Surviving Career Change After 50
I’m going to tackle a different type of topic than I usually do in today’s post and that is: dealing with career change after 50. 2020 has certainly been a year of extraordinary change and challenge for all of us, but if you’re over 50 and have been laid off or were downsized due to COVID-19, you are probably in shock right now.
Not just from unexpectedly being laid off, but from how different the process is now to getting re-hired than the last time you were searching the job market. There's no doubt about the fact that older workers are finding it far more challenging in today’s marketplace to compete with younger workers.
A recent AARP report supported this, stating “older workers were 17 percent more likely to become unemployed than younger peers”. In addition, the report states older workers also tend to be unemployed for much longer periods of time between jobs than their younger contemporaries.
Ageism has always been an unfortunate reality in this country, but, it’s made even worse now because of the rapid changes in both the way business is conducted and hiring practices.
What’s driving these changes? There are many factors, but in my opinion, the biggest is the explosive growth of the Internet, along with constantly expanding social media platforms and technological advancements that have developed since the mid-2000’s. Each have had their own profound impact in the way businesses recruit, communicate with and train their employees.
Few would argue that these advancements have also played a pivotal, and far reaching role, in changing our overall culture and the way we view and interact with the world, including social roles.
Baby Boomers have both suffered and profited from these cultural changes, but in order to navigate through an ever-changing hiring landscape they're going to need to develop a different mindset AND skillset to move their career’s forward.
When I was laid off from my former career during the 2008 Recession at the age of 50, I made the critical mistake of falling back on the traditional methods of a job search and wasted a lot of time and energy in the process.
After a few months of wasted time and effort, I finally had to realize I had to shift my focus, be open to new opportunities and get out of my comfort zone for a walk on the wild side! Well, here we are again, that wild side is calling…this time it might be calling for you or someone you know! I know there are plenty of people out there right now that are wondering where the heck they go from here.
So, what do you do if you are in your 40’s, 50’s or beyond and find yourself in a similar situation of “Career Reinvention”? Being proactive is, of course, key. But, first, right out of the starting gate, I suggest you begin by considering the following:
1) Make a fresh assessment of present and future priorities, not just your skills.
When a person is faced with an involuntary job change, the first step they usually take is to brush off their job history and skill set list, update their resume and try to find a job similar to what they just left behind.
But, in reality, isn’t that essentially like saying you expect your future to look just like your past?
If this year has taught us anything, it’s certainly taught us to expect the unexpected. Maybe it’s time to explore your New Normal?
So, instead, why not take some time and do a deep and honest dive into re-evaluating what you really want in life right now and into the future. What if this job change is your key to a new opportunity you didn’t even know existed? Maybe what’s important to you now is completely different than where you were at before in personal growth, interests and skillsets when you started the last job? Were you even happy in that career?
2) Throw out everything you’ve experienced or been told in the past about how to get a job.
Newsflash! If it’s been a long time since you’ve been out looking in the job market, you’re going to notice some big changes.
The fact is that companies now use automated online job posting sites, their internal company job board and/or their social media sites to post new job openings. This typically results in hundreds, often thousands of applications being received for one position.
To make matters worse, many HR departments are using software to identify, and purge applications, based on a set of key words and qualification criteria before a human even sets eyes on it.
Statistics have also shown an increasing rate of jobs are being filled strictly through referrals by existing staff. Turns out a person has a 40% higher rate of being hired if they are referred by someone known to the hiring team.
This is where social media networking on sites like Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram are the newest essential to career development. So, once you’ve determined what Plan B is, start reaching out to sources and groups on those sites where you can find likeminded professionals to connect to.
3. Consider starting your own business or consulting service.
One of the biggest shifts in the way businesses hire is to outsource work to independent contractors. If you’ve got significant expertise in an area of service and open to owning your own business, companies are hiring more and more of this type of worker to reduce business costs.
Owning your own business has its positives and negatives. It can certainly offer you more freedom and flexibility in schedule than a traditional job. But, it can also enable you to work with multiple clients to create greater growth opportunities and income potential too.
Truth is, the odds of finding a business that can be a good fit for your expertise, as well as be one that you truly love, are actually higher in your favor now than ever before, even in pandemic conditions.
So, what does all this essentially come down to if you are a person experiencing a mid-life career change? The good news is that you have more options now than were available just two decades ago. But, it might mean you’re going to need to get a out of your comfort zone, learn some new skills and welcome some new paradigms.
But, is that a bad thing? Having personally gone through the “Baby Boomer Re-Invention” Phase twice in the last 12 years, I can tell you it’s a positive experience and worth every single moment of self-discovery.
All that’s asked of you is to stay open in mind and heart and keep moving toward your goals one step, and one day, at a time.
So, my friend, as I always say….stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong!
Life Transitions Coach