Thriving Over 50: Eight Ideas for Achieving Career Satisfaction
By Sandra Atlas-Gordon
Feeling daunted about finding career footing when you’re over 50? Take heart. Getting a job in your 50s and 60s isn’t easy. But with a tight labor market, more companies are hiring older workers.
To help you find your next job, or hold on to the one you have, I asked four seasoned professionals for their perspectives on career success for workers over age 50. Their condensed comments appear below.
Jane Finkle is a career consultant and writer who, after reaching age 60, just released her book, “The Introvert’s Complete Career Guide: From Landing a Job, to Surviving, Thriving and Moving on Up.” Since 2002, Jane has been helping individuals with career assessment and planning.
Assess your values and explore
JF: Assess what your career values are at this stage. Think about what sparks your curiosity, or the career fantasies you had growing up. For example, if you always dreamed of being an actress you might consider work that involves public speaking or training. Research findings suggest childhood fantasies have an impact on career development.
It’s important to explore all your options. A big part of the process is learning and reading as much as possible. Talk to people. They are the fuel that powers your exploration and can lead to opportunity and/or additional ideas.
JF: Once you know what you want to do, write out an action plan. Take baby steps. Keep in mind that the career exploration process unfolds in unpredictable ways.
Be open to moving beyond your comfort zone and be willing to take calculated risks. Be realistic, optimistic, persistent, and resilient. It takes time to make a change.
Andy Paul, who started out in journalism, is a freelance copywriter and digital content expert for agencies and corporations.
Be attuned to employer needs
AP: I think the most important success factor is just focusing on consistently creating value for your clients or your employer. Do whatever you can to be the “indispensable” partner or employee. Always be attuned to their needs and find ways to deliver on them, even before you are asked. The goal is to make sure others focus on your value, not your age.
Stay abreast of industry changes
AP: Many industries are changing in fundamental ways, quickly. Keeping up to speed on new technologies and techniques that impact your business (or your clients’ businesses) is crucial. I spend time outside work hours keeping tabs on what’s new and what’s coming down the pike.
Don’t be guilty of “reverse age-ism”
AP: Increasingly, workers over 50 find themselves working with – or for – colleagues, managers, or clients half their age. Treating them just as you would any “seasoned” peer is not only smart workplace politics, it’s the right way to treat other people. They don’t have your decades of experience, but younger people often bring a new perspective or new skills that can expand your own thinking.
Debra Mascott is a Digital Multimedia Online Learning Designer at Bentley University. To prepare for this career, Debra earned a Masters of Education in Instructional Design when she was over 50.
Invest in your education
DM: After a long career in employee training, I decided to make a fresh start in the related and growing field of eLearning Design.
To make the transition, I got a master’s in instructional design and took on consulting work to gain relevant experience. Also, joining professional groups, teaching at a senior center, and volunteering helped me to demonstrate skills and build my credentials.
I like to use the analogy, “heels to flats,” as a way to describe my evolving from one career to another. As a trainer, I wore heels. Now, I’m an instructional designer, behind the computer, wearing flats. In order to make a successful transition, in addition to investing in your education, you may need to be flexible and adapt to a new way of working.
Wendy Gelberg is a career coach and resume writer with a special interest in the job-search process and the challenges of people who are uncomfortable promoting themselves. Wendy authored, “The Successful Introvert, How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career.”
Engage in ongoing professional development
WG: There are always new skills you can learn to improve your job performance. Plus, actively pursuing new skills/learning new things can help to offset some of the negative stereotypes about older people (“set in their ways” or “can’t teach an old dog new tricks”).
Check out certifications in your field or courses offered by one of the many online education sites. Attend professional conferences or webinars. Add these to your LinkedIn profile and your resume.
Become known as an expert in your field
WG: Investigate new practices, new technology, new regulations, new trends/trendsetters, pretty much anything. This research can be helpful to you because others sometimes make assumptions that your skills or knowledge are outdated just by virtue of your age.
Moreover, not only is it important to know what’s new, it’s also important to communicate that you’ve got current knowledge. Posting on LinkedIn is a great way to do that. Embrace the new and become an expert and a resource for others.