Looking for a career change after 50? – It’s a journey, not a day trip!

When most folks over 50 come to a decision that it is time for a career change, they are usually eager for the change to occur.  In our experience, they frequently underestimate how long it may take to go from their current work to a new field.  This is particularly true for those wanting to make a move from the for-profit to the non-profit sector. 

Identifying skills and experience.  The first step is getting clarity on skills and experience that can transfer to a new field.  This is often hard to see in ourselves: most of us underestimate the breadth of our skills. Objective assessment is key. Most important is how to “package” skills so it is clear how they translate into a new field.  Having an effective “package” (resume, LinkedIn™ profile, etc.) is necessary to clearly describe a person’s background and experience in light of where they want to go.

In-depth research.  Gaining thorough knowledge about the new industry, profession and work environment is essential and requires time and effort. The internet is a good place to start, there is no substitute for talking with people who are in or know a lot about the particular areas of interest.  This is the part of the journey that sometimes seems to trip up career changers.  It often takes courage to reach out to new people to ask for assistance (aka information).  However, in our experience, this is one of the most useful and important steps in the career change process.  There just isn’t a substitute for meeting people and gaining insight from insiders.

Sustaining momentum. When networking meetings aren’t yielding practical data that don’t seem to be moving closer to an actual job opportunity, it takes confidenceto keep at it.  For those who are working full time it’s often challenging to finding the time to have the networking meetings.  While this can seem to prolong the journey, getting creative about how to get the time (early morning coffee meetings, late afternoon/early evening lite meals) is essential. 

Staying optimistic and positive. As in any journey, there can be delays, setbacks, and unanticipated events. People over 50 can fall into a trap of interpreting every stumbling block as age discrimination – it is usually not the case. As with actual travel these events will likely require flexibility, creativity, patience and perhaps a major change of plans.  Sometimes, it may even require a reassessment of the destination.  Embarking on career journey requires courage

While the length of the journey can be at times frustrating and discouraging, viewing it as a journey rather than a short trip can be helpful.  Staying the course requires determination, persistence and confidence.  Having support, such as Burke and Penn provide can be beneficial: we help people over 50 maintain the clarity, courage and confidence to stay the course and enjoy the journey.