Changing Careers to Make the Most out of Work Opportunities

Changing Careers to Make the Most out of Work Opportunities

The Older Worker Paradigm: Positioning for Interesting, Challenging Work that Won’t Break the Body!

I had an interesting situation the other day that really got me thinking about work and the older person. With the recent budget analysis and debate, I think we are all well aware of the impeding push to work longer.

It makes sense.

We live longer, far longer than ever before so retiring at 65 and spending the next 5 -10 years in retirement is no longer the norm nor the expectation. Even now the average life expectancy for a 65 year old female is 84.3 and males 801 and, it is no longer unusual to live to 100.

Who wants to go into retirement facing around 20 or even up to 35 years pottering in the garden and enjoying the fruits of one’s labour?


thinking about changing careers

No, it just doesn’t make sense and, from a health perspective, we know that we need to use it or lose it. So it’s imperative that we keep our brains at the top of their game with all synapses pinging strongly and we can only do this if we give our brain something worthy to do.

The traditional retirement pattern in Australia to date has been made up of hobbies, travel and babysitting – a broad generalisation I know but, my point here is that most people don’t plan their retirement to be mentally challenging & invigorating. They plan to ‘slow down’.

Fortunately, with changes to government policy, we are being forced to review what it means to retire and to push out our retirement age.

This means that, for many people, they will need to consider a new career to carry them through this final (but now far longer) phase of their working life and, it makes sense, when considering new careers to move out of intensely physical careers and into those careers that don’t make the same punishing demands on the physical body. For example, jobs most at risk in this group would include most trades along with a number of professions. As a rule of thumb, any jobs where you work with your hands and/or use your body are probably not suitable for mature workers who want to work until they are 70 or more. So, along with builders, gardeners and trades we must also consider nursing and many of the Allied Health roles.

It seems to me that if you are in a physical job and are aged 45 or older then you are in trouble. You need to start thinking about a career change and then you need to do something about it. Go back to study and get the skills you need to change your career and then start the metamorphosis.

adult education

Once you have gained the qualifications (skills & knowledge) you need well then you need to start transitioning from your current job or career to your new one. This doesn’t mean you have to leave a perfectly good job or a fantastic company, but you do need to be on the lookout for work opportunities in your current employment to begin using your new skills and knowledge.

Let me give you three simple examples:

1. If you have decided to move into Project Management ((You will need a Diploma of Project Management to be successful in this career change)) (the profession with one of the best job prospects globally and, the best pay) then, be on the lookout for project management opportunities in your current organisation and put your hand up – even if it means working an hour or two extra each week for a while.

If you can find opportunities to use your new Project Management skills as often as you can, it won’t take line before you start to become recognised as a valuable person to have on a project and, overtime a good project manager.
Once you’ve established your new skills and gained the experience you need, you can then make the move from the old job or career to the new and begin to apply for Project Management jobs.

Now my tip here is to stay with what you know so, if you’ve been a nurse all your life then, it makes sound business sense to apply for Project Management jobs in the health or Allied Health sector. Likewise if you’ve been installing cable then you would be highly valued in many types of structural projects such as kitchen renovations, media installation projects and so on. An added bonus with project managers is that this type of role is not as confined or focused on age as are many other professions. There is such a demand for project managers that (with the qualification & experience) you have an excellent chance of securing a good job even if you’re over 50!

older woman studying

2. If you have decided to move into Human Resource or People Management (another professional with excellent job growth predicted globally and plenty of options for part-time & flexible work) well, you need to be on the lookout for extra duties that will give you the experience you need (once you have gained the qualification). HR is very focused on qualifications so a Diploma is a must for mature entry.

For example some of the jobs the HR team is often looking for additional staff support for include: contributing to the workforce plan by collecting and/or analysing data; conducting staff surveys; getting feedback from customers and writing it up; reviewing training programs and/or making suggestions for new/additional programs; developing/writing SOP’s or instructions on how to do different aspects of your job and so on.

There are many ways you can gain experience and contribute to the HRM in your current organisation but, they all require additional work and effort (at least initially). Overtime, you may find the HR team asking to ‘borrow’ you for short-term HR projects and once this happens well then you’re ready to apply for an HR (or related) job in your own right.

older man working on the phone

3. Finally, the last example professional for today is one that never goes out of demand and for which there are always jobs for people who are good at it and that’s Sales Professionals. No matter what tools we use it seems the consumer will continue to purchase from those entities with whom they have developed trust. So jobs for good sales staff will always be in abundance and very well remunerated. Sales is a little different from my first two examples as it doesn’t require set qualifications and experience. With sales you just need to demonstrate you can do it.

The reason why I would still suggest you need to engage in training, is to learn techniques and tools so that you’re not hindered by any lack of same. A sales person must be able to use a CRM as well as other internal databases and software programs. They must also understand online marketing & sales as well as the role of social media.

To be successful at sales you need excellent people skills as well as well-developed self-esteem and personal confidence. Ironically, these characteristics are more often found in older people who have worked all their life and gained a great deal of wisdom along the way. They have the personal confidence and surety to sell.

Sales pays well and the work/life balance is excellent. You can choose to stay in your chosen professional or trade – this is always an advantage as you don’t have to learn about ‘new’ products in a ‘new’ field – or, you can move into a new area entirely. With sales it doesn’t really matter!

changing careers means new opportunities

So, there you have it, three excellent career choices for the older worker.

If you are over 45 you should start thinking about this NOW and if you’re 50 or older well you need to get going right away.

There are plenty of commercial career advisors who can test your skills and aptitude and suggest possible new careers best suited to you or, if you have a bit of an idea, you can often talk to a careers advisor at the RTO, University or TAFE with whom you want to do your training. All these professionals are on hand to assist you in making a sound career decision. Some, like CAL, will even help you to write your CV and cover letter to highlight your new skills and experience.

Finally, if the thought of returning to study scares you then you can ease into it with a dual qualification. CAL offers a dual qualification program, that combines the Certificate IV & Diploma qualification, in Project Management and Human Resources. This means you can start slow and steady with a course that is well within reach and then progress on to the Diploma. CAL also provides a personal learning coach who is available to support you in an unlimited capacity to ensure you learn what you need from the course.

Don’t waste time. Plan for your older working life now, or you may well end up counting widgets and barely subsisting with your take home pay. Do it on your terms now while you can and find a fulfilling and well paid job to finish you working life with.

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  1. Australian Institute of Health & Welfare. 28 May 2014 []