Motivational speaker Les Brown says “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” There are countless stories of people reinventing themselves after age 40, or even after age 60. Laura Ingalls Wilder, for example, starting writing at age 40 and published her first book at age 65. Julia Child took her French cooking course in Paris at age 49 to kick-off her famous second career after working at a government job.
So, what steps can you take now to start reinventing yourself if you have been downsized, or want a change?
Step One: Get in the Right Mindset.
Some people see 50 as the “beginning of the end,” as they start to wind down their careers as they approach retirement. Others see the milestone as a reset button and start making new plans about how to make their remaining working years the best time possible.
Take time to reflect on your life and career. What did you want to be when you grew up? What were you passionate about? Did life get in the way of achieving your dreams?
Next, decide what you want. Set specific goals. If you believe that you can achieve it, you can. Don’t talk yourself out of what you are capable of achieving. Just because you haven’t achieved it yet doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. Be aware of negative thoughts and self-sabotaging behavior.
Adopt a growth mindset. You have to believe that you are capable of change and that any failures you encounter are not “who you are.” A growth mindset means you believe in your ability to become better.
Acknowledge the fear of stepping outside your comfort zone. Make a list of the challenges and roadblocks you will likely encounter and develop a plan for tackling them.
If you are a long-time teacher who is considering a career change to the corporate world as a learning and development coordinator, one of the biggest challenges might be learning new technology such as a specific L&D platform. Your plan might be to research the most common L&D platforms and identify courses or online training to learn the technology.
Step Two: Decide on a Destination.
Review your reflections and goals from step one and decide what you want to do next. Do you want to move up within your current industry or profession, or make a complete change? What will reignite your passion?
For inspiration, look at people you know and the changes they’ve made. Is there a defined path you can follow? For example, it’s not uncommon for lawyers to move into a judge role in their 50s. Some advertising executives start their own agencies in their 50s or move from an agency into a corporate role.
Sometimes money becomes less of a motivator later in your career, and you might decide to leave a stressful corporate role for a smaller business, startup, or even a nonprofit.
You may also be seeking a change because you’re no longer able to physically do some of the things you’ve always done in your career. Are there ways you can use your skills, knowledge, and experience in a less physically demanding job in the same profession? Or would a complete career change be a better fit?
If you’re a furniture warehouse manager who works in the field alongside employees, but your body is feeling the aches and pains from hauling heavy items up and down stairs, you might consider using your staffing, logistics, and operations knowledge in a less “hands on” role.
Step Three: Create Your Career Plan.
Now that you know where you want to go, it’s time to chart your path. In your career reinvention, you may need new skills. For example, you may decide to learn a new language. There are any number of online courses and apps to help you. The most important thing is to pick one and then schedule the time to work through the information.
The same is true if you’re considering starting your own business as part of your career reinvention. You will need to research your opportunities. Will you consult or freelance? Will you purchase a franchise? Start a business from scratch? What resources will you need? Create a roadmap to guide you through all steps in the self-employment journey. Remember, while younger startup founders tend to be more technologically savvy and risk-averse, older founders often have more knowledge, business skills, connections, and access to startup capital.
Can you see yourself going back to school? Or pursuing additional training and/or certification. Can you turn a hobby into a career or business? Perhaps you enjoy woodworking as a hobby. Could you create custom furniture? Or combine your technology knowledge with your hobby and program machines for manufacturers.
Ageism and age discrimination are still a reality, but as the workforce ages and worker shortages continue to be an issue, things may change. Professions that have traditionally had mandatory retirement ages — for example, airline pilots — are loosening some requirements. Identify employers that support second act and third act careers.
Look for companies that have Certified Age Friendly Employer (CAFE) status and use sites such as agefriendly.com/jobs to identify possible age-friendly workplaces.
Step Four: Take Baby Steps.
A drastic change isn’t necessarily the best way to start. Instead, consider baby steps. If you’re considering a career change, investigate the new profession thoroughly to make sure you really understand what’s involved in the new role.
Considering quitting to start a business? Pursue it as a side hustle first. If you are able to, build up the business so that you’re replacing at least 50 percent of your income before you quit your job. And have a strategy for reaching 100 percent or more of your current income.
Identify skills or knowledge you don’t have — and find people to fill those gaps. For example, if you are a writer (but not a numbers person), you can get assistance with bookkeeping and tax preparation.
Step Five: Make Room for Personal Growth.
In many cases, career reinvention is about balancing personal and professional growth. To continue moving forward, it’s important to reflect and appreciate all the good things that have happened in your life. Reflect on your successes. Let go of the disappointments. In step one, we talked about having a growth mindset. Your professional growth will benefit from improving your overall knowledge. Keep your brain sharp by committing to creativity, self-development, and constant learning. Exercise your brain and your body. Engage in activities related to organization, memorization, and decision-making (learning a new language ticks all three boxes!). In other words, reinventing yourself is not just about getting a new job or a new career. It’s about having a full life, whether that means starting a second act, third act, or an active retirement.