Changing Careers After Age 50

The job market is competitive enough without any added obstacles. However, age does not have to be one of them.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, in 2014, around 40 percent of people 55 years of age and older were either employed or actively seeking employment. Moreover, the oldest population segments (65 to 74 years of age and 75 years of age and older) are expected to increase the fastest in terms of the percentage still participating in the labor force. These statistics show people are working further into their later years and this trend will only continue. Learn how to compete in this changing environment and turn what you thought was one of your greatest liabilities for employment into one of your most valuable assets.

There are plenty of young people flooding the job market every day. Youthful workers offer have high energy, more familiarity with modern innovations and a greater willingness to work for less pay, but older workers have years of real-life experience and familiarity with the professional world, which are just some of the advantages senior staff members bring to the table. Learning how to identify and highlight elements is your key to winning out over your much younger competition for employment.

Consider Age-Friendly Fields

Certain fields of employment seem more amenable to hiring older workers than others. BLS data reveals the number of workers 55 years of age and older employed in various occupational groups. These numbers reflect that more than 42 percent of workers 55 and older were in management, related occupations or professional positions at a higher proportion than other demographics. The following reflects 2016 conditions (thousands):

  • Professional, management and related fields – Almost 14,620
  • Office and sales – 7,991
  • Service – 4,947
  • Material moving, transportation and production – 4,191
  • Natural resources, maintenance and construction – 2,692

You may find better results seeking work in a field better known for hiring older workers than one with a much smaller percentage of them in the workforce. In the following fields, workers 55 years of age and older make up at least one-third of the total employment pool for the occupation:

  • Travel agents
  • Tax preparers
  • Real estate sales agents and brokers
  • Museum curators, technicians and archivists
  • Medical transcriptionists
  • Legislators
  • Furniture finishers
  • Copy markers and proofreaders
  • Clergy
  • Bus drivers

Consider Self-employment

Many older workers have learned over the years to be self-starters. This can make older workers more tailored for self-employment than many of their younger and less disciplined counterparts. If you are looking to change out of your current career but not quite sure what career to move into, then perhaps you may want to consider a career as your own boss, working for yourself.

Older age can be a great time to take a lifelong hobby and turn it into a small business. Turn a passion for baking into a bakery. Turn a passion for drawing into a freelance graphic design job. You do not need to wait for someone else to find you employable to hire yourself and get busy making money doing what you love. As the BLS notes, older workers are more likely to be self-employed than younger workers. Certain fields lend themselves well to self-employment, notably the following:

  • Agricultural managers including ranchers and farmers
  • Animal trainers
  • Authors and writers
  • Door-to-door salespeople
  • Hair stylists, hairdressers and cosmetologists
  • Illustrators, sculptors, painters and other fine artists
  • Massage therapists
  • Sewers, dressmakers and tailors
  • Singers, musicians and related workers
  • Street and news vendors

Consider Part-time Employment

Perhaps you would like to continue working after 50 but, in addition to changing the type of work you do, you would also like to work less than you do now. You could always change from a full-time career to a part-time one. In 2016, around 18 percent of those between 25 and 54 years of age worked part time, 27 percent of workers 55 years of age and older worked part-time and 40 percent of workers 65 years of age and older worked part-time. The following are jobs with a particularly high proportion of part-time workers:

  • Cashiers
  • Cafeteria, coffee shop, food concession and counter attendants
  • Crossing guards
  • Dental hygienists
  • Funeral attendants and embalmers
  • Product promoters, models and demonstrators
  • Recreation and amusement park attendants
  • Restaurant, coffee shop and lounge hosts and hostesses
  • Ticket takers, lobby attendants and ushers
  • Transportation attendants, except for flight attendants

Older workers will find the best part-time jobs for seniors are those that are not too physically strenuous.

Update Your Resume

Whatever approach you wish to take for changing careers after 50, make sure your resume is appropriately updated to reflect your present case for employability. Likely, you have not looked at your resume in quite a while. Do not just assume your resume only needs one added line because you have held the same job for most of your adult life or at least since you last updated your resume.

Chances are likely you have also acquired some new skills or experience and training or education in that time. You may also have accomplishments, awards or other accolades to include. Your interests and career objectives almost certainly will have changed at this point. Additionally, you will want to update your references to include those credentialed people most present to the value you can currently provide to a company.

Happiness Equals Security

Research has shown that switching careers later in life can lead to a boost in retirement security benefits, as long as the career change is by choice and not by force such as being laid off or fired. One reason is later life career changes are more likely to be opportunistic. In other words, a worker may have found a better job with more flexible hours and higher pay. In turn, a job taken opportunistically rather than out of necessity or convenience is more likely to be held through to retirement age. As such, if you change careers later in life to one you like better than your current job, then you are more likely to see those retirement benefits come to fruition than if you stay at your less fulfilling job.

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