How to Make a Career Change at 50 (With Reasons and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 21, 2022

Published September 7, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

After several years or decades in the same field, you may lose interest or passion in your original career path. If there's an industry you've always had an interest in or a new career you think you would enjoy, your 50s can be a good time to pursue a new dream. Understanding how to make a career change at 50 can help you transition easily into a more rewarding, exciting career. In this article, we discuss what a career change involves, explore the reasons for a career change at this stage, highlight how to do it and provide tips for an effective career change.

What is a career change?

A career change occurs when individuals move into an entirely new type of job. A career change is not the same as changing a job or a role. Instead, it entails moving to an entirely different career path or field of work. For example, a software developer who leaves Company A to join Company B as a software developer changes only their job. In contrast, a software developer who becomes an accountant has made a career change.

Here are some types of career changes:

  • Vertical career change: This sort of career change occurs within the same industry and refers to a promotion that significantly changes your job description. For example, a marketer who receives a promotion to branch manager undergoes a vertical career change.

  • Horizontal career change: Also known as a lateral move, a horizontal change entails changing careers to a new field, but remaining at a similar level. A good example of a horizontal career change is an entry-level marketer who becomes an entry-level product designer.

  • Job redesign: This type of career change occurs when an individual alters the responsibilities of their role through negotiation or demand. An example of job redesign is an investment manager who becomes an accountant.

  • Exploratory career change: This refers to when individuals try out new career options while maintaining their jobs. This type of career change is common with engagements like founding a startup, music and writing.

  • Strategic career change: This involves making a career change through steady and calculated methods. Individuals who use strategic career changes begin acquiring new skills and roles long before they make the switch.

  • Uncalculated risk career change: This type of career change usually arises from emotional or stressful situations, such as losing your job or quitting. While this type of career change can lead to great opportunities, you can benefit from better planning.

  • Second career: This refers to career changes that involve sizeable changes in the lives of individuals. Second careers usually require new education, training and experiences.

  • Entrepreneurship: Some individuals change their careers by founding their own business. Entrepreneurship is one of the most common types of career change and usually comes from a desire for freedom.

Related: 7 Steps to a Successful Career Change (With Benefits)

Reasons to consider a career change at 50

Here are some reasons to consider a career change at 50:

Improved self-awareness

Because of your professional and life experiences, you have more knowledge of your interests, passions and values. Naturally, people gain a better understanding of themselves with age. In some cases, such self-awareness can help you realize you've been spending time on the wrong career and inspire a change to a more fulfilling career path.

Related: 15 Jobs for Those Who Want a Career Change From Teaching

Access to more resources

Some people desired certain career paths during their youth but lacked the resources to pursue them. These resources can be tangible, such as money, or intangible resources like discipline or confidence. With age, you're more likely to have access to a greater amount of mental and financial resources. For example, a truck driver who couldn't afford to attend university may be able to pay for school fees with their savings in their 50s.

For greater career fulfillment

People pick careers for reasons that aren't always related to a passion, such as their finances or ease of access. At 50, the reason you picked your initial job might not feel important anymore. Making a career change can help you find a more rewarding and exciting career path.

To have a healthier work environment

You may choose to make a career change to a work environment with less stress or one that offers more flexibility. For example, a construction worker may decide they no longer enjoy the physical demands and long hours of the job. They may make a career change at 50 and pursue an office role or start their own construction company as an entrepreneur.

To make more money

College fees for your children, retirement savings and health fees are some of the expenses that can inspire a career change. If you're working on a career that doesn't pay well, you can make a career change to a more lucrative one. You may pursue entrepreneurship to start a business and create generational wealth.

To enjoy free time

As you age, it's natural to prioritize time with your family and friends. Some individuals also need time to relax, travel or spend more time on their hobbies. Making a career change can help you select jobs that allow you more flexibility.

Related: 8 Reasons for a Career Shift and How to Make the Change

How to make a career change at 50

Here are some steps you can follow to make a career change at 50:

1. Assess yourself as a professional

Assessing yourself helps you determine your skills, qualifications, strengths and weaknesses. Perform a self-assessment by getting a notepad and reflecting on your professional life. Next, go through your resume, think about your work habits and note any relevant information.

2. Select a new career path

You might already have a long-term passion that you want to pursue or a new career path open to you. If you're unsure, take time to research interesting career paths. A good approach is to note what makes you happy and research occupations within that area. You can also aim for occupations related to the skills and qualifications you already have for an easier transition.

Related: 10 Exciting Alternative Careers You May Not Have Considered

3. Identify the job requirements

The next step is to understand the general requirements for the roles of your interest. These can be academic, skill, licensing or certification requirements. Identifying these requirements ahead of time can help you develop an effective transitioning strategy.

4. Upgrade your skills and qualifications

Once you determine the requirements for your new career, you need to ensure you meet all of them. Many institutions offer compressed degrees for individuals with degrees in related areas. If you need any licensing, reach out to the relevant authorities and find out the application requirements. You can also consider online certification programs.

5. Consider internships

Internships are a great way to test a new career path before going into it fully. Internships also help you develop relevant skills and gather experience that can aid your applications. You can apply for internships by contacting businesses personally through cold emails or walk-ins.

Related: Important Benefits of Gaining Experience From an Internship

6. Research your work options

After selecting a new career path, you need to research if there are available roles in your area. You can research through job placement sites or talk to friends and colleagues. Ensure whatever job you're taking doesn't have the same problems you were trying to leave behind from your previous career.

Related: How to Start a New Career in 8 Steps (With Helpful Tips)

7. Build a resume

You need to build a resume that reflects your new skills and qualifications. Remember that each resume needs to be specific to the particular role you're applying to fill. Ensure you prepare your resume thoroughly and that it follows the appropriate format.

Related: Tips From a Recruiter: How To Stand Out When Changing Careers

8. Apply for jobs

The last step is to apply for jobs in your new career. Making a career change at this stage is a bold step, and you must feel confident in your skills. Prepare your cover letter, and practise for your interviews.

Related: How To Change Careers

Tips for making a successful career change

Here are some tips for an effective career change:

Be teachable

While you definitely have years of experience and knowledge, understand that a new career path has its peculiarities. Be humble and willing to take instructions from your supervisors. Being teachable is a great way to stand out as an employee and makes it much easier to develop yourself within a new career.

Keep learning

Since you're new to the career path, it's natural to make mistakes at first. By learning continuously, you can develop faster and become an effective employee. Reserve some time to go over the fundamentals of your new career path. Enroll in development courses or training programs to help you grow. Lastly, ensure you request help from colleagues and coworkers.

Leverage your professional networks

As a 50-year-old with a professional background, you're likely to have some valuable professional contacts. As these people can vouch for your transferable skills, they're more likely to recommend you to employers. Leverage these contacts to build connections to more rewarding roles in a new career path.

Be realistic

Making a career change at this stage can be a bold step. Being realistic with your expectations increases your likelihood of success. After conducting a self-assessment, consider your resources, time and energy to make a realistic decision about what sort of career works best for you.

Acquire digital skills

Most businesses now incorporate technology into their processes. As a result, knowledge of common software like word processing and teleconferencing tools is essential for the workplace. Ensuring you're familiar with these skills can improve your application success rates.

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