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5 fears you have as an older career changer (and how to combat them)

By Alison Rodericks

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia is undergoing extensive demographic change and, as a consequence, the size and age composition of the labour force is changing. Almost a quarter of Australians aged 45 and above are expecting to continue to work past 70 years old. 

Let’s set the scene: You’re in your late 40s (or even in your 50s) – and you dread having to go to work every day. Your job doesn’t excite or challenge you. You want to do something different and have your heart set on a new pathway. A career change is daunting at any age, but more so when you’re middle aged. 

The truth is, we shouldn’t let age get in the way. 

Here’s how you can forge ahead without these common fears getting in the way.

5 fears you have as an older career changer

  1. I'm too old.
  2. I will need to take a pay cut.
  3. I'm not too sure what to choose.
  4. I can't do this alone.
  5. What if I make the wrong choice?

1. I’m too old.

If you’re nudging 50 and want to change careers, the first fear is often your advanced age. You might ask
yourself, ‘Who will want to hire someone of my vintage?’ You may have to compete with younger workers for entry-level jobs and face an age bias on the job. This ageism is, in fact, discrimination and must be reported. 

Remember, with age comes experience. You have gained valuable knowledge and skills being in the workforce for so long. Rather than your age being a deterrent, let it be a positive. Team up with a younger workmate and help each other out. They need your experience, and you need their expertise. It’s a win-win situation for both generations. 

2. I will need to take a pay cut.

money vs doing what you love concept

When you’ve achieved a certain level in your career, a career change will affect your finances, especially if you’re trying to enter a new field. You might have to start at the bottom and take a pay cut. You need to be financially realistic about this career switch, especially if you have a mortgage or support a family. It pays to plan ahead. 

Figure out your financial safety net to see if you can afford to be unemployed, or be on a lower wage and for how long. Set a time limit for your new venture to click so that you’re not in debt. You can also start your new career as a side hustle so that you still have a source of income. Remember, it’s not just about the money – job satisfaction is something that money can’t buy. 

3. I’m not sure what to choose.

You’ve made a list of probable new careers, but you’re riddled with self-doubt. Be realistic about your skills and get to know yourself. You can do a self-assessment of your skills and also seek the help of a career coach to give you unbiased advice. Pay attention to your transferable skills so that you don’t have to spend years studying and training for your new career. 

Do your research and look up your employment prospects. There’s no point trying to enter a field in which there are no jobs. Evaluate this data to help you pick the most suitable occupation from your list of possibilities. Don’t forget to have the right attitude! 

4. I can’t do this alone.

diverse colleagues smiling holding speech bubbles

You’re not alone if you have a support network. Make sure you discuss your career plans with your partner and family. You all need to be on the same page, knowing how this career move might affect your finances, your hours of work/study, your time spent with them, your contribution to the household. 

You should also network with friends, colleagues, relatives and acquaintances you've made over the years for career guidance and job opportunities. Use tools like LinkedIn and networking events to meet people in your new chosen field. Very often, it’s who you know; not what you know that gets you your career break.  

5. What if I make a wrong choice?

It’s natural to worry if you’ve made the right decision to change careers – it’s a leap of faith into the great unknown. You need to do your research to ensure your new path is the right match for your skills and your personality. Choosing the wrong career can be stressful – but if you don’t make that leap, you will never know. 

If it is very obvious that you made the wrong decision to switch jobs, your best bet is to rectify this as soon as possible. However, remember that you need to give your new career time – don’t expect for things to run smoothly from the get go. 

You might feel out of your depth when you first make the switch, so give it time to figure out the technology, the processes and even the jargon. Once you get into the swing of things, the job satisfaction your new career brings will have a positive snowball effect on your health, your relationships and your wellbeing.

Work towards a qualification with Upskilled

If you’re thinking of changing careers and you’re mature aged, there has never been a better time to do so. With incentives for businesses to hire older workers, training and short courses available and an increasing recognition of the skills that older workers bring to the workforce, you can make the switch. 

Speak to an Upskilled education consultant on doing a course and learn how you can work towards a nationally-recognised qualification in a range of fields from business, community services or information technology.
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