How to Change Careers at 50: Top Tips

There's no time like the present. Follow these steps to change careers at 50!

Reviewed by Hayley Ramsey

Man wondering how to change career at 50

A career change is always heavy to consider, but a career change at 50 can feel downright overwhelming.

You can think of a million reasons not to change careers at this age, plus you've already spent a good amount of your working years earning your tenure and moving up the ladder in your career, so why start over? But, at the end of the day, there's still something in you that knows it's time to change careers.

Where do you even begin?

The following guide is here to help you as we walk you through how to successfully change careers and the career planning that this move entails. Like anything in life, changing careers has some potential risks, but we are here to help you.

Let’s see why it could make sense to change careers at 50 and how to do it confidently!

Why change careers at 50

If you’re here reading this, you must have given this some level of thought but might not be able to justify in your mind why changing careers makes sense right now.

Let’s look at how it does make sense by evaluating some common reasons why changing careers might be the best thing for you:

  • Reducing stress. Removing yourself from that role that adds so much stress to your life — how freeing! The potential to have an enjoyable career without the stress at work is enough to consider switching careers.
  • Following your passion. While your job may financially provide and give you security, if it’s not what you’re passionate about, it's time to pursue that passion.
  • Establishing work-life balance. After years of working yourself to the bone, even if you enjoy what you do, it's time to find that ultimate work-life balance.
  • Sharing your experience. You've worked hard and have years of experience to show for it, but maybe you’re feeling drawn to share that experience on a different level than in your current role.
  • Learning something new. At the end of the day, you can feel it — you're ready to overcome the burnout. It’s time for a change. You’re fired up to learn something new and want to get started.

Tips for changing careers at 50

1. Don’t delay

Take the doubts, fears and anxiety and put them away in a little box while you begin the process of moving forward in changing jobs. The labor force is estimated to grow by about 164 million people by 2024, including roughly 41 million people in the older demographic — that’s plenty of new working opportunities just waiting for you!

The time you spend dragging your feet is better spent being pro-active and thinking of the positives to changing your career path. For instance, what’s the point of wasting five more years (being miserable) in a job, when you could be positive and take the steps now?

Nicole Winer, a business coach and mentor who works with clients to help start and scale businesses says, “Never tell yourself it's too late. Some of the most successful businesses were started by people in their 50s+. The KFC restaurant chain was founded by Harland Sanders at 62 and Arianna Huffington founded The Huffington Post when she was 55. So stop using age as an excuse and start taking action.”

These individuals were probably feeling all the same fears and anxieties as you, causing them to delay moving forward, but if they can achieve their dreams, so can you — by starting now!

2. Set powerful goals

Now that you're taking yourself off the list of the most famous procrastinators in the world and taking control of this career change, it's time to set your goals.

Natalie Trice, an ICF accredited coach, says, “Dream big and admit to yourself what you really want to do. Maybe being a yoga teacher has been on your bucket list for decades, but you haven’t dared give up the day job or you might want to start your own cookery school and teach others to bake the cakes your family love so much. Write down these ideas and just sit with the idea of ‘maybe’.”

Don’t sell yourself short when you’re developing a personalized career plan. Now is the time to reach for the stars and go after what you’ve always wanted. Setting goals that are in line with your passion is exactly why you’re changing careers at 50, so focus on setting powerful goals — goals that will help you stay driven and focused daily.

If you're still struggling to find an ideal career, try our CareerHunter test and take the guesswork out of it! CareerHunter analyzes and identifies your career interests, skillset and personality to provide you with job suggestions that perfectly suit you. Our test matches you with careers that you’ll love, and likely succeed in. 

3. Reach out to your support team

Do not go it alone. Now is not the time to shut everyone out and try to muddle through this on your own. Reach out for advice, share your goals with your support team and let them offer insight and take what they say to heart. Remember, you’re surrounding yourself with the people that you have trusted to walk with you for some of the previous 50 years of your work life, so why not let them help you navigate the next 50?

A support network doesn’t need to be close friends and family (although they’re fabulous). You can always look into hiring a business coach or reaching out to others who have gone through something similar.

Winer says, “Invest in a mentor, work with a coach, read and surround yourself with the business owners you aspire to be like. Learn as much as you can from people that have walked in your shoes.”

Lean on people during this step and allow their personal experience with you as an individual and their own professional experience to benefit your career change decision.

4. Select your new direction and rebrand yourself

If you've done the previous steps, you're ready to move forward to choosing a career! You want to give yourself as much time to make an impact as possible, so it’s time to move forward with your dream and make it a reality.

Depending on your previous career of choice, some rebranding might be in order. Your original focus has changed, and you need to reflect this in your online profiles. Recruiters will check your professional profiles, such as LinkedIn, so make sure to update these with your relevant transferable skills and personal information.

You need to create a strategy that works for you. Copying another person’s job search strategy isn’t going to necessarily work for you, so find someone who can help you with a personal strategy that fits your career and job search goals.

5. Pursue certifications or further education

During your time of rebranding and new job selection excitement, be sure to make yourself more marketable in your new role by furthering your education or acquiring certifications that are applicable to your new career.

By doing this, you're showing your next employer that you’re interested in learning new things and have the motivation and drive to pursue it on your own. Or, if you’re starting your own successful business for the first time, it can’t hurt to expand your knowledge to help you do so.

Vivienne Neale, lecturer, author and business coach, advises, “Say yes to every new influence. We truly make our own luck, and being aware, reading, researching, networking, doing courses, and experiencing things you don’t normally do all feed in valuable data to help us change careers and create the future we really want.”

As they saying goes, we learn something new every day, and this will only benefit you when the time comes to take the step toward changing careers.

6. Polish up your résumé

You’re going to need a job-winning résumé to catch the attention of recruiters. Take the time to capitalize on the professional skills you’ve learned throughout the years that will be helpful in your new role.

Elise Christian, head of lifestyle content at Rest Less, says, “Make sure you write a concise personal summary at the beginning to highlight your strengths from the outset.” It’s bigger than just listing your experience on the résumé here. You want to write an eye-catching career objective that will show recruiters that you’re confident in your career change, you trust that you have the skills and experience to do this new job, and if they hire you, they will see why.

Elise also states to never forget the cover letter! “Far too many people don’t write one, but it’s an opportunity to write your very own advert about yourself!” Use your cover letter to show how your knowledge and skills make you the ideal candidate, regardless of your age.

7. Utilize connections

While a career change will mean making different connections pertinent to your new career, don't shy away from utilizing previous connections to get you where you want to be. Don't doubt your list of genuine connections — it’s probably larger than you think. Reach out, let them know about your career change, and allow them to put their feelers out there for you. Nowadays, you can network online, so there is no excuse not to utilize these connections.

If you don't have the connections you feel will drive you forward in this step, then it's time for you to put in the work and establish those connections in your new career field. While it may seem like a lot of legwork, using networking to find a job is extremely beneficial over time — trust us!

8. Be flexible

You’ve selected the career path, pursued additional education, established or reached out to connections, so you're well on your way! It's important to be flexible at this stage. While this career change may be exactly what you needed, there may be things about it that aren’t exactly as you wanted them to be.

Your new career of choice may end up being an entry-level position, which means you’ll need to work your way up the ladder toward your ultimate goal. But, if the career is something you’re interested in and passionate about, then you’re bound to be happier at work and that’s all that matters in the long run. Being flexible doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your dream and your new path, it means you’re going to concede a little along the way to achieve that dream.

9. Keep retirement in mind

It’s important to be smart financially during any career change and changing careers at 50 is no exception — it just adds a bit more focus on the retirement aspect. Don't give up on your dream of retiring early just because you switched careers, continue saving for retirement and keep your financial goals and desires from changing too much as you switch careers.

For this step, it might be beneficial to meet with a financial advisor and enlist their tips to help you save (and make) money as you continue to pursue your passion in the form of a new career.

10. Be confident

Making the change may not be easy in some cases, but stay confident in your decision to not settle on a career that doesn’t make you happy, that causes you unnecessary stress, or takes away your ability to have a life outside of work.

Show confidence in the skills you're transferring over from your previous career and confidence in the new skills you're learning along the way. Trust that you have followed the steps to effectively change careers at 50 and continue walking forward in your new dream career.

Key takeaways

While we can’t take away the challenges you’ll face changing careers at 50, we hope this guide makes it more manageable to walk through. Focus on switching in your mind what your career success should depend on. It should be:

  • Happiness in your role
  • Fulfilling life outside of work
  • Reduced stress
  • Pursuing your passion daily

If you've achieved those things in your career change, you've done it, you can now be one of those success stories that we’ve all read about. Keep up the good work!

Are you considering a career change at 50? Did you find this useful? Let us know in the comments and share it with your friends!