Changing careers later in life (from someone who did it)
Unless you’ve made your way to the C-suite, you’re unlikely to find many articles addressing the successes, struggles, and challenges of the older worker. Little is written about us, save for the occasional anti-ageism piece published mostly for public image purposes.
So when I decided to leave my career in Real Estate at the age of 45, I was largely without guidance. Of course, I had my family as support and the Internet as a general – if often lacking – resource, but I didn’t have an article like this one. Which is why I’m creating it.
Late-life career changes aren’t doomed to failure
82% of respondents to an American Institute for Economic Research survey reported making a successful transition to a new career after the age of 45. You probably aren’t doing the same job you dreamed of as a kid, or even the same job you did 10-20 years ago. Why stop evolving now?
Job seekers have an incredible advantage in the market with unemployment at a historic low. Companies are looking to pull from any and all untapped candidate pools – making you more desirable than ever before. You have a lifetime of knowledge to offer, experience to showcase, and eagerness to channel. Here’s what worked for me:
Your fears are true – but they have nothing to do with age
The transition from Real Estate Agent to Recruiter has been demanding. Learning a new industry, terminology, processes, ramping up my business, navigating a new manager relationship – at times you feel you’ll never catch up. And that realization lends legitimacy to your initial fears; the ones that say that you’re too old or too entrenched in your ways to learn something new.
Working as a recruiter has taught me an important lesson – that feeling exists regardless of age. Big 4 Seniors going into industry feel that same discomfort. New grads starting their first job experience that same panic. Managers looking to take their knowledge elsewhere succumb to that same anxiety.
If anything, your advanced age is to your benefit. The fact that I have 20+ years of experience to call on from my previous career allows me to make smarter, faster decisions in my current workplace. And when speaking on the phone or in person with high-level executives, my age lends my message authority while empowering me to understand their situation on a deeply personal level.
Three things that will make the change so much easier
1. Belief in yourself and your skills
If you are wavering in your decision, or unsure of your future career – good, you’re a human. I would be concerned if you weren’t feeling some anxieties about this huge life decision. But at some point you need to commit to the vision. Your religion needs to be the religion of YOU – you need to worship at the feet of your abilities, your drive, and your future.
Doubt will undermine your goals much more than age ever could.
2. A particularly well tailored resume and cover letter
Finding the key points of alignment from previous experience to the requirements of the role, and then clearly conveying those on your resume is the best way to draw the attention of Hiring Managers. This may require modifying the resume a bit for particular roles versus simply using a “one size fits all” resume for each application. Your focus should be on listing as much of the relatable experience on the resume as possible, and then letting the experience speak for itself.
If you’re worried about being unfairly disqualified because of your age, only include the past 15 years of work experience. In all likelihood this is the most relevant and impressive experience in any case.
The cover letter gives you an opportunity to build a compelling argument by weaving parallels and points of connections between the accomplishments in your past career and the objectives in this future role. You can find our cover letter guide here, or contact me directly for more specific advice for changing careers later in life.
3. An advocate
No, I’m not slyly referring to a recruiter – though, now that you mention it, a recruiter would be very helpful at this seminal point in your career. Not only do recruiters help to identify the most transferable skills from your previous role and properly frame them for your new resume, but we can help you get a foot in the door at a company that might otherwise not consider you given your lack of experience in this domain.
When I say advocate, I’m really referring to anyone that can give you a platform. Someone that will push a Hiring Manager to consider you on your own terms, and will show them how your different experience can be more valuable than another candidate who may perfectly fit the career trajectory called for by the job.
This person can be a former coworker who now works in the industry or company you’re looking to enter; it can be a friend who you met dog walking who knows a Hiring Manager; it can even be a LinkedIn connection who you cold message. In my case, I represented one of my now-coworkers in their home sale a few years prior when I was working as a Real Estate Agent. That relationship allowed me to get a foot in the door with my current employer and new career.
Change itself is scary – it means accepting a degree of uncertainty. And changing something as critical to your identity as a career is especially stressful, regardless of your age. Yet very few people regret taking the leap, myself included.
Reach out for more career guidance at firstname.lastname@example.org – I look forward to chatting!