Career Development And Counselling

Changing careers after 50 is not easy but it is possible. Over 50s know they have a lifetime of transferable skills and experience that can be applied in different contexts. The challenge is to convince others that those skills and experience are just what they need. To make a successful transition it is important to realise that you are marketing a product and that product is YOU. Like any marketing, the perception of the product must be carefully managed to give it the best possible chance of success, and you need to be certain that it is being marketed to the right people.

Clearly defined goals
Being really clear about your career goals is the first step. Your reasons for changing careers after 50 are undoubtedly complex and usually indicate that you have not been completely happy in your previous occupation. For this reason you need to make time to consider what you liked and disliked in previous work; the type of work, the type of people, the environment, the level of responsibility, the context and the purpose of the work. Recognising your interests is important at this stage, because the things that interest you, not just in your working life but also in your personal life, often provide a strong clue to the sort of work you will enjoy. Similarly, acknowledging your values may provide a key to the type of organisation you would like to work for, or perhaps the sort you would not be happy to work for. This creates a list of criteria by which you can evaluate the suitability of work opportunities for you at this time of your life.

Carefully crafted resume
When you consider all the life and work experiences that have made you the person you are today, you realise how much you have to offer. However you need to convince other people of this, and the best way to do so is through a resume that highlights your transferable skills in a powerful way, demonstrating what you have already achieved in your career.

To prepare this sort of resume (a �functional� resume) start with a list of the jobs you have done, and examples of advertised jobs that you find interesting. You will notice that many of the job advertisements are seeking someone with generic skills such as Communication skills, Teamwork, or good Technology skills. Create a possible list of these headings, then look through the jobs you have done and decide which of the headings will be most helpful in marketing you as a potential employee. For each job you have had, write down some statements to show how you have demonstrated the chosen skills in your work. Start each statement with a strong verb because this gives a much more powerful image of what you have achieved. This exercise will show you just how many transferable skills you have and will provide the basis for your functional resume. Suggestions about how to prepare a functional resume is readily available online at all the major job-seeking sites, but if you do not want your age to be an issue in a job application then be careful of the prominence you give to your years of education or your earlier jobs.

The people who know you and who believe in you are the most likely source of links to work that will be of interest to you. Ensure that they know what sort of work you are looking for. A large proportion of jobs are not advertised, yet people hear about them through the people they know. Prepare a 15 – 30 second description of the work you are seeking and then start telling people, requesting that they keep this in mind if they hear of any work that may be of interest to you. Networking is not about using people you barely know, but it is about making genuine connections with others who you believe would be happy to assist you.

However beware the well-meaning friend or family member who thinks they know what is best for you! Despite your carefully considered description of the work that you are seeking they may try to persuade you to apply for other types of work. Evaluate each job opportunity according to the criteria that you decided on, and don’t be persuaded to apply randomly for work.

Younger employers may be inclined to discard applications from those who they perceive as being �old�. Whilst you must be true to yourself, it is important that a contemporary attitude and willingness to learn is demonstrated in the tone of your resume and cover letter.

It hurts when you are unsuccessful in obtaining a job that you want. However that is the nature of the job-hunting game, and it is helpful if you can develop a level of resilience that enables you to move forward with no bitterness and no blame. Candidates who have experienced many rejections often destroy their chances of obtaining work by exhibiting a negative and defeatist attitude.

The secret to successfully changing career direction after 50 is to believe strongly in the skills and experience that you have and what you can offer to an employer. Market this belief with confidence and pride, and enjoy the next stage of your career.

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