My best advice for changing careers over the age of 50? Don’t let your age be “the” thing.
Determine if the career change would require you to start from the bottom or if your previous experience transfers over into the new role. Regardless of age, making an industry change can be difficult. An employer hiring someone making a career change later in their career can feel like they’re taking a double risk, in that the candidate may not ultimately like their career choice after the change, he or she may not have the energy or flexibility to “figure things out” and the candidate may require a higher salary compared to a less experienced (and younger) candidate.
With that being said, here are some pointers to keep in mind as you’re considering (or making) the transition:
Own your age
It’s an illegal topic for employers to bring up, but you can volunteer it if you want. Why not? If they see your picture online or meet you in person, they will know your approximate age. Owning it proudly (not shying away from the obvious) shows confidence and de-stigmatizes the age thing.
Talk to as many people in the industry as you can
Approach people at all levels to learn more about the industry. Specifically, pick up on the language used, who the key players are, and ask questions that help you understand the industry dynamics and the background and experience of the people you speak with. Not everyone will have deep experience in their current feel (they’re sort of like the future you after you switch industries). How did she do it? Find out those stories.
Leverage your network
This is especially true for anyone who works in the industry you’re trying to get into.
Create a great elevator pitch
Outline your experience to date, where you want to go, and your “why” that is motivating the career change. Expressing clarity of purpose will help your audience see things the way you do.
Know your skills and values
Understand what skills you have that are transferrable and talk about how you do that.
Tell people how long your career runway is
Example: “I still have a long runway and want to give a solid 10-15 years of my best experience to this company.” If you stay healthy and interested, you can work well past 65 so you have at least 15 strong years to contribute to growth.
Find out what you don’t know
Conduct informational interviews with people you know and people that they know so you can gain a better understanding of your target industry and how to compare and contrast what you’ve done with what you hope to be doing in the transition. This builds context and confidence in your future conversations and interviews. You’ll both feel and appear to others to be knowledgable and up to speed on the change you’re embarking on.
Demonstrate a willingness and comfort to try new things
Push through the unknown and be a self-starter. Tell stories that prove you can jump into a new situation, tread water and then start swimming. Changing industries means you’ll be ignorant more than you’re used to so acknowledge that to people so they can imagine you succeeding through the change.
Eli Howayeck (MBA, Kellogg School of Management), Founder and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts, is passionate about helping motivated people achieve their career, educational, or personal goals and helping businesses, large and small, overcome a variety of challenges facing their business.