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Changing your career in your 30s, 40s and 50s

By Fi Darby | 23 April 2019


Whether it is through choice or brought on by outside influences, changing career at any time of life can be a daunting prospect. As you get older, your desires, concerns and abilities adjust and it can sometimes be tricky to work out exactly what you might want a career change to look like. Another, sometimes confusing, influence can be the pace of change in the job market. 

Recent declines in Australian industries include manufacturing and real estate but the pace of change is fast. On the plus side, full-time employment in Australia in 2018 increased by 3.3%, which represents more than 403,000 additional jobs. 

The median age of working Australians in 2018 varied slightly from state-to-state with New South Wales showing a steady 40 years, Tasmania demonstrating a rise to 43 years and ACT holding steady at 38 years but all states indicating the importance of the older workforce to the labour market. 

As we age, the benefits of changing careers become more pronounced, and previous experience, untapped passions and the opportunity to gain new skills all play their part in our decision-making. 

At each life-stage, our desires, abilities and responsibilities vary, as do our opportunities. If you’re feeling the urge to look at new career possibilities, we have some top tips for changing your career in your 30s, 40s and 50s.

Changing career in your 30s

  1. Opportunities.
  2. Threats.
  3. Interesting facts.
  4. Job searching.
  5. Upskilling.

blonde woman checking phone and having coffee

1. Opportunities.

Many employers really value employees in their 30s because they are old enough to show some maturity and experience but still young and pliable enough to quickly grasp new skills and suggest creative and exciting solutions.

2. Threats.

We tend to feel attached to our initial careers so, if this is your first job change, you might find it difficult to make a move towards a new career. Your choice of career might fluctuate as you establish your personal situation and sort out relationships, friendship groups, housing and the possibility of starting a family of your own.

3. Interesting facts.

In 2016 the largest Australian age group by population was those aged 30 to 34 years old. In the same year, the median age for women in Australia to have their first baby was 29.

4. Job searching.

As you reach the age when opportunities such as travel or starting a family become more of a reality, you may want to choose a job role that offers a high level of flexible learning. Before you start your hunt, take time to understand the various different types of flexible working arrangements and how they might suit you.

5. Upskilling.

In your 30s, the world really is your oyster when it comes to re-training. You are at your innovative best so think outside the box and consider gaining relevant qualifications in creative fields such as,

Information technology – e.g. games designer
Hospitality – e.g. events manager
Marketing – e.g. social media marketer

Changing career in your 40s

  1. Opportunities.
  2. Threats.
  3. Interesting facts.
  4. Job searching.
  5. Upskilling.

middle-aged man with glasses

1. Opportunities.

If you have taken a career break to raise a family, you may now be thinking about a new career or topping up your skills to return to your old one. The good news is that, whether you worked through or not, raising a family will have given you a whole range of new personal skills that can be transferred to your job. Many people in their 40s also find that activities they have become involved with because of their families spark an interest in a new career.

2. Threats.

If you have stayed in your original career since your 20s, you might be considering a career move for the wrong reasons, such as boredom or colleague clashes. With older children and a mortgage as well as rising lifestyle expectations, there is a risk you’ll feel trapped in your existing job by financial requirements.

3. Interesting facts.

In May 2018, the average weekly earnings of an employee aged 45 to 54 years was $1,544.20, this was the highest earning age bracket in Australia.

4. Job searching.

One of the big advantages of having been in employment for a longer time is that you will have built up a list of contacts to help you with job advice and networking opportunities. You should be prepared to learn new skills but also to think creatively about where your existing skillset might fit in. If you can demonstrate an ongoing commitment to lifelong learning on your resume, this will stand you in good stead.

5. Upskilling.

By the time you reach your 40s, you will have gained considerable experience in a range of fields and may well have a few business ideas of your own. If you think entrepreneurship might be for you, then consider gaining some key business qualifications including, 

Networking skills
Marketing skills
Leadership and management skills

Changing career in your 50s

  1. Opportunities.
  2. Threats.
  3. Interesting facts.
  4. Job searching.
  5. Upskilling.

woman in her 50s working at cafe

1. Opportunities.

Once you reach your 50s, you will have years of on-the-job experience and that can be a big advantage, particularly in job roles that include supervision or advisory aspects. You may be experiencing more financial freedom than you were in your 30s and 40s and you may also find that your time is more your own as your children become settled in their own homes.

2. Threats.

You may feel that it’s too late to commit to a long program of study in order to prepare yourself for your chosen new career. You may also be worried about a perceived age bias against an older workforce.

3. Interesting facts.

The 2018 Labour Force reports show that Australians who are aged over 55 represent over a quarter of the workforce in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing and the Transport Postal and Warehousing industries. Other industries with higher proportions of mature workers include Education and Training and Health Care and Social Assistance.

4. Job searching.

The labour market may have changed considerably since you last looked for a job so take some time to read through job adverts and get a feel for the diversity of roles available. Keep an open mind as to exact roles, and focus instead on jobs that would give you the opportunity to make the most of your many transferable skills. If you feel your resume is letting you down, ask for professional help and consider removing key age indicators such as graduation and employment dates.

5. Upskilling.

To counteract any possible age bias, consider re-training for roles in industries that are expected to grow in 2019. These include,

Construction roles – e.g. project manager
Education roles – e.g. early childhood educator
Professional roles – e.g. bookkeepers

Think age is just a number and ready to upskill?

There are so many exciting job roles out there that, whatever your age, that you really shouldn’t limit yourself to the predictable or expected when you start your search for your new career. So, why not start thinking about what you want out of a career by checking out some of Upskilled's online courses and see what job opportunities they can open up for you. 
 
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