A Career Change at 50 Years Old?

We’ve all been there: struggling to get up in the morning to face another day at work. Usually we adjust our attitude, maybe learn a new people skill related to patience, and just get on with it.

Not Annie (not her real name—she’d rather be an anonymous inspirer). Annie had a successful career going in the IT world. However, she’d gradually grown to feel out of place, unfulfilled, and unhappy in the industry. So one day she just said goodbye. “I had no idea where this decision would lead, not even sure if it would lead away from technology. I simply knew I had to move on, and with excited trepidation, I ventured into the unknown.”

Sounds like the beginning to a great novel, right? But this was real life—a complete and irreconcilable left turn. And it worked out great. Here’s what Annie had going for her:

And that’s about it. She moved across the country, went back to school in an unrelated field, got a new job, and paid off her debts. Now she’s happier than ever before.

Perhaps it sounds crazy, so let’s let the experts weigh in. James Gonyea of Monster.com suggests that changing careers after 50 requires heavier planning. Here’s some of his advice:

The LDS Employment Services website offers even more tips.

It’s a good idea to know what you are interested in and what you do well. Finding a career counselor is great, but they cost money. The best self-assessment test is to ask your friends what they honestly think you are suited to. Your network is a good place to start asking questions, and taking time to think about all of it is great, but sometimes you just have to follow your heart the way Annie did. What she had, most importantly, was a support group of family and friends. She probably also said a lot of prayers.

In her book Rookie Smarts, Liz Wiseman delivers fresh insights for the over-50 crowd who may feel a bit unappreciated by the younger set who grew up on everything digital. But as it says on the cover of the book, “Learning beats knowing in the game of work.” Those who are willing to be lifelong learners will always find a place in the workforce—the key is to always be looking for new possibilities. And that may require you to look at the world as if you were a newcomer. “Newcomers, without the weight of knowledge, ritual, and rule to constrain their thinking, often ask questions that cut to the core of an issue” (Liz Wiseman, Rookie Smarts [2014], 53).

Unfortunately, as we get older, we get used to the way things are and stop trying to fix them. To stay relevant in your current job or to find a better fit, begin by looking at your world as if you had just begun your first job. What can be improved? Is there room for change? Who can you learn from?

It takes courage to make a major change, but you don’t have to do it alone. Annie had incredible determination, and she chose to begin her life anew—really new, as if the day she quit her IT position was the day she was born. Each one of us is capable of the same strength and determination. God has a path for each of us, a place for us to do our best work. He wants us to find it, and working our way toward that goal is where we develop those habits that keep us progressing: persistence, self-discipline, and humility. In essence, we are here to “become new creatures” (Mosiah 27:26). Maybe, just maybe, a change later in life is the best thing for us.