Career change calling

Changing career at an older age - advice for you

Sarah Blinco faces up to five big fears we may have as an older career changer, and finds out how to overcome them

Did you come into the New Year ready for a change but have been stopped in your tracks? Maybe you’re bored at work, or feel called to do something totally different, but you’ve spent the best part of your 20s, 30s, 40s or more in a certain role. A career change might feel impossible – but nothing is impossible, especially today. If any of these fears resonate, we’ve got advice on how to conquer:


The fear: letting go of all the work you’ve done so far

The idea of leaving something behind that’s familiar, safe and reliable – something you’ve spent years building – is terrifying.

Donna Cameron works in fashion but made her big career leap after 40.

“I was an HR project manager and now I am a personal style specialist. I added an extra role, that of ethical fashion tour guide to my portfolio in my 50s. Something that helped with the transition was continuing to consult on presentation for employment… Some skills like self-promotion took longer to master in my new role, because it was unfamiliar to me. When I had made the commitment to change career, I was equal parts excited and terrified, so I told as many people as I could of my intention. That way I figured I’d feel really silly if I backed out!”


The fear: beginning again

Switching direction can involve a steep learning curve, but a change in perspective will help you.

Belle Lockerby explains: “I’ve made career jumps a few times – from retail buying to working with the Department of Defence to sales and marketing. The older I got, the more fear kicked in – until I decided to face it and embrace the jump. With 40 on the horizon, I shifted into Change Management, studying and working full time with two small kids, and then set up to work for myself. I stayed focused and became Australia’s first certified Gallup StrengthsFinder Coach, and have written a best-selling book! I know that your soft and technical skills can help you transition from one career to another. Everything we learn can be used; take time to reflect on past achievements because this is an important part of the transformation process.”

Don’t forget your personal network either. Think about who you can reach out to for advice or mentoring.

Career change calling


The fear: ‘No one will hire me at my age’

Despite being illegal, age discrimination does exist in the workplace and within the hiring process. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to combat it on your own, but you can be strategic about how you sell yourself.

Career consultant Simon Bennet from Glide Outplacement says: “Leave out direct references to your age on your resume and LinkedIn profile. Be prepared for negative feedback about your ability to change career and have a response ready for recruiters and employers who comment on your age being a drawback. Highlight your wealth of expertise and show how you have the transferable skills and maturity to make a successful change.”


The fear: a career change is unaffordable

Good salaries and super packages might be hard to give up, especially if you’ve got mouths to feed and bills to pay. Life’s short though, and if you’re called towards change but worried about running dry financially, get a plan together. Consider how long you can afford to not work while you’re trying something new, and how you’ll measure success.

“I was 42 when I made the switch,” says Sarah Parker. “My corporate job served a purpose, but I was tired and burnt out. I felt called to set up my own business, but worried about how we would survive financially. I applied for 6 months career break from work to test the waters. The leave was granted because my employer saw that if I returned, I’d have refreshed skills to apply to my job. Personally, I knew that if it didn’t work out for me working for myself, I had my job to go back to if I needed or wanted to at the end of the time away.”

Flexible working arrangements are commonly available now and create room for you to develop other interests. Annie Nash, 48, worked in marketing and says: “I have always been interested in nursing but to move into that field I needed training. I talked to my employer about changing my hours and negotiated a flexible working pattern which I later reduced to part time. I used the time to study and now I work in healthcare full time. I needed a change and am pleased I made it happen, even though it meant learning new skills and studying again – it’s been worth it!”


The fear: regret or failure

Truth is, you’re going to feel out of your depth when you first make any big change. Face that fear head on.

Career coach Simon adds the following advice for anyone considering a new path. “Decide what steps you need to take to achieve your career change and include them in a plan. Detail the specific activities involved, the tools or resources you will need and the date you would like to reach each one. Targets help us to stay motivated and enable you to track progress and achievements.”

“Making this shift happen has given me a sense that I can now do anything,” Sarah shares. “I tested myself, I took a leap of faith, and it worked. Now there’s nothing stopping me from trying again in the future if I spot a new opportunity I want to grow into.”


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