Middle age may once have been a time for coasting into retirement, but no longer: workers are increasingly looking for work that stimulates and stretches them throughout their careers.
This is likely to be one of the reasons why thousands of apprenticeship starts in the UK come from over-50s, and why research shows that 40% of American workers had changed occupation after 55.
So, what are the advantages of shaking up your working life mid-career?
You want a new challenge
For many people established in their careers, things are comfortable but stale: work isn’t challenging anymore and the career path ahead doesn’t seem to appeal.
“Your life and your career is one big learning curve,” says Whitney Johnson, an executive coach. “Ask yourself: ‘Is up the only way?’ Maybe you don’t have to climb the ladder if you can do something interesting that will allow you to learn and grow.”
Your priorities have changed
As the stages of your life unfold, inevitably the things you value most are different. Perhaps you’re looking to get out of the rat race and regain some more work-life balance, or maybe you’re looking to swap a corporate job for something with a social impact that means a lot to you.
“Taking your foot off the pedal doesn’t have to mean that you’ve lost all motivation,” says John Lees, a career coach and author of How to Get a Job You Love. “Just that you’ve learned that work doesn’t have to be all-consuming.”
You want to learn new things
Keeping the excitement of learning is a major motivation for many mid-life career changers: there’s nothing like it for feeling young again. For many careers, learning is also the route in.
“Find out the skills that are in demand by employers and ask on LinkedIn or within your network how you could go about learning it,” says Ros Toynbee, director of The Career Coach. “There’s courses for just about everything but ensure you are investing money in the ones that are the best ones.”
You can afford the risk
There’s nothing guaranteed about switching careers. So, it’s no surprise that the people who seek it out often do so because they have comfortable, stable lives. When the kids are grown and the mortgage is nearly paid off, you have more options.
This security helped Lucy Kellaway leave her job as a Financial Times columnist in search of the fulfilment and challenge of being a teacher. “I’m part of the lucky generation with houses and pensions,” she says. “A drop in salary doesn’t terrify me in the way it once would have.”
It’s not too late
Watching the rise of a younger generation can leave many older workers feeling their day has passed. Don’t be fooled – employers highly value experience in those workers who can show they are adaptable as well.
“When you’re in your 50s, you’re at a new professional peak, ripe with the experience and wisdom needed to fuel a successful career change,” says leadership coach Debra Bednar-Clark. “The key is to ensure that you’re connecting the dots for your future employers, so they understand how your skills, experiences and the lessons you’ve learned along the way are transferable.”
If you’re thinking of retraining, you can view our courses here.