3 Steps for Planning Your Career After Age 50
3 Steps for Planning Your Career After Age 50

As a career coach for more than 20 years, my clients over age 50 often ask me how to keep their careers satisfying as they age. I encourage them to take an intermission to reimagine their next career move. Planning your next steps could mean the difference between gritting your teeth every day at a job you don’t enjoy and a fulfilling final career. Rewriting the scenes could even mean gaining new expertise, perhaps as a part-time consultant, teacher or mentor. Here is how one client made a mid-life move and the three steps he used to enjoy a career plot twist.

Accountant to Horse Rancher

In middle age, Tony lost his job as a tax accountant. He was tired of accounting but didn’t feel he had the skills to pivot to another field. When asked to dream big, Tony realized he had always envisioned running a horse ranch but had passed it off as an unattainable childhood fantasy.

He and his wife, a teacher, wanted to board and ride horses and offer lessons, including therapeutic riding, especially for kids. They wanted to make an impact by contributing to the community. They were excited to learn something new yet didn’t know how to start the process. Here’s what they did.

They looked for jobs in their respective fields in rural areas and found them in Cle Elum. Over the next couple of years, Tony worked as an accountant, preparing taxes for many clients, including horse ranchers. He also completed coursework in running a small business. His wife taught at the local elementary school.

Then he learned one rancher was planning on retiring. Since Tony knew the business from inside out, he began actively negotiating to buy the ranch. Accounting to ranching? Tony was ready.

He made one of the most challenging career moves: going to a different job in a different industry. Although he had to continue working in accounting for a few years, he put himself in a position to fulfill his dream when the opportunity arose. It would have been riskier if he’d tried to buy a ranch without knowing the ropes.

Tony took the following steps to make a happier ending to his career story. You can employ these plot devices also.

1. Write a Synopsis of Your Next Act

Many people continue to work in fields based on the college major they chose when they were 18-21 years old. Or they stay for decades in the field they fell into when landing their first job. To uncover hidden passions and dreams, spend time answering that age-old question: “If money were no object, what would you do for work?” Think about what you love to do, paid or unpaid, simply because it brings you joy.

As we age, we often stuff those dreams so far down in our consciousness that we forget they existed. Is there something new you want to learn? Maybe there’s an unused skill you want to tap. Or there’s a career path that’s more appropriate for your life situation, family or location. Perhaps you want to change pay level, job satisfaction or contribute more to the community. Regardless of money or current qualifications, look at your “why” when it comes to your work and career.

2. Study Your Part

Perhaps there is a course or a certification program you can enroll in while you’re still in your current position that would give you a taste of your new direction. Nonprofits are always looking for volunteers - perhaps you can give back to the community while confirming whether the direction is right for you and gain valuable experience in your new field. Be sure to talk to people in the job you’re considering, spread the word about your new plans and update any new skills on LinkedIn and all social media platforms.   

3. Raise the Curtain

With your new knowledge, experience and new contacts, you can better make a case to move into a new role.

Regardless of your goals, learning and growing are always optimal for positive aging. Consider taking courses or teaching them. There are many options for both: the UW Professional & Continuing Education programs, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the UW, community centers, YMCAs, senior centers, retirement communities or arts centers.

For a smooth transition and to avoid being a victim of ageism, pre-plan your job changes early enough. At age 50 or older, it’s tougher to switch to a new career path than if you start that process at age 40 or 45. Reimagine your next act now. Consider an alternative ending. Take the curtain calls!

For more career tips and industry trends, visit the News & Features section of our website, and subscribe to our email list. To learn more about UW Professional & Continuing Education certificates, specializations, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.

Author Dori Gillam

Dori Gillam

Guest writer Dori Gillam has been a career coach for over twenty years. As a writer and speaker, she focuses on ageism, creative aging, resilience and finding soul-filling work. She has worked for Right Management and her clients have included Nike, Chase Bank and Weyerhaeuser. She is a frequent contributor to 3rd Act Magazine. 

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