Your career does not have to decline as you age. In fact, it can be a great opportunity to find fulfillment and keep growing.
Once you have been in the workforce for two, three or even four decades, you may not dare to think about changing your career because it seems like the odds are stacked against you.
You may be listening to the negative voices taking up rent in your head saying that you’re too old, too qualified, or that you’ve achieved everything you’re going to achieve. Or you might believe that age discrimination is so entrenched, you’ll never get your resume passed a recruiter.
Not going to lie, ageism is real. Data suggests that workers aged 45-plus face an uphill battle toward employment — and that was true for all countries surveyed. Mindsets around aging and stereotypes exist but they have no basis in fact.
Today, people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond still want stimulating jobs and have no intention of jumping off the retirement cliff anytime soon. In fact, we’re moving towards the age of unretiring. (We’ve been moving there for awhile.) This change benefits everyone.
It’s time we debunked the myths.
Myth #1: You’ve passed the peak of your career.
Says who? The days of having one job for life are well and truly over. The average person now changes jobs 12 times in the course of their career, and stays with an employer for just 4.1 years. Even those who start their own business say they plan to scale it and then sell it within five years.
These facts speak in favor of later-life career transitions. Since no one stays long doing one job, it is better for employers to hire someone with years of accumulated skills, knowledge and life experience who can add value from day one.
Myth 2: The market only wants Gen Z.
Before 2010, people aged 25–64 made up the lion’s share of all labor-force growth in the United States. Now, it’s the over 65s who are set to account for more than 60% of employment growth over the next decade. We’re seeing similar data being reported in most developed nations.
Here’s another way to look at careers, the older you get, the better your prospects. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the workforce of people aged 16 to 24 is projected to shrink by 7.5 percent through 2030, whereas among people aged 75 years and older, it’s expected to grow by 96.5 percent! There are now more than half a million people aged 100 or older, a number that’s trending upward.
In other words, don’t assume that employers are worshiping youth. Companies are waking up to the fact that they can benefit from a multigenerational workforce and are proactively designing ways to stop decades of quality experience walking out the door. Some employers tailor benefits packages across different employee segments. Others recraft roles to retain employees who want a different work-life balance but are not yet ready to jump on the retirement highway.
Myth #3: You’re overqualified.
There’s no such thing as being ‘overqualified’ for a role — it simply means you have more experience, better qualifications and a broader vision compared to what an employer thinks the role is ‘worth’ from a financial point of view. It’s actually a badge of honor, not an excuse to hold yourself back!
When designing a fulfilling later-life career, there’s a good chance that you will be looking to step away from the same-old, same-old job you’ve been doing for the last few years, and actively start searching for something completely new. What if, on paper, that new path looks like a downgrade? You might be comfortable to adjust your salary, hours and stress levels so you can focus on what matters most to you — whether that’s creating, writing, networking, mentoring, or something else.
Myth #4: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Not only is it a misconception to think that people cannot learn new skills in later life, but the opposite is also true. Science says that as we pass middle age, the brain gets better at using prior experiences and knowledge to find solutions to new problems — and it even do this faster than a younger brain.
There’s also the important matter of commitment. If you are re-skilling yourself for a career adjustment in later life, your level of commitment is typically very high and incredibly focused compared to someone who is just figuring things out at the start of their career. You know what you want and will apply your knowledge effectively and efficiently towards achieving those priorities.
Myth #5: You won’t be happy in a role with less responsibility.
When someone mentions this myth, I respond by asking three questions:
● Who says that having less on your plate is a bad thing?
● Who says you will not be making as big of a contribution as you did in the past?
● What does responsibility mean anyway?
The popular view is that once you’ve acquired responsibility, you should cling onto it at all costs and add even more status, power and leadership as you grow. But in reality, having lots of things on your plate means your energy must be dispersed — and that can prevent you from focusing on the really stimulating tasks that are more meaningful to you.
My advice? Consider your later-life career an opportunity to step back, take stock, and identify your priorities. You’ve spent the last several decades moving up. Now you have the perfect opportunity to try different things and prioritize the areas where you’re getting the most return for your time and investment.
Myth #6: It’s too late to make a radical career change.
As lifespans now edge toward 100, it’s safe to say you haven’t peaked — and your career hasn’t peaked — until you say it has. If you have a dream and ambition, then there is plenty of time for you to jump on opportunities, make a lateral move, or start again in an industry you have not been in yet.
According to the nonprofit Kauffman Foundation, more than 25% of new entrepreneurs were aged between 55 and 64 in 2019, up from 14.8% in 1996. These numbers prove that reaching mid life is not the end, but the beginning.
Yes, your priorities may be shifting. Maturity tends to give you a broader view of success, as well as a new sense of urgency as you truly understand what you want your legacy to be. The key is to wipe all the myths about later-life careers from your brain and challenge the stereotypes.
So, tell us, what’s holding you back?
Are you sitting at a crossroad? Looking for what’s next? Find out more at Career Extensions — the next phase will be your best phase.