YOLO: Don’t Fear the Late Career Change
Good news for “older” workers seeking to change their careers and find more fulfilling work comes from the American Institute for Economic Research in a new study, New Careers for Older Workers:
- Among workers ages 45-and-over who attempted a career change, 82 percent of late-in-career changers were considered successful.
- The majority of successful career changers said that the change made them happier.
- Many successful career changers saw an increase in income.
- Possessing transferable skills is one of the most important factors in determining the success of a career change.
The majority of late-in-career changers reported that their stress levels declined, it did not take too long to find a job, and that they felt they were following a passion. An obstacle was pay cuts, but career-changers reported that after a period of hard work and persistence, their incomes rose.
The study concludes that a career change later in life is “a viable choice” for those seeking work in an occupation that uses their current skills, and that one determinant of success is gaining a realistic view of what the transition will entail and preparing for it. While the study can’t dispel the common perception that age discrimination in hiring exists, it does offer some evidence that some employers are open to hiring older workers.
I have changed careers once before – from journalism to public relations – which isn’t such a big leap. Like the study said, that change involved transferable skills. I made another career change that was prompted by market conditions, as did many career changers in the study. Consecutive public relations job layoffs motivated me to try a new career that I had contemplated before, and I entered a Baltimore teacher-training program for career-changers and non-educators. But I didn’t last long in that field, and jumped back to PR.
Now I’m halfway through a graduate program for counseling while continuing to work in PR. I am not sure where my program is going to lead, or if I will necessarily change careers again. It’s a journey of faith, and I’m enjoying the process, the learning and the people. If I were to change careers ultimately, my income level would surely drop. But I also think there would be potential for my income to exceed my current level if I switched fields, with hard work, certain choices and passion, as the study indicated.
My program is full of potential career-changers in their 40s or older. In the class on Group Theory I just completed, there are two engineers – including one who is going to retire from his position in two months when he graduates and embark on a totally different career path. There’s also an accountant, a nurse, a fashion designer, a financial professional, teachers and former military members. Every one of them seems happy and inspired that they are pursuing a new path. It’s invigorating. The passion and investment of self is palpable. Some feel called to what they are pursuing; all seem to feel a sense of liberation to be pursuing their sense of vision for themselves. For many, it is a deeply spiritual quest.
So for anyone who thinks it’s too late or that they have too much to lose or that a change would be doomed to failure and prove to be a big mistake, take a look at the results of this study that suggest otherwise.
And to feel a little younger at heart, consider the millennial, social media buzzword delivered by a student commencement speaker at my daughter’s high school graduation: YOLO, as in “You Only Live Once.”