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Second Careers After 50: How To Know If It’s Right For You

WVU Online | Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Have you ever met a lifelong learner? They're the ones diving into classes, earning badges, or simply sharpening their skills. They're on a mission to soak up knowledge and maybe even pivot their career.

But why?

Whether it's striving for better work-life harmony or responding to challenges like job loss or health concerns, many are rethinking their career paths. If that’s you right now, you may be wondering how to get started.

We'll explore different career options for people looking to switch careers after 50 and provide you with tips for beginning that journey.

The Case for a Career Change After 50

The days of spending your entire career with one company are gone. With longer lifespans and dynamic professional landscapes, the idea of sticking to one industry or job for life is becoming increasingly uncommon.

According to the World Economic Forum, analysts suggest that Americans average seven careers in their lifetime.

It’s perfectly reasonable to consider shifting gears after you’re 50. At WVU Online, we’ve been part of that journey for many students.

Here’s what they had to say about the decision to go back to school and change careers later in life:

Supraja Guppi profile image.

Supraja Guppi already had a master’s in biochemistry when she stumbled upon WVU's master’s in population health. With a full-time job at NIOSH and an eye on career growth, she enrolled.

"A Population Health degree broadened my skills and supported my career growth at NIOSH. It's a broad area that I can apply to many things in my research and also my values, like reducing healthcare disparities and promoting social justice."

Jill Lenihan profile image.

Jill Lenihan used her bachelor of science degree to seize a teaching opportunity. Since she never finished college, this degree enabled her to pursue a deeply meaningful job.

"The day I got my acceptance letter, I was over thrilled! It marked the start of a lifelong dream coming true."

Considerations Before Making the Leap

How do you know if you should consider switching careers/continuing your education? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What brought you to this point?
  • What are you looking to achieve?
  • What truly fulfills you at work?
  • Can you explore new roles within your current company?
  • Are you interested in the courses that you’ll need to take?
  • What’s your timeline?

Do a self-assessment.

A self-evaluation assessment is like your career's personal mirror. It helps you look back on your journey, noting your progress, achievements, and areas for growth. It's a valuable tool for understanding your skill development and behavior patterns, offering insights into where you've excelled and what you can work on further.

  1. Consider your career accomplishments, how you achieved them and what you could do better.
  2. Decide how you want to monitor your progress: yearly, monthly, or weekly. Keep a record of specific examples that went above and beyond, as well as successful projects, meetings or conferences.
  3. Highlight success that contributed to the company goals. What brought the most value to the workplace and to your professional development?
  4. How did your strengths and weaknesses impact outcomes? How do you plan to improve?
  5. Consider your future, your career goals, your current work goals, and your plan for professional development. List how you want to work to accomplish each.
  6. Be honest and keep your assessments professional and focused on performance.

Consider your finances.

While changing careers could include a transition to a more lucrative one, getting there will involve time and money.

Can you afford to go back to school or get retrained right now? What will be the impact on your retirement?

Here are some savvy financial steps to take as you pivot careers around or after 50:

  • Prioritize retirement savings.
  • Determine the fate of your former 401(k).
  • Strategize for health insurance coverage.
  • Address your HSA or FSA arrangements.
  • Maintain savings for family aspirations.
  • Trim down your lifestyle as needed.
  • Assess and manage any debts or loans.

Assess your health and energy levels.

Assessing your health and energy levels before returning to school is another important factor. here's why:

  • Physical Demands: School often means long hours spent sitting and reading. \ You may have to juggle work, family responsibilities, and making time for class. The first thing to consider is whether you are physically up to the task.
  • Mental Stamina: Learning environments have changed over the years. New teaching methods, technologies, and study techniques can be challenging when you haven’t been in school for many years (or decades). Make sure you’re ready to learn new technology and potentially play catch-up to some of your younger peers.
  • Time Commitment: Let's face it: school is a time commitment, and after 50, you've likely got a few other things going on. Do you have space in your life for school right now?
  • Stress Management: Heading back to school to enjoy a new career path post-50 isn't just about ticking a box, it's about setting yourself up for success. It's about making sure you've got what it takes to tackle the physical, mental, and emotional demands of education while keeping your eye on the goal.

Explore market demand.

If you're someone who enjoys working with your hands or finds satisfaction in building and fixing things, you might find your calling in careers like chef, carpenter, hairstylist, firefighter, engineer, or welder.

On the other hand, if you have a passion for helping others, you could explore career paths such as paramedic, social worker, teacher, or nurse.

Take a moment to reflect on your goals.

What job title and responsibilities resonate with you? Consider the insights gained from your self-assessment. Identify your transferable skills and compare them with the skills required for your desired role. Take steps to bridge any skill gaps by pursuing education or training opportunities.

When you feel prepared, update your resume and reach out to your professional networks for advice and potential referrals. It's time to craft your narrative and take proactive steps toward securing your next career move.

Will this career offer flexibility and work-life balance?

Certain companies offer positions with flexible hours, work-from-home, and compressed workweek options, and chances are, it promotes a good understanding of work-life balance.

However, if you are seeking career choices that typically offer both, consider these options where you can work non-traditional hours outside of a traditional office environment.

  • Account Manager
  • Sales Representative
  • Photographer
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Marketing Manager
  • Content Writer

Educational Pathways and Skill Development for Career Changes Over 50

In recent years, there's been a remarkable transformation in the work-life balance landscape.

As adult learners increasingly hone in on their passions and career goals, we've witnessed a surge in personal fulfillment and satisfaction.

This shift has prompted companies and educational institutions to provide alternative work schedules, environments, and ongoing learning opportunities.

Adult learners are facing the challenges and embracing the digital realm, acquiring new skills, and in some cases, even switching professions to better align with their evolving aspirations.

Here are a few WVU Online degrees popular with adult learners:

  • RBA degree – This is a popular option for our adult learners, allowing them to complete the degree at their own pace while acquiring college credit for their professional, volunteer, or military experience.
  • Our RN to BSN program offers licensed registered nurses who are graduates of diploma and associate degree programs an opportunity to pursue their BSN degree.
  • For those in business, a number of our advanced degrees allow an opportunity to gain additional skills applicable to the dynamic business landscape.

Of course, not everyone wants to pursue a degree. For those learners, there are shorter learning options that include certificates, micro-credentials, or non-credit learning options.

Second Career Ideas for People Over 50

As individuals reach 50 years and beyond, career opportunities remain abundant and diverse, offering a chance for continued growth and fulfillment. With experience, wisdom, and a wealth of skills, this demographic brings valuable assets to the workforce, contributing to innovation and success across various industries.

1. Consulting:

Consulting is a great way to leverage decades of invaluable experience and expertise! Not only does it provide you with a great way to tailor your workload and schedule, but it also enables you to continue learning and growing professionally as you tackle various projects across diverse industries.

2. Teaching or Education:

If you’ve got a degree or experience in your field, consider stepping into the classroom! Teaching courses related to your career experiences can be a fantastic way to contribute to future generations.

If full-time teaching isn’t at the top of your list, consider substitute teaching options. With the ongoing teacher shortage, schools appreciate experienced and knowledgeable persons willing to share experiences and students tend to appreciate the direct correlation to fields of study.

3. Entrepreneurship:

Ever considered launching your own business? Now's the time to explore that idea further and begin sketching out your plan. You can even keep your current job while you get things off the ground. Just remember, while entrepreneurship is thrilling, it also comes with challenges—most small businesses close within five years, with 20% shutting down in the first year alone.

4. Virtual Assistant:

If you enjoy remote tasks, such as managing calls, coordinating meetings, arranging travel, and maintaining contact lists, consider becoming a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants also generate reports and presentations, manage online files, and aid in bookkeeping.

5. Real Estate Agent:

Real estate agents assist clients in buying, selling, or renting properties. Typically, you'll work under licensed real estate brokers. This career is well-suited for individuals over 50, as it doesn't require further education beyond a high school diploma. To become an agent, you must complete a state-accredited pre-licensing course. Key skills for success in this role include communication and negotiation abilities.

6. Tutor:

If you're enthusiastic about guiding students to achieve academic success, consider becoming a tutor. You can work with students either from home, online, or at tutoring centers, making a positive impact while earning income. Typically, a high school diploma is the minimum requirement, along with expertise in the subject you'll tutor. Some positions may necessitate credentials from organizations like the American Tutoring Association or the National Tutoring Association.

7. Financial Advisor:

The role of a financial advisor allows you to utilize your expertise to assist others in financial planning while offering lucrative earnings. This career path is particularly well-suited for individuals over 50, requiring only a license to begin. Financial advisors enjoy flexible hours, including the option to work remotely, without extensive time commitments.

The Importance of Building a Support Network

Ever wondered why so many people stick with careers they're dissatisfied with? Often, it's because they lack the crucial support system needed for change.

Transitioning careers is a major life shift demanding time, energy, financial planning, and a network to rely on when things get overwhelming. Here’s how to build your network:

  • Use your connections. Family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and professional contacts. They may be able to provide you with job leads, names of individuals and hiring managers, or just plain old industry information. You never know who knows who.
  • Set up informational interviews. Meet with companies that employ people in the jobs that interest you. Be ready to discuss your career goals and ask some questions that will assist you in learning more about both the company and the jobs.
  • Volunteer. Community service offers a great path to nurturing connections and acquiring pertinent experience. Volunteering with organizations aligned with your interests and career objectives provides chances to network with like-minded professionals. This involvement transcends your specific field, enabling you to cultivate a diverse network and facilitate connections across various industries.

Continuing Education at WVU Online

When it comes to professional growth, having the right degree or certificate can make all the difference.

Whether you're looking to advance in your current career or switch gears entirely, there are countless options available to assist you on your journey. From traditional bachelor's and master's degrees to specialized certificates and non-credit program options, the opportunities are vast.

These credentials not only enhance your knowledge and skills but also boost your marketability in today's competitive job market. Whether you're pursuing a degree in business administration, communication studies, healthcare, or any other field, or aiming for a certificate in project management, digital marketing, or data analytics, investing in your education opens doors to new opportunities and empowers you to reach your full potential professionally.

Through personalized support and resources designed specifically for adult learners, WVU Online empowers individuals to navigate career changes seamlessly and pursue their professional aspirations with confidence.

We're here for you.

Call us, write us, or fill out the request information form. Whichever communication style you prefer, there will be someone from WVU Online on the other end waiting to help.

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