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Are You Afraid of Changing Careers at 50?

Are You Afraid of Changing Careers at 50?In my most recent blog post, I talked about how changing careers at 40 can be an excellent decision. In this post, I'd like to go forward in time by a decade and talk about changing careers at 50. The difference between the two ages is only 10 years, but it can feel like much more. If you're at age 50 and you're unsatisfied in your career, you might feel resigned to simply gritting your teeth and filling out the rest of your working years until you can finally retire. If this sounds awful to you, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be this way. There are a number of challenges associated with changing careers at 50, but you can handle them with aplomb if you develop confidence in your abilities and you open your mind to some different possibilities.

The (Legal) Discrimination Game

One of the most common – and most insidious – challenges that 50-year-olds face when they decide to change careers is age discrimination. Obviously, age discrimination is not legal, but companies have found some sneaky ways to filter out older candidates within the confines of the law. Some of the most common forms of legal age discrimination are:

  • Computer algorithms that use resumé and application data to determine a candidate's age

    Removing dates and information regarding your education experience will no longer help you hide your age. Sophisticated computer programs can take your data and give employers a surprisingly accurate number.

  • Requiring special (often expensive) certifications

    Employers can make you enroll in unnecessary courses that, frankly, you could probably teach yourself. This is a very common way to remove older candidates from consideration. You've never needed such a certification in your career, and now it's being required at the worst possible time.

  • Taking a pass on those who have been unemployed for six months or more

    If the recession caused you to lose your job, and you're having trouble finding a replacement as a midlife professional, you only have a six month window in which to act. Otherwise, companies will look at you as unemployable.

There are many other ways for companies to determine your age and decide to seek younger candidates. This can be incredibly discouraging, but you can't really blame companies for acting this way. After all, younger candidates are less expensive and they have longer career “runways” ahead of them before retirement age approaches. That's why you need to start thinking differently about how you can contribute to the business world as a skilled professional.

Finding the Right Avenue for Your Talents and Skills

If you feel like you've been shut out of the business world through age discrimination or other means, you need to realize that your talents and skills are still in high demand; companies just aren't willing to pay for them on a committed, full-time basis. However, organizations are looking more and more at consultants to help them guide their companies and provide leadership at a fraction of the cost. This can work in your favor from a couple of different angles

  1. If you rebrand yourself as a consultant, you can extract yourself from the soul-crushing process of seeking a corporate job through traditional means.

  2. As a consultant, you can work for a number of different companies, giving yourself simultaneous variety and job security.

Think about it: companies still need your skills and abilities – they're just not willing to employ you in a full-time capacity. Why not turn the situation on its head and use it to your advantage? By consulting with several companies, you always have something to fall back on if one company decides to discontinue its relationship with you. Additionally, this new mindset and approach makes you so appealing to companies that they don't care how old you are. They aren't looking at you with a long-term lens – they just want you to come in and provide results.

Changing Careers at 50? Try Consulting

In the current economic and business landscape, those who are able to carve out niches for themselves are generating the greatest rewards. Changing careers at 50 may seem impossible, regardless of your motivations to do so. However, by thinking outside the box and leveraging your talents in a way that makes you attractive to the business world, you can take your career by the reigns once again. Becoming an independent consultant is perfect for the levels of experience and knowledge that you have attained, and it turns you into a commodity that will be demanded by businesses around the world.


Are you interested in changing careers at 50, but you aren't sure how to make the jump? Maybe consulting is right for you. Download the free Ex3 Matters consulting guides to learn more about what it takes to become an independent consultant, and visit ex3matters.com for more great information and advice on changing careers.