The article Reassessing your career game plan: is it time for a change? originally appeared in The Telegraph
As you enter a new phase in your life, it presents the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate your current situation – to make sure you are getting the most from your career and are in a job that’s right for you. Your fifties are a great time to make changes, pursue long-held ambitions and ensure that you end your working life feeling fulfilled.
“You might be working for another 20 years, so consider finding something that makes you really happy,” says Jane Sunley, career coach and CEO of Purple Cubed. Change can be daunting, but job satisfaction even as you near retirement is a big factor in how satisfied you feel in general. Here’s how you can take it on with confidence:
Find the right path
Before you make a jump, spend time working out what you really want from a job. “When making a career change think hard about what you’re trying to go towards, rather than what you’re trying to get away from,” explains Sunley. “You need to do your homework, especially in terms of working out your personal values. People’s values are often quite entrenched, and when you uncover them you find that the things that you want aren’t always the things you thought you did.”
Think about what your priorities and motivations are – whether it’s being creative, working in a team, showing leadership or making a difference. “I’ve known quite a few people who’ve had quite high-flying careers and they’ve thought: ‘You know what: I’m not really making the world a better place, here’ and they’ve gone to work in charities.”
Learn to sell yourself
It’s natural to feel nervous when considering a career change – especially if you’ve been in the same job or role for years or decades. But, says Sunley: “If you’re going for a job, you’ve got to feel really positive, really strong, as if you can do it.” She advises people to start a “career book”. “Get a notebook and write down all the things you’ve achieved. If you can’t think of them, go and ask people who know you.” And draw on skills outside the workplace, too. “Quite often people will say they haven’t got leadership experience but when you’re look at their life they’re a pillar of the community – they’ve just never seen themselves in that way.”
Don’t talk yourself out of a career change because you think you lack relevant experience. Skill-sets are transferable, so often you’re more qualified than you realise. “It’s about reflecting on what you have, what you can offer and how you can apply those skills and knowledge to just slightly different areas,” says Dr Maria Karanika-Murray, associate professor in occupational health psychology at Nottingham Trent University. “It’s a mindset. It’s up to us not to limit ourselves. Being flexible is important, too. It’s about being open to new experiences and open to learning.”
Test the waters
A career transition can be challenging at any point of life. “We develop our identity over our career, and saying ‘that’s not me, I’m going to become someone else’ can be difficult,” says Dr Karanika-Murray.
Getting some experience in the field you want to move into can reassure you. “I often advise people to go and do some volunteering or interim work, just to try things out, rather than leap into a whole new career,” says Sunley. “It helps you to decide because you don’t know sometimes until you’re in it.”
Know your rights
Under the Equality Act, you are protected from age discrimination in all aspects of your employment including recruitment, employment terms and conditions, promotions, training and dismissals. “Obviously ageism is illegal,” says Sunley. “But if you are worried that you might be discriminated against, look for employers who have a diverse workforce and are going to welcome your skills with open arms.” A company’s website should give you a sense of its values and how diverse its staff make-up is.
Be open to different ways of working
Some women might find that symptoms of the menopause, such as sleeplessness, anxiety or fatigue, may make traditional nine-to-five working environments less appealing. Flexible working can help you enjoy work more. “Find a job that meets your needs – and that means health needs as well,” says Dr Karanika-Murray. “People need to think about how work helps them maintain their health.” When job hunting, Sunley suggests doing your research into the company’s working culture. “Think about environments, not just jobs,” she says. “Changing career now is not just about the things you do – but where you do it, and the culture of the place where you do it.”
So if you’ve got a creative side bursting to get out, crave a role that allows you to make a difference, or just want a job that doesn’t give you that Monday morning sense of doom, then this could be a perfect time to reassess your career. Decide what’s important to you, do your research and embrace a new chapter in your life.