Career Change At 50: What To Do & How To Do It
Searching for a job and being hired requires considerable effort. And when you consider the fact that you need to find one close to your 50th birthday, you realize how big this task of finding a job is. Having a career change at 50 isn't straightforward, and we agree with that. However, we also agree that the task is difficult but not impossible.
That said, let’s look into what goes into having a change in career at 50.
The job market
With the growing influx of technology in business, there have been changes in some aspects related to interviews. Video interviews have become quite common. Then, you have got multiple levels of interviews, different from yesteryears.
Despite all these changes, there are some things still unchanged in this scenario. Networking in a job search is still a thing. Though the process has been influenced by technology, interviews are still conducted among people. Technology only assists in finding and hiring candidates for the job; the final selection and hiring decisions still reside with the human authorities of the company.
Being over 50 years of age or lower does not play a significant role in changing career. The basics of finding jobs like looking up for availability, applying and interviewing have stayed the same. Much of the changes that have occurred are small but significant. An example of such change is the use of digital resumes over printed ones in the initial stages.
Not everyone who's around 50 goes for a career change. Concerning people who are willing to take this step, understand that some factors will play into your favor and some not so much.
That said, let’s look over some of the aspects that affect your job search and hiring chances.
Factors that favor you
Being around 50 years of age while going for a career change, the most significant advantage you have in this regard is experience and network.
The thing is, one can be easily beaten for skills but not for experience. Experience is something that comes with time. No one can beat you to it unless they are in the game longer than you (which would be rare). When you experience something, you get accustomed to the concerned surroundings. You get to know the conditions, and over time, you adapt to them.
Concerning a job, experience acquaints you with the minute details and factors that job descriptions cannot include or explain. Initially, no one is adept with related tasks in the job. Over time, when the person repeats the tasks and gets acclimatized to it, they become good at the position. This repetition of tasks and getting familiar with the job serves as work experience.
With about 20 to 30-year career, you would have accumulated plenty of experience related to various tasks and roles. When looking for a career change, it is just about using this experience as your greatest strength as a candidate.
Network of acquaintances
Throughout your long working career, you must have met a lot of people; getting acquainted with some; some might have become good friends while some were better not being in contact. What we are referring here is your network of acquaintances, friends or relatives.
Looking for jobs alone is tough. You have to send your application (cover letter and resume) to multiple companies without any certainty of response from them. The competition for jobs in the market is very high. So, unless you possess some unique quality or skills, it is improbable that you will get an interview letter or call, again a best case scenario. Companies receive thousands of job applications. So, there's a big chance of your application ending up in the storage bin instead of advocating you as a suitable candidate.
With networking, you reduce this competition up to some extent.
Here’s an example to understand better.
Use case 1
Let's say you have a friend who works in a firm and is a close acquaintance of the hiring manager. There's a post available in that firm that you are interested in. Because of this, you talk about it with your friend. Your friend, being a close acquaintance of the hiring manager, makes arrangements (along with some kind words) to let you meet the hiring manager directly.
So, now you meet the manager and get the interview successfully done and finally, land the job.
Use Case 2
There's a post available in a firm that you are interested in; thus, apply for it. Some hundred other applicants did the same thing, and now you have a competition with those hundreds of candidates.
Your job application got buried under similar hundreds of such job applications. And, unfortunately, you lost to the competition, and someone else got the job. With networking (contacting your friend in case 1), you were able to eliminate the competition and thus, improve the probability of getting the job.
There’s another factor associated with networking, trust. If you know someone, chances are you can trust them.
For the first case, when your friend, being an acquaintance, put in some kind words for you, the manager could trust his words as he knew him. If a stranger said the same thing about you to the manager, that would not have worked.
Networking for job search is a potent tool which you should use it to your advantage in changing careers.
Tips for making the career change
The following are a few things that you need to take care of before considering a career change in your 50's.
Prepare yourself mentally
Having a change this late in career will affect you mentally, physically and financially. You have to consider all the things that will be affected by your decision to change jobs. A change in the career means a change in surroundings. With this change in career, you will be a part of new surroundings and people. Meaning, you will need to put effort and time to adapt and get familiar to the new surroundings. You need to mentally prepare yourself in this regard and be sure to handle and adjust to the change.
Have a proper plan
Concerning the career change, you need to have an appropriate strategy and approach to how you are going to make the change. This aspect depends on whether there will be an idle period (which we do not suggest) during the transition. You need to consider numerous things like whether you have sufficient financial strength to support you during the idle period?
Or how are you going to search and apply for jobs? Will you seek the job portals or refer with your acquaintances?
Will it mean moving places? How much is that going to cost?
Do not only think about changing careers and start looking for new jobs. Take your time and come up with an appropriate plan to lead you through the phase without any hiccups.
Use your network
As discussed earlier, the competition in the job market is very high. Going through the usual method of searching and applying for positions might not be effective. Hence, contact your acquaintances, be it a colleague, friend or relative and inquire if they can help you in this regard.
Apply for jobs ahead of time
To have a smooth transition in career, search and apply for jobs when you are still employed. Do not wait until you are free from your old post and then begin looking for jobs; it will put unwanted financial stress on you. You should plan ahead of time and start looking for available positions to prevent a considerably long unemployment period (a week between job changes is fine).
Familiarize yourself with the interview process
There have been some changes in how companies conduct interviews. Some might rely on a phone interview first while others might have multiple interviewers for a single candidate. You have to be aware of the interview process and prepare yourself accordingly. You can contact the hiring manager or someone from the HR department of the company to let you know the details of the process.
Highlight the right qualities in your application
A standard resume or cover letter maintains a balance between the skills and experience of a candidate. For you though, keeping a skill-experience balance in your application could not be beneficial. It is not that you lack skills. The fact is most people, after being employed, do not work on acquiring new skills or improving the existing ones. There are some exceptions, but most don't.
Because of this aspect, you have to put the focus on the things in your resume and cover letter that benefit your case the most. Experience is the most significant advantage you have got over other candidates after having worked for around 20 to 30 years. So, show your skills but highlight your experience more. Elaborate the results instead of just describing your duties. Cite your achievements, starting from the most recent to the oldest ones.
Keep note of these six things above to have a smooth career change in your 50s.
Having a change in career at 50 is challenging but then what is not testing in life. Whatever be the reason for the change, make sure you are mentally prepared along with an appropriate plan. Two of the most significant advantages when having a career transition at 50 are experience and network. Being employed for around two decades familiarizes you to quite a few things and situations which can help you in your quest.
Further, during this long employment period, you will meet many people, some of which become very good acquaintances. When looking for a career change, they are the people who can help you to find a job easier and faster. Because of this networking with people, you can avoid the mass market competition and have direct contact with the recruiting personnel.
It is very much a significant step in your career, so be cautious, have a proper plan and execute accordingly.
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