Working Transitions

Second Time Around - Exploring new career paths after 50

Despite an extension to his contract that would see him remain in role until September 2017, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has announced his intention to retire from the Metropolitan police force. 

Many speculate that this announcement comes as a result of ongoing tensions between Sir Bernard and the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan. However, Sir Bernard denies this and insists that his decision to leave is borne of his desire to pursue other interests and opportunities.

Sir Bernard is 58 with 36 years of experience within the police force. Along with Teresa May, starting her stint as prime minister at 59 and Hilary Clinton seeking a new challenge at 68, many baby boomers have vast experience and a raft of transferrable skills which make them attractive to a wide range of employers – both public and private sector.

This desire to explore alternative career paths is not unique – it is surprisingly common for people in their 50’s to decide that they need a change in their lives, and often this period of ‘later life’ is a time of reflection around career ambitions that have not been realised. Many go no further than regretting their unfulfilled ambitions and accepting their ‘lot’, however, a few decide that it’s the right time to make a change. Opportunities and avenues that may not have been open before – perhaps due to financial commitments or family ties – may now be a real possibility.

With people living longer, more active lives and with the advent of pension changes, many people will need to work until well into their late 60’s. There is usually at least 15 years of working life left once we hit 50, if not even longer, so if you crave change it isn’t too late.

As long as you think it through and plan it well, a career change can be energising and invigorating for a 50-something. These tips will ensure that you handle yours in the best way possible for you.

Don’t rush into it!

No matter what you’re hoping to do, whether you want a new job, a change of scene, or you want to completely retrain for a new career, you should make sure that you have thought your options through properly. It can be easy to make the wrong decision if you do it on the spur of the moment, so careful thought is essential. Take the time to consider your career path so far, your transferable skills, who in your network might be able to help you, options for different work patterns, routes to a new career – you don’t have to stop doing one thing and start immediately on another you can often start something in your own time to test the water, or explore alternative ways of working one day per week by going part time. It’s amazing how many ways there are to make a change when you really start to explore the options, so take your time.

Understand what you’re searching for

At different times in our lives we need different things, and your needs at 50 will probably be very different to your needs when you were at the beginning of your career. Think about what you need in order for you to be happy right now and where you are in your life at the moment. Be aware that it isn’t about how much money you might be earning (though obviously you need to make sure that it’ll pay the bills) but rather about the life experience that you have already and what you will gain from your job change. It always important to be able to further develop the skills that you already have, in addition to developing new ones, and a career change could help with both personal and professional skills. There are many free on line tests that can help you explore career preferences so get googling.

Ask for expert help

Although you may think that you know what you want to do in your life, it can help to hear the opinions of someone detached from the situation, such as a career coach or a trusted mentor. They will help you to compare your options and can help to open your mind to things that you might not even have considered before now. The insights offered by other people can be incredibly valuable, and this means that by talking to a professional you may be able to structure your thinking into a practical set of actions that move you towards you goal.

Take courage

It may seem like a big step to change your career when you reach the age of 50, but rather than feeling daunted, focus on the reasons that you’re making the move and all of the positive factors associated with it. It can help to talk to your friends and family about what you’re doing, as people who aren’t quite as emotionally involved will be better able to work out whether your fears are realistic or whether you’re simply overthinking the situation. Mind-set shift is the key to behaviour change so start researching and talking to others who have made this change as this will help you to think positively and bring about a better outcome overall.

Be realistic and try to be flexible

Although there are many options open to you – even if you want to completely retrain into another profession, you always need to ensure that you are being realistic about your situation. For example, you may be able to attend a postgraduate degree course to learn a completely new subject which would take perhaps two years to study before entering into a new place of work – however it could be unrealistic to expect to take a path that would require you to begin right from GCSE level onwards if you don’t hold the correct early qualifications. That’s not to say that going so far back is never possible – but it is vital to understand the timeline that your career change would take, so that you can plan your journey.

By taking control of your own destiny, you really can turn your 50s and beyond into the most successful and rewarding time of your life – remember success is a journey, not a destination. After 50 the road can be filled with many interesting and exciting new vistas – as long as you carefully plan your route.


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Working Transitions
10 October 2016
Supporting effective and successful organisational change


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