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Last Updated on August 26, 2021

How to Make a Career Change at 50 for Great Opportunities

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How to Make a Career Change at 50 for Great Opportunities

Turning 50 is a milestone in anyone’s life, after all you are half way to 100! But seriously, turning 50 is often a time in life when people can sit back and take a look at where they’ve been and contemplate what the future holds.

Can you change careers at 50? It’s not uncommon for people in their 50’s to consider a career change, after all if you’ve spent 20 to 30 years in a career, chances are that some of the bloom is off the rose.

Often, when we are starting out in our 20’s, we choose a career path based on factors that are no longer relevant to us in our 50’s. Things like our parents’ expectations, a fast paced exciting lifestyle or the lure of making a lot of money can all be motivating factors in our 20’s.

But in our 50’s, those have given way to other priorities. Things like the desire to spend more time with family and friends, a slower paced less stressful lifestyle, the need to care for a sick spouse or elderly parents can all contribute to wanting a career change in your 50’s.

Just like any big life changing event, changing careers is scary. The good news is that just like most things we are scared of, the fear is mostly in our own head.

Understanding how to go about a career change at 50 and what you can expect should help reduce the anxiety and fear of the unknown.

What are Your Goals for a Career Change?

As in any endeavour, having properly defined goals will help you to determine the best path to take.

What are you looking for in a new career? Choosing a slower less stressful position that gives you more time with family and friends may sound ideal, but you’ll often find that you’re giving up some income and job satisfaction in the process.

Conversely, if your goal is to quit a job that is sucking the life from your soul to pursue a lifelong passion. You might be trading quality time with family and friends for job satisfaction.

Neither decision is wrong or bad, you just need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of any decision you make.

Types of Career Changes at 50+

There are four main types of career changes that people make in their 50’s. Each type has it’s unique set of challenges and will vary in the degree of preparation required to make the change.

Industry Career Change

In this career change, a person remains in the same field but switches industries.

With an industry change, a person takes their set of skills and applies them to an industry that they have no previous experience in.

An example would be a salesperson in the oil and gas industry becoming a salesperson for a media (advertising) company. They are taking their skill set (selling) and applying it to a different industry (media).

This type of career change is best accomplished by doing a lot of homework on the industry you want to get into as well as networking within the industry.

Functional Career Change

A functional career change would be a change of careers within the same industry.

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For example, an accountant at a pharmaceutical company who changes careers to become a human resources manager. It may or may not be with the same company, but they remain within the pharmaceutical industry. In this case, they are leaving one set of skills behind (accounting) to develop a new set (human resource) within the same industry.

In a functional career change, new or additional training as well as certifications may be required in order to make the switch. If you are considering a functional career change, you can start by getting any training or certifications needed either online, through trade associations or at your local community college.

Double Career Change

This is the most challenging career change of all. A person doing a double career change is switching both a career and an industry.

An example of a double change would be an airline pilot quitting to pursue their dream of producing rock music. In that case, they are leaving both the aviation industry and a specific skill set (piloting) for a completely unrelated industry and career.

When considering a double career change, start preparing by getting any needed training or certifications first. Then you can get your foot in the door by taking an apprenticeship or part time job.

With a double change, it’s not uncommon to have to start out at the bottom as you are asking an employer to take a chance on someone without any experience or work history in the industry.

Entrepreneurial Career Change

Probably one of the most common career changes made by people in their 50’s is the entrepreneurial career change.

After 20 to 30 years of working for “Corporate America”, a lot of people become disillusioned with the monotony, politics and inefficiency of the corporate world. Many of us dream of having our own business and being our own boss.

By this time in our life, we have saved some money and the financial pressures we had with young children have passed; so it’s a perfect time to spread our entrepreneurial wings.

Entrepreneurial career changes can be within the same industry and using your existing knowledge and contacts to start a similar business competing within the same industry. Or it can be completely unrelated to your former industry and based on personal interests, passions or hobbies.

A good example would be someone who played golf as a hobby starting an affiliate marketing website selling golf clubs. If you are considering an entrepreneurial career change, there are a lot of very good free resources available on the internet. Just be sure to do your homework.

Famous People Who Changed Careers at 50

Now that you know the types of career changes you can make, you’re one step closer to undertaking a new career at 50. You probably need just a little push to finally take the plunge.

To help inspire you make a midlife career change, we’ve gathered successful individuals who switched careers at 50 and still thrived.

Colonel Sanders (Industry Career Change)

“One has to remember that every failure can be a stepping stone to something better.”

KFC fried chicken is a classic meal everybody loves. However, it would not have been present today if Harland Sanders did not change his career path later in his life.

The chicken mogul only started his journey after turning 65 years old when his business dwindled. Instead of going broke, he tried so hard to perfect his unique spice blend and cooking technique to make fried chicken. Decades later, KFC became a multi-million dollar company with stores all over the world.

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Ray Kroc (Entrepreneurial Career Change)

“Adversity can strengthen you if you have the will to grind it out.”

It seems Colonel Sanders is not the only fast-food mogul who switched careers at 50. One of the most successful people who did not let their age define their career is Ray Kroc. A salesman by trade, he met Dick and Mac McDonald when he was 50 while selling milkshake mixers to restaurants and drug stores.

Kroc was immediately wowed by the self-service burger joint of the brothers and he did not waste time convincing them to the franchise. This prompted his drive to switch to a new career at 50. Not soon after, he went from a man selling milkshake mixers from state to state to a millionaire.

Judi Dench (Functional Career Change)

“The more I do, the more frightened I get. But that is essential. Otherwise, why would I go on doing it?”

Judi Dench started as a theatre performer, and although she dabbled in a bit of TV and film work, she did not fully transition to becoming a film star until she turned 51 in 1985 after being cast as Eleanor Lavish in A Room with a View. That same year, she had five projects in line.

This switch to a new career at 50 became the catalyst for Dench to be recognized for her work. She went on to win the Academy Best Supporting Actress in 1999 for Shakespeare in Love when she was 65. She was also nominated for seven Academy Awards in her career.

Ronald Raegan (Double Career Change)

“Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.’ And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.”

You may know Ronald Raegan as a former US president but before he was elected into office, he was a famous actor. Raegan did not even enter the political scene until he was 55 years old.

Despite serving as the president of the Screen Actors Guild, there was nothing in his credentials that signalled his destiny in politics. But in 1966, he won a landslide victory for the gubernatorial race in California with over a million votes. This was the starting point of his journey as a politician.

Julia Child (Double Career Change)

 “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.”

Chances are, you have an old Julia Child cookbook in your kitchen. But did you know this famous chef and author did not publish her first book until she turned 49? Julia was working at the Office of Strategic Services – now the CIA, and later served as the Chief of the OSS Registry before she fell in love with cooking.

After her marriage to Paul Child, she began taking cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu. Having no background in the kitchen, she was deemed unqualified to level up her cooking course.

Thanks to her education and her will to improve, she eventually mastered the craft and published Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1. Only two years later, she became a TV personality thanks to her show The French Chef.

Nora Ephron (Functional Career Change)

“What are you going to do? Everything is my guess. It will be a little messy but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications.”

Director Nora Ephron is behind your favourite chick flicks like Sleepless in Seattle, Julie & Julia, and You’ve Got Mail. However, she had no prior directorial experience up until she turned 51 in 1992.

Before she became one of Hollywood’s most sought-after directors, she was serving as a screenplay writer for movies like When Harry Met Sally. Although she was still dabbling in writing after turning 50, it’s truly her directorial skills that made her stand out.

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Practical Tips on Making a Career Change at 50+

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and make a career switch in your 50’s. No matter what your reasons or what type of a career change you are embarking on, here are some helpful hints to make the transition easier:

1. Deal with the Fear

As stated earlier, any big life change comes with both fear and anxiety. Things never seem to go as smoothly as planned, you will always have bumps and roadblocks along the way. By recognizing this and even planning for it, you are less likely to let these issues derail your progress.

If you find yourself becoming discouraged by all of the stumbling blocks, there are always resources to help. Contacting a career coach is a good place to start, they can help you with an overall strategy for your career change as well as the interview and hiring process, resume writing / updating and more. Just Google “Career Coach” for your options.

I also recommend using the services of a professional counsellor or therapist to help deal with the stress and anxiety of this major life event.

It’s always good to have an unbiased third party to help you work through the problems that inevitably arise.

2. Know Your “Why”

It’s important that you have a clear understanding of the “why” you are making this career change. Is it to have more free time, reduce stress, follow a passion or be your own boss?

Having a clear understanding of you personal “why” will influence every decision in this process. Knowing your “why” and keeping it in mind also serves as a motivator to help you reach your goals.

3. Be Realistic

Take an inventory of both your strengths and weaknesses. Are your organizational skills less than stellar? Then, becoming a wedding planner is probably not a good idea.

This is an area where having honest outside input can be really helpful. Most of us are not very good at accurately assessing our abilities. It’s a universal human trait to exaggerate our abilities while diminishing our weaknesses.

Requesting honest feedback from friends and co-workers is a good place to start, but this is another area where a career coach can come in handy.

4. Consider an Ad-Vocation

Sometimes, making a career change all at once is just too big of a change. Issues like a severely reduced income, geography and lack of benefits can all be impediments to your career change. In those cases, you may want to start your new career as an ad-vocation.

An ad-vocation is a second or ad-on vocation in addition to your primary vocation. Things like a part-time job, consulting or even a side business can all be ad-vocations.

The benefit of having an ad-vocation is being able to build experience a reputation and contacts in the new field while maintaining all the benefits of your current job.

5. Update Your Skills

Whether it means acquiring new certifications or going back to school to get your cosmetology license, having the right training is the foundation for a successful career change.

The great thing about changing careers now is that almost any training or certifications needed can be free or at very little cost online. Check with trade associations, industry websites and discussion groups for any requirements you may need.

Learn How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive.

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6. Start Re-Branding Yourself Now

Use the internet and social media to change the way you present yourself online.

Changing your LinkedIn profile is a good way to show prospective employers that you are serious about a career change.

Joining Facebook groups, trade associations and discussion boards as well as attending conventions is a great way to start building a network while you learn.

Here’re some Personal Branding Basics You Need to Know for Career Success.

7. Overhaul Your Resume

Most of us have heard the advice to update our resume every six months, and most of us promptly ignore that advice and only update our resume when we need it.

When making a career change, updating is not enough; this calls for a complete overhaul of your resume. Chances are that your current resume was designed around your old career which may or may not apply to your new goals.

Crafting a new resume emphasizing your strengths for the new position your looking for is key. There are many places that will help you craft a resume online and it is a service included with most career coaching services.

8. Know Your Timeline

There are a lot of factors when it comes to how long it will take to make the career change.

Industry and Functional career changes tend to be the easiest to do and therefore can be accomplished in the shortest period of time. While the Double Career Change and the Entrepreneurial Career Change both require more effort and thus time.

There are also personal factors involved in the time it will take to switch careers.

Generally speaking the more you are willing to be flexible with both compensation and geography, the shorter time it will take to make the switch.

Final Thoughts

Changing careers at anytime can be stressful, but for those of us who are 50 or above, it can seem to be an overwhelming task fraught with pitfalls and self doubt.

Prospective employers know the benefits that come with more mature employees. Things like a wealth of experience, a proven work history and deeper understanding of corporate culture are all things that older workers bring to the table.

And while the younger generation may possess better computer or technical skills than us, if you’re willing to learn, there are a ton of free or nearly free resources available to you.

Deciding on a career change at 50 is a great way to experience life on your own terms.

More Tips for Career Change

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on November 30, 2021

4 Effective Ways To Improve Your Work Performance Greatly

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4 Effective Ways To Improve Your Work Performance Greatly

Peak performance in the workplace is essential for company growth and high-levels of productivity, but what’s easy to do is also easy not to do.  Searching “work performance” in Google pulls up 4,180,000,000 results in less than one second. To say that work performance is a buzzword is a complete understatement.

Everyone and their mother are interested in finding the latest gadgets and hacks to optimize their workplace productivity and output. Companies are caught between a rock and a hard place as they attempt to navigate the uncharted waters of working from home while keeping their employee productivity levels high. Sadly, if businesses had prioritized the essential components of creating quality company cultures, instilling trust in their employees, and showing high-levels of empathy before the pandemic, most wouldn’t be finding themselves in this situation.

Work performance, a highly subjective term, essentially comes down to finding ways to maximize an employee’s use of time, energy, and results, as these are things that can be both measured and used as a marker for productivity. While time is fixed and can never be changed, energy levels are fluid in nature and can become depleted over time unless people know how to harness it, and results are the end product of productivity.[1] They can be measured and, to be frank, are usually independent of the time or energy it takes to reach an end goal.

To truly understand how to improve performance at work, we need to understand what controls these factors.

The brain controls everything, which is why no single “hack,” pill, therapy, or product will be the cure-all for maximizing productivity at work.[2] The brain isn’t binary. It’s complicated and requires many factors to function at its highest level.[3] So, if you genuinely want to improve your performance at work, you must heavily invest in the maintenance of maximizing your brain and cognitive output.

1. Move Your Body to Activate Your Brain

If we were able to bottle up the effects of physical movement into a pill, it would be a blockbuster drug for the rest of eternity due to the exponentially growing body of research showing how effective exercise is in improving brain function cognitive processing.[4]

While physical exercise has traditionally been used to improve our physical structure, lose weight, and increase cardiovascular endurance, the game has completely changed with the growing number of research showing its beneficial effects on mental and psychological processing.[5]

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Physical exercise is one of the most influential activities one can do to improve their mental performance, which then improves your performance at work. It can change DNA expression and create molecules of emotion that can improve your mood, provide mental clarity, and change the way your brain processes information.[6]

Movement vastly increases blood flow to the frontal lobe, a region on the brain responsible for cognitive processing, high-level thinking, and maintaining mental alertness.[7] It also increases oxygenation to the body, which improves your body’s ability to create energy and maintain mental focus for long periods. And while physical exercise can be one of the most efficient ways to activate the brain, it can also help you lose weight, which can also have detrimental effects on your productivity.

Research has shown that visceral fat stored around the body can decrease your brain’s ability to focus and concentrate due to the inflammatory markers fat creates throughout the body.[8] By losing weight and exercising, your can dampen inflammatory processes that are clogging your drain pipes of processing while also improving circulation and oxygenation to tissues that need it the most. And guess what? It doesn’t cost you a penny to take the initiative to get out and move.

Studies have shown that physical movement for as little as 10 minutes duration can provide significant benefits, vastly increasing your brain’s ability to update your internal software for enhanced memory and processing capacity.[9]

2. Take a Break to Get Ahead of Your Workload

People love talking about the number of hours they put into their work, with forums and LinkedIn posts chock full of individuals boasting about how many hours they dedicated to projects during the week. While this may sound great in theory, we know it’s full of fallacies and lies because it doesn’t jive with what neuroscience tells us about brain function.

Studies show that the brain has a maximum processing time of about 90 minutes before we start to see cognitive processing decline in quality.[10] As we continue down this path towards longer hours with no breaks in-between, we begin to see a vast increase in simple processing errors and mistakes, which mean lost time taking steps backward to retrace your steps to fix your errors.

It also means the brain can no longer perform at the levels it initially started with, making the tasks more challenging to complete and increasing the amount of time it will take to finish a project. We’ve seen this play out in endless scenarios, but they hold weight when taken from medical emergencies and surgeries.

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Studies have shown that doctors performing medical procedures and making diagnoses at the 17th to 19th hour have an intoxicated individual’s equivalent mental capacity with a .05 BAC.[11] Does that make you think twice about booking your next surgery?

Taking a break from your work doesn’t mean you should sit and scroll through social media sites or be a troll on Reddit. You need to break away from work and do something that will replenish your energy stores and stimulate your brain. Taking a walk, laughing with a coworker, or even closing your eyes and doing meditation for a few minutes can vastly improve your performance at work and recovery time without skipping a beat of productivity.

3. Sleep Like Your Life Depends on It (Because It Does)

Sleep is a superpower. All organisms in the animal kingdom sleep to some extent, which provides some pretty compelling evidence about the importance of sleep and its role in our general health.

Sleep isn’t just a time to take a break—multiple chemical and physiological processes take place while we sleep, helping us regenerate tissue and restore our bodies to a high level. We now know that while we’re asleep, the fluid inside the brain (cerebrospinal fluid) increases in both flow and velocity to help the brain clear out toxins that build up throughout the day.[12] This internal housekeeping is a vital component of brain health and is theorized to be a hallmark sign of an aging brain.

Sleep has also been an influential factor in our mental health. It allows our brain to process information throughout the day and pose theoretical future situations through dreaming and lucid-like states of cognition.[13]

Memories are also filtered, consolidated, and stored with different sleep stages, which can significantly impact your performance at work and productivity over the long term.[14] If your boss always has to remind you of previous conversations in the boardroom, do you think they will trust you with major tasks and projects to get that next promotion?

Your memory can serve as your best friend in the workplace, which is why prioritizing sleep and making it a staple in your lifestyle can be a significant factor in your career trajectory—greatly improving your performance at work. Plus, sleep dysfunction can be one of the earliest signs of aging, especially in the early stages of neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s, MS, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.[15]

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4. Fast-Track Your Way to Success With Intermittent Fasting (IF)

Food will always be the fuel that powers our internal engine, so why do so many people make such poor food choices?

For many, it’s usually easier to blame a food than it is to blame our decisions or actions about choosing that food. Poor food choices lead to poor brain function, promoting excessive amounts of inflammation and high levels of blood sugar, which can inevitably tear down your body’s castle walls of immunity and self-repair mechanisms.[16]

Without drawing a line in the sand about which diet or dietary guidelines you should follow, it’s safe to say that in general, if your food came from the ground, it’s probably safe to eat. While keeping this in mind, there’s an even more critical caveat to consider: Intermittent Fasting (IF).[17]

Although fasting has been around for millennia and played a pivotal role in religious ceremonies for thousands of years, it has recently made a comeback in the public eye due to its remarkable capacity to prolong life and protect our DNA.

Fasting from food (especially foods that increase our blood sugar levels) can significantly influence the body’s ability to repair and do internal housekeeping, which is a constant battle that never ends. Fasting from food allows the body to route coveted resources to other remodeling projects in the gut, brain, and body, facilitating a sort of “taking out of the trash” scenario to improve cellular efficiency and output.

With fasting, we see inflammation levels decrease, blood sugar levels drop off, insulin sensitivities increase, and we’re able to get rid of old cells that slow down the rest of the chain in command.[18] These senescent cells are old cells that are too energy-intensive for the body to demolish, so they stick around and slow down other cellular processes, kind of like the slow group in golf that holds up the rest of the course for the entire day.[19]

Fasting can also give our brain additional energy reserves through the production of ketones created from the breakdown of fat within the body. This process serves multiple purposes of getting rid of unwanted weight and fueling the brain on high-octane fuel.[20] And the best part about fasting? It costs you NOTHING. Zero. Nada. Zip. It will decrease your grocery bill and help you lose weight, increase your energy levels, sleep better, have more sex drive, and make your brain work at a higher capacity.

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Putting It All Together

It will always be up to you to decide how to implement these tools. No one else can make these choices for you, so if you’re looking to take your game to the next step to hit that promotion, finish that project, or improve your status within your company, choose one of these habits and own it for the next 30 days.

The goal with this is to make it into a lifestyle, not a diet or short-term focus. You can have our cake and eat it too. It will just take hard work and dedication on your end.

These habits may seem daunting, but try to remember that brushing your teeth, taking a shower, and getting dressed for the day used to be a daunting task for you when you were growing up. Habits become effortless because you do them more often, allowing your brain to use less energy and mental real estate to finish up a task.

Turning these tasks into daily habits will allow you to neurologically and cognitively maximize your personal and professional life. Make the hard choices now to live an easy life later.

More Tips on Excelling at Work

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Workfront: The Right Way to Measure Work Performance: Results, Not Tasks
[2] NCBI: Major Structures and Functions of the Brain
[3] NCBI: Physiology, Cerebral Cortex Functions
[4] NCBI: The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities
[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight
[6] Scientific American: How Exercise Affects Your Brain
[7] SpringerLink: Acute Effects of Physical Exercise on Prefrontal Cortex Activity in Older Adults: A Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Study
[8] The Journal of Clinical Investigation: Visceral adipose NLRP3 impairs cognition in obesity via IL-1R1 on CX3CR1+ cells
[9] Harvard Health Publishing: Need a quick brain boost? Take a walk
[10] Psychological Review: The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance
[11] BMJ Journals: Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication
[12] Scientific American: Deep Sleep Gives Your Brain a Deep Clean
[13] NCBI: Does improving sleep lead to better mental health? A protocol for a meta-analytic review of randomized controlled trials
[14] NCBI: About Sleep’s Role in Memory
[15] NCBI: Sleep dysregulation, memory impairment, and CSF biomarkers during different levels of neurocognitive functioning in Alzheimer’s disease course
[16] ASPEN: Diet and Inflammation
[17] NCBI: Effectiveness of Intermittent Fasting and Time-Restricted Feeding Compared to Continuous Energy Restriction for Weight Loss
[18] NCBI: Fasting induces an anti-inflammatory effect on the neuroimmune system which a high-fat diet prevents
[19] NCBI: The role of senescent cells in ageing
[20] NCBI: Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy

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