The three stages of changing your career later in life
Changing your career at any age is a huge step, but making the decision to leave a position you’ve held for many years can be even more intimidating. As you grow older, increasing financial and family responsibilities often prevent people risking making major changes to their career and salary. Re-entering the job market doesn’t have to be a gamble though; by learning what to expect, you can remove almost all the uncertainty.
Deciding to leave
Over half of UK workers want to change careers1 but it’s not a decision you should make lightly. Almost every job comes with tasks you’d rather not do (and colleagues you’d rather not work with!) but there comes a time when the bad days start to significantly outnumber the good. This is when you know it’s time to start looking elsewhere.
It’s an old saying, but it’s true: familiarity breeds contempt. If you’ve held the same position or worked within the same sector for many years it’s easy to feel like you’re stagnating. A lot of the excitement you experience in the first few months and years of a job role are because you’re learning different skills and taking on new challenges. When you begin to feel that you’ve taken a role as far your company will allow, it’s time for a change.
For others, the decision to leave can originate from the opposite scenario; increased stress, company restructures and increases to your workload can make a role very unpleasant. Added to this, some physical roles can sometimes become too demanding later in life.
And finally, there are also personal reasons that mean you want to change career. These are often that you have children or grandchildren to care for, or elderly relatives, and are looking for a role with more flexibility.
Whatever your reason, once the decision is made it’s time to move on to the next step…
This is the time to start reviewing the current job market and the things you can bring to it. Not sure what sector to look into? Try looking at your previous qualifications, aspects of work or hobbies you’ve enjoyed in the past and see where they lead.
The first step is to get your CV up to date; if you’re not sure where to start you can search online for templates and ways to make the most of your experience. There’s no right or wrong way to format your CV but make sure that you emphasise your experience when describing your job history.
Social media is also the key to success; join networking sites like LinkedIn to help you to make the most of the connections you’ve built up over your working life. These contacts will often be able to alert you to open or upcoming positions that might not be advertised externally.
As almost all jobs are advertised online these days it’s important to register on as many sites as you can find. When you have a better idea of the kinds of roles you’re looking for, you can filter jobs by area, salary and level of experience to find more suitable matches.
If you’re not very confident with computers and technology, now is also a good time to brush up on your skills; it’s rare to find a job these days that doesn’t require at least a basic level of computer literacy.
After you’ve updated your CV, if you feel that it’s looking a little bare it’s a good idea to use your spare time to get some valuable qualifications. These are sure to impress any future employer while making sure you’re up-to-date with the latest theories and techniques within your chosen field. We offer a number of part-time undergraduate and postgraduate courses that you can study online while continuing to work in your current role. You can learn more by downloading our prospectus.
And finally, while you’re safely in employment and earning money, it’s a great idea to do some volunteering or freelance work in this research phase to gain some valuable experience in the field you’re interested in.
Getting the job!
As with job adverts, job applications are also mostly done online nowadays. If you’ve already spent the time brushing up on your computer skills while researching roles, you’ll be fine.
You might think that the modern job market is reserved for young uni-leavers, but remember, as someone with years of experience you have many advantages; draw attention to ‘soft’ skills such as communication, decision-making and leadership abilities. These skills will set you apart from those just starting their career as they cannot be taught and must be developed over time.
It’s not unusual to have to undergo practical and personality tests for an interview these days too; you can find these online to practise them. Read our blog post on “30 interview tips to help you land your dream job” to learn more handy tips.
Finally, if there’s nothing out there that inspires you, why not consider starting your own business? Being your own boss will give you the flexibility to work to your own timetable and in an area you’re passionate about. Many graduates from our undergraduate and postgraduate business courses have become their own bosses and done the same thing!