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I’ve had 6 jobs since Covid. Here’s what I’ve learned about changing your career at 50!


If you’d told me that I’d be about to start my 7th job in three years I would’ve called you insane and described someone that couldn’t hold down a job.

Instead, this has been my reality since Covid, and I’ve really struggled to get my head around that.

Prior to the pandemic I’d worked in the travel industry for 22 years, I knew my stuff; I had great connections and was known for my experience in the industry, and you might say I’d become an expert in my field. Then the world changed, and if I’m honest it scared the pants off me because both my husband and I were employed in this devastated industry.

This not only forced my pivot, but it made me reevaluate the future. It was time for me to retrain and find another industry and not put all our eggs in one basket.

I was 48 and had worked in travel since I was 26 so I was making a major life decision. I was conscious of bouncing from one job to the next as travel had been my craft and it was time to take my transferable skills and build a new one. That’s a little scary as you approach 50 but it’s a reality for many, and if I can share any wisdom from my experience, I’m grateful to do so.

As I embark on my 7th role since March 2020, I’m writing this for the people who think about change and stall. Or those that are in the midst of it and the challenges it presents. Or maybe I’m writing it for myself, to the critical and judgmental self-talk that speaks to my beliefs about career. To have something I can say to myself when those around you say, “you’re changing jobs again”, knowing it’s pushing buttons in me.

In classic coach style, I’m reframing, and sharing with you the 7 lessons I’ve learned about a career/job change at 50.


Oops 51, I just had a birthday!


You need a vision and then a plan.


Stepping into something different requires preparation. If you are in the financial position to just walk away and try something new you are fortunate, and probably in the minority. Most require some planning in order to make that transition. Some clients I coach immediately want to act, but in my experience, you have to start with a vision. That will look different for everyone, but you can start with some basic questions.

What is it I want my future to look like?

What kind of work will I be doing and how will that support my life and my circumstances?

What do I value and how will my next career be aligned to that?

What am I prepared to change to bring about this new career move?

These are big questions and can take time and you may need to consult someone such as your partner, family, or friends. But before you launch into action take the time to visualise the next 5-10 years and get clear on your values, because when values don’t align to reality, that’s when the cracks appear.

Once the picture is formed only then can you work on the plan, on the “How To”. You might need to think about a transition job, a step between where you are and where you want to be. Or a job for experience or connections as opposed to the ultimate goal. You may even be testing out a new industry and just need to get a start. If you’re a working woman with a family and partner you need to think about the impact this change has on the family finances, family time, logistics and ultimately how it will lift or drain your energy moving forward.


Plans need to factor in your values, vision, life circumstances and timeframe.



What if it doesn’t go to plan?


This time last year I submitted an assignment for uni where we had to write a 5-year career transition plan. I was very clear on my vision, laid out a plan, set the timeframe and when I got a new role at the start of this year, I was 6 months ahead of schedule. Everything on paper was coming to fruition. Except one thing. Within about 3-4 months for a variety of reasons and circumstances I knew I wasn’t in the right role.

This feeling wasn’t part of the plan!

Lesson number 2, being able to adapt and deviate from the plan when things aren’t working out. It’s taken me 8 months to do that, even though with hindsight I knew at 3 months. And why? Because I wasn’t prepared to deviate from the plan. It was well thought out, heavily researched, and the traditional pathway for a Careers Advisor. Yet my intuition knew early that it wasn’t right for me, and I ignored that voice in favour of sticking to the plan.


Keeping check on your middle age wisdom and your well researched plan and evaluating if they are in sync, is the biggest lesson I will take from my 6th job since covid.



Use your transferable skills to launch your career change.


There will be areas of your current career where you’re considered an expert. Some will be industry specific, and others will be transferable skills. If you can’t identify your transferable skills, you’re more likely to stay in your current role. Elements of my skillset were unique to the travel industry such as product and destination knowledge whilst others such as leadership, sales, coaching, and communication skills were transferable to other industries. When deciding to change my career, I focused on my coaching skills, my life experience with change, and pursued a pathway to become a careers advisor. Focusing on coaching, I chose a skill I loved, gave me purpose, and used it to launch a new career. I value freedom and flexibility and as a careers practitioner I can work in educational or corporate settings as an employee or in private practice.


I built on a transferable skill from my previous work experience and explored a new direction that was aligned to my vision.



Invest in your education.


I’ve spoken to many people, some in their late 30’s early 40’s, who feel it’s too late to retrain and change career. What you have to consider is how many working years you have ahead of you rather than behind you, and for most when you do the math, and providing you live a long life, there is plenty of time ahead. You are never too old to start investing in your education and life is too short to stay in something that isn’t right for you.

Lifelong learning is how we grow and adapt to a changing world, and it keeps us relevant in an ever-changing labour market. I’ve been a lifelong student since I left university in the 90’s investing in short courses, both for work and personal interest, but when I went back to university last year, I was fearful, afraid of failing. My last experience of uni had been as a 20 something and the thought of writing essays and reading endless journal articles did not enthuse me. What I found was a course that was interactive, with a variety of learning techniques and personally relevant to my own life, and I loved every minute of it. My world opened, as I was exposed to concepts such as design thinking and life design. From a personal perspective I gained so much confidence and insight from this course and from a professional perspective I earned the qualification to become a Careers Practitioner.


Finding a course that’s relevant to your next step can be one way to network and propel you into a new industry. I’m now a member of career organisations, attend webinars and receive updates, as well as networking within a new profession. In fact, my next move came about as a result of expanding my networks at a professional learning day.


You are a product of the mind that you cultivate.



A toxic work environment is damaging at any age, but at 50 it’s a no no!


And I’ve experienced a couple of these since covid let me tell you, and definitely something I was not expecting after being self-employed for many years. Whether this is a particular person within the workplace or just a general feeling in the company, toxic work cultures are not good for us, and if you can’t change them, my advice is, get the hell out.

Maybe I could have tolerated them better at 35, or maybe I didn’t notice them at this age, but a couple of years ago I worked in two back-to-back, and they definitely had an impact on me.


So how do you know if you’re in one?


For me it began with a decline in confidence, and I questioned if everything I was doing was enough. Then there was a feeling of isolation or not being included in decisions, social activities, or even the baby shower present for a colleague. That awkward feeling you have in the first week of any new job where you’re not sure which coffee mug to use or how to use the photocopier, in a toxic work environment, that feeling never goes away, even 6 months down the track.

If I can take a positive from the experience it did propel me to go back to university and forge a new path.

What I would have ignored in my 30’s I could not at 50. Maybe I’m more sensitive now, or more careful about the energy of the company I keep, but toxic work culture is no place for a 50-year-old woman. Let’s face it, it’s no fun for anyone, but by 50 hopefully you have the choice and skills to put yourself first and move on.

My advice, nip it in the bud and if you can’t change it, don’t exist in it.


Environment is everything.



You can’t approach career change at 50 the same way you would at 35.


My early 30’s was a dynamic time in my career. I was being quickly promoted, travelling the world, earning great money, and carrying a lot of responsibility in the workplace. What I didn’t notice until I did, was that I was working probably 60+ hours a week, but I loved it, had the energy for it and it’s what all my peers were doing. As I changed roles, I threw myself into the new experience, worked the hours, gave it everything and moved through the ranks as you do at that age.


Without really thinking about it too much, I set out to approach my 50-year-old career change the same way. I wasn’t working 60+ hours a week but I still had that expectation of myself that I would stay till the job was done, I would start at the bottom and work my way up, that I would learn everything I could, and I would live and breathe it. And then it hit me. I’m not 35 anymore. Even though I’m committed I don’t have that 35-year-old energy level. I have a family now, a teenager, a dog that needs walking, 10 loads of washing a week, a home that needs maintained, extended family, a variety of different friendship groups, a small coaching business, Soulful Escapes – a travel business for women and lots of other interests other than my work.

But above all, I have a need for inner peace, moments of solitude and an absolute commitment to 8 hours sleep a night as a way to manage my wellbeing. There is no way in this universe I could commit to the career change formula that a 35-year-old would, and therein lies the lesson.


Whatever career change you make has to fit your lifestyle and personality if it’s going to be successful.


I’ve had to accept that I want to do meaningful work, with good people in a great environment, but at the end of day, I want to walk away from it and continue with all the other things that enrich my life. That might mean I don’t climb the ladder the way I would have at 35, or I don’t earn the income I would have in those days, but I’m actually ok with that, because I’ve come to value other things such as peace of mind, job satisfaction and a positive environment.


Career changes later in life will have different requirements than the ones you made earlier in your life and will be unique to your set of circumstances. This is where following your own path and listening to that inner wisdom you have developed will set you up for success.



Who you surround yourself with is everything.


They say you are a product of the 5 people you spend the most time with. For many of us we spend more time in the workplace during the week than we do with our families, so it stands to reason that the circles you work within, and the friendship groups you cultivate have a great impact on your personal wellbeing.

Therefore, when considering a career change, particularly for me at 50, who I spend my time with has a great impact on my decision making. My pandemic job hopping reminded me that not all teams are created equal and in 2022 I was fortunate to land in one that restored my faith. I worked with a fabulous group of experienced people, in a supportive strong team, with an attentive, compassionate leader. The impact on my wellbeing, mindset and general energy levels were astounding. I could have been doing any kind of work in that environment, it was just a great place to be every day.


Similarly in my personal life I’ve purposefully cultivated a wonderful tribe of friends. When I celebrated my 50th last year and had 17 friends in the room who I would walk over hot coals for, I was proud of myself for being selective with who I spend time with, choosing quality over quantity and really valuing the importance of these women in my life.


When you are considering a career change, I suggest you keep this in mind. What kind of people do you want to surround yourself with? Who can you learn from? Who will support you? Who can be your mentor? This is more than finding a positive work environment as mentioned in a previous lesson, it’s about protecting your circles.


Change is the only constant we can rely on. I find it exciting, I’ve always craved it, but having had so much of it in the last three years, I can say it can also be draining if you find yourself in the wrong place.


Making conscious choices through that change, understanding yourself and your values, is one way you can be sure of a smoother transition.


Go for it, make the change.

Life was meant for trying new things.


Jo

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