Career Change & Retraining

Career reinvention strategies that work for the over 50s

If you have been considering taking a different career path to pursue another profession or to finally open up that business, you may be more prepared than you think.

Career reinvention can seem scary and overwhelming. However, so can continuing to spend the rest of your thriving life pursuing a career that you no longer find rewarding or gratifying. The process of reinvention is different for every individual – some people do it in a dramatic fashion by completely switching industries while others do it more slowly and steadily, by learning new skills or relevant training.

Whichever way you opt to do it, here are some career reinvention strategies to help you transition successfully:

Make a plan in writing before doing anything else

Reinventing your career is often a process of several consecutive steps and that is why it good to plot your steps in written form. It also keeps you accountable for taking action. Many people find change challenging and terrifying, although in the same circumstances other people find change exciting and empowering.  It can bring out the best of our character and awaken new levels of engagement in our working life, courage, and fortitude.  The process can take months to execute properly, even when there is a solid plan in place.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31

To ensure your best chance of success, design a plan which includes your most desirable outcomes and also includes milestones.  If you can, develop your plan before you seriously consider making a move or quitting your current job position.   You don’t need to know your final destination yet, you just need to initiate the first step, which is a broad outline.

Focussing on achieving the next milestone gives you clarity and “breathing space” which reduces your stress and need for control.  When you reach each milestone you are likely to see a different “horizon” and even more options available to you. Make each step small and achievable so you feel a sense of accomplishment and can tick it off quickly.

Without a proper plan, you might find yourself in limbo for the unforeseeable future.  If a career reinvention is right for you, making the decision and a broad outline of the steps required will take your thinking from “I want this to happen” to “this is how I intend this to happen”. 

Allow yourself to be a novice on your reinvention journey who is going through an educational process to identify the best pathway forward.

Start by coming up with a list of possible career paths and directions that you can take, using your existing platform of natural abilities, transferable skills and work experience.  Then design the action steps needed. 

  • What does your destination look like? 
  • What would the environment of your workplace look like – what clothes do you wear, are you office-based or mobile, what do your colleagues and customers look like, is the organization big or small
  • How will you know you have found the most suitable outcome for you – how would you feel in your new envisaged workplace? 
  • What components does it have that are important to you – autonomy, teamwork, flexible hours? 
  • What are the in-between steps? 
  • Do you require additional training or further education?
  • How many solutions can you discover to achieve each of these milestones?

Engage your right-brain thinking with a mind-map.

Mind-map source:

Take the time to self-reflect before you reinvent yourself

Try not to make any hasty decisions regarding your new career path without self-reflecting and engaging in self-exploration. Just because you have an idea of what you would like your future life to look like does not mean that everything will be rosy or plans will work out as scheduled. In order to transition successfully, you must first determine what is right for you.

This means figuring out your actual interests and passion, your motivation, the rewards you are seeking from your new profession, as well as your future outlook. It will be hard to reinvent yourself without first figuring out the things that drive you – what motivates and satisfies you.

Participating in a period of reflection will help you identify your career likes and dislikes. The more you understand yourself, the higher your chances will be of transitioning successfully.

If you have been unhappy in your career for a long time, reassure yourself that you have the right to “look out for yourself” to prioritize your emotional happiness with your responsibilities to others. Being miserable at work is only going to have a negative impact on your health, relationships and finances.

Do not quit just because you hate your current role

Try not to quit just because you hate your current job. There may be several reasons why you are not satisfied in your current role so try not to assume that your chosen career path is the problem. You may be unhappy because you do not get along with your workmates or your current role may not be challenging you enough. Perhaps you may be unhappy because of your organizational culture.

In any case, before you quit your current job, try and step back to analyze your current job situation properly so that you can determine clearly the things that are making you unsatisfied. Discuss this with someone else if you need help thinking objectively. Sometimes hearing your own voice explaining what is bothering you can reveal the underlining issues.

It is entirely possible to tweak or make slight adjustments in your career that can make you feel a lot more fulfilled. Sometimes your satisfaction may be as simple as changing departments or finding a different employer to work for without necessarily jumping ship or taking part in a radical career transformation.

Define your timeline clearly

Consider your timeline because that will affect your strategy. If you plan to make gradual steps over the next two to three years, you have more wiggle room compared to someone planning to switch careers in months. Of course, you must also pay close attention to your finances, and what makes the most practical sense to you. The point is to plan a timeline that avoids making your life too difficult or your objectives unrealistic.

Try and think of the demands

Before you transition into a new career, try and think of the demands that the process will place on your body, mind, and health. Though you may think that you are fully prepared to proceed full steam ahead, it may not be as easy as you think, and take longer than you expect. Your strength, as well as your ability to withstand pressure, is helped by retaining a flexible approach so that if one avenue is not fruitful, you have the resilience to try another.

While you are certainly able and capable of handling certain tasks and responsibilities that will be part of your new career, avoid surprises by investigating the expectations and demands that form part of the nature of your desired career.  Connect with people already in that position or industry to learn more about how that career operates “from the inside”.

There are unfortunately many people who studied years for a professional career, such as a doctor or lawyer, who discovered they were very unhappy in that profession. Know what your new role would entail so that you can prepare and reassure yourself that you are making the right choice.

Get social and network

Your social media presence matters immensely as it is usually viewed by prospective employers.  If your digital footprint is lacking on major social media sites such as LinkedIn, you are not maximizing your opportunities.  Ask your current network if they have any contacts in your new industry or line of work.  The more you circulate the better and most people enjoy helping others by sharing the contacts they know.

You may have always labeled yourself by your current career i.e. I am an engineer. It can help your emotional transition to create a new label for yourself i.e. I am a business owner who specializes in project management. Start thinking of yourself from your new persona. If it helps you, get a new jacket/shirt/dress that you would wear in your new job. Hang it up somewhere visible in your home so that you can look at it every day and imagine yourself wearing it in your new workplace. Actors call this “getting into character”.

Carry out your research

To make your transition easy, carry out as much research as possible so that you can educate and prepare yourself.  Encourage yourself by seeing your journey as expanding your horizons and awakening your inner adventurer.  There may be people you already know who have successfully reinvented their careers – reach out to them and try and get any tips to apply to your own reinvention.  

Needless to say – stay away from negative people who are not empowered to make positive changes in their own lives. People usually get better or bitter over time. Some people prefer to believe they are victims and they waste their creative energy complaining, instead of using that same creative energy to reinvent themselves. Empowered people know you have to rescue yourself.

Consider reading books, industry journals, blogs and meet with individuals that have followed the same path.  By doing so, you will learn about the pitfalls to avoid as well as some of the best strategies to use.  By learning about other people’s journeys, you can fine-tune your own plan and make better decisions.

Expect good for yourself

Most people have several different jobs in their working life and a few different careers.  It is in our innate nature to want more for ourselves.  Sometimes we are forced into changes that we weren’t expecting or prepared for.  It is very helpful to avoid too much “realism” and be open to exploring new possibilities with an open heart and a fresh spirit. 

It is most likely that expecting good for yourself can be your own “North Star” to head you in a new direction. Once there, you will look back and know that you are much happier, more satisfied and that the journey was certainly worth it.