training dates should not appear in your CV anyway! While a traditional certification is not essential, networking, building a proper resume, and keeping up with the latest innovations is crucial.
Lastly, before even starting the process of switching to another career, you need to understand the reasons behind this decision. These motivations can vary from person to person. But they are equally essential to avoid making mistakes and undertaking the right career path.
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