If you’ve seen the movie City Slickers, about a group of middle aged men on a cattle drive, you may remember the following summation of career choice: “Let’s face it. At our age, where you are… you are.”
But is that true? Can you begin an entirely new career past your 20s, or even past 50? In this ever-evolving “gig based” economy, you can. A little flexibility and a lot of planning can go a long way in helping you achieve your dreams, even if you’re just now recognizing them.
Remember that you’re not alone, and that many baby boomers share your feelings and fears. More than 50% of Americans are not happy in their current industry. However, since the retirement age is rising and workers of all ages might be shifting careers, it’s never too late to “be where you are.”
Become Comfortable with the Internet & Social Media
No matter what the industry you’d like to enter, it is essential to become familiar with modern forms of communication. It’s the best way to find work opportunities, to demonstrate that you are on pace with the current market, and to show to a supervisor of any age that you are willing to learn what you need for success.
Even if you are entering a job in an industry which does not use social media outright, your employer will likely use an online scheduling, HR, or payroll system. Your willingness to enroll in such systems are essential to your smooth transition in the workplace.
In the event you must start from the beginning in your work with the Internet or word processing, there are a wealth of opportunities for assistance. Community classes, libraries, and senior centers often offer help with Internet or social media skills.
It’s important to avoid fear or to assume that your temporary lack of skills is a permanent block to where you’d like to be professionally. Speaking with others your age who may have already learned how to use a smartphone or online systems might help bolster your confidence or provide you with someone to call in the event you have questions.
Some seniors may avoid jumping into the job market because they may not have participated in a traditional career for some time, or because they have never worked outside the home. In this event, be open to alternate ways to begin your new career. Speak to those around you who might have contacts to assist you in networking. In addition, if you’d like to give your new career a try without jumping too far into the unknown, consider giving an internship or volunteer position a try. It helps cultivate contacts in addition to burnishing your resume.
You can find help with senior job services as well as from those closest to you. Friends and families are also essential in this transition. Enlist their assistance as you begin to make your way into your new career. For example, if you provide regular babysitting services for your grandchildren, speak with your children about the possibility of other arrangements.
In addition, seniors may wonder who they might be able to use as professional job references if this is the first time they have entered the job force, or if they are returning to it after some time. Consider your volunteer or community work. Do you sing in a choir or work in a shelter? Your supervisors in these positions might also be helpful. They can also assist you in writing a cover letter if you are applying to re-enroll in school.
Know What You Need
What do you need for your new career? It may be a matter of trying to climb the ladder again, but it might also mean that your skills from your past career might transfer to the new one. It can be easy to become discouraged if you run into roadblocks, setbacks, or discouragement.
For example, does your career require a specific degree? What programs might enable you to reach that goal? Can some of your life experiences be transferred to college credit?
Speaking to someone who is already in the industry you’d like to join is a good way to gain a grasp of the knowledge, abilities, and skills which are deemed necessary for entry level work. Even if you feel far from where that might be, there are likely several paths to attain your goal. Gaining knowledge about where you specifically need to concentrate your energy and ambition will help you to stay focused.
Anticipate the Interview
If your resume and application are positively reviewed by the company with which you’ve applied, you will likely be contacted for an interview. Your interviewer may well be younger than you are, which might sound off-putting. Instead of being intimidated or discouraged, use the obvious to your advantage. Remember that you can offer experience and wisdom other applicants cannot.
Before the interview, prepare yourself for likely questions. These will probably be significantly different from what they were for your first jobs, and may well be your first and last chance to assure the interviewer that you are the best choice for the position.
Highlight your experience and provide specifics as to how you have honed your skills for the job.
Yes, I do know how to use Excel. I learned how in my Introduction to Office Suite course. I find that it’s an efficient way to organize information and share it across different platforms.
It’s also a good idea to strategize how to address gaps in your employment, either due to child rearing or taking a break from the workforce for illness. Most employers will understand that not everyone has the same employment history, and if you clearly and concisely explain the gap, your honesty will be appreciated.
It’s also important to emphasize that your age is not liability, but a boon to your employer. Demonstrating that you have polished your skills and understand the current market will lay their objections to rest.