Career Change at 50: Entering Your Next Career Phase

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

One benefit of changing your career later in life is that no matter what you’ve been doing throughout your adult life, you have decades of experience. You can leverage that experience to inform your priorities moving forward.

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Pursuing a career change over 50 years is much like making a career change at any other stage in life. It typically comes down to five key steps:

  1. Assessing your current career

  2. Clarifying your career goals

  3. Researching potential careers

  4. Researching job listings

  5. Defining your course of action

Although many may view 50 as a taboo age to shift careers, there is always time to make changes. If you want to learn new skills, pursue your passions, and embark on a new professional adventure, go for it. First, look at specific factors correlating a person’s success in transitioning into a new career after age 50, including highlighting transferable skills and building confidence through your support system.

Starting a new career at 50

At a certain point in life, making any change may feel more challenging than it might have felt when you look back on your earlier years. Regardless of the change you’re considering or your age when trying to make it, change typically requires some work, and you can benefit from the wisdom you’ve gained as you move toward your next steps.

While many consider young workers the solution to the United Kingdom's productivity challenges, the Centre for Ageing Better suggests that older workers could be the solution. With approximately 800,000 people between 50 and 64 out of the workforce but looking to return and record numbers of employers struggling to fill positions, the market is ripe with opportunity [1].

Recent research suggests that among workers over 50 in the UK, many worry that their experience and skills may not support their career change. Sharpening transferable skills and engaging with support systems can help ensure success.

Decide what's next.

One benefit of changing your career later in life is that no matter what you’ve been doing throughout your adult life, you have decades of experience and can use that experience to inform your priorities moving forward.

As you decide what you’d like to do next, consider what you’d like to keep doing, what you’d like to do more of, and what you’d instead not continue doing. Also, consider your lifestyle needs—how much money you’d like to make, how many hours you want to work, where you want to work, and the types of employee benefits you want to prioritise.

You may not be able to find a perfect job, but knowing what you’re looking for will enable you to get as close to perfect as possible.

Embrace your accomplishments.

Although you’re looking to leave your current career, embracing your accomplishments can help reflect your key values and skills as they pertain to your workplace. You’ll likely want to carry those values and skills into your new phase.

Your values often show up in the accomplishments you feel proud of: what was it about your successes, wins, and positive results that felt rewarding? Meanwhile, your skills will typically reveal themselves in the steps you took to succeed: how did you overcome the challenge?

Embracing and noting your accomplishments can help you decide what’s next and how you’ll get there.

Consider transferable skills.

Transferable skills are crucial in attaining any new job. However, for older career changers, transferable skills could distinguish between those who are successful in their change and those who are not.

In January 2022, the UK government announced its plans to support older workers re-entering the labour market or making career transitions. Programmes such as the National Skills Fund, Lifetime Skills Guarantee, and Skills Bootcamps launched to help support those needing upskilling or reskilling. 

Honing in on your transferable skills may help you think about your career change. Some transferable skills are technical and specific to the industry you work in. Examples could include technological skills like data analysis or coding. Others are workplace skills that are useful across all industries and sectors. Examples include organisation, interpersonal, and leadership skills.

Build your confidence.

A support system can make a tremendous difference in successfully navigating changing careers later in life. Career coaches, mentors, and peer support systems can lessen nervousness and enhance confidence as you move into your new phase.

As you move toward your new career, avoid discouraging factors and give more weight to the positive ones. For example, seek coworkers' input to support your desire to change. Or if you’d feel more confident heading into your career change if you knew more about your desired role, seek opportunities to learn.

Career change at 50 with no degree

Certain careers require a specific level of education to get started, such as becoming a medical doctor or a lawyer. However, many older workers who change careers may not need to pursue a degree to begin their new roles successfully.

As you research your desired new role, take note of the qualifications. Instead of focusing on the one credential you lack, consider the skills you have relied on throughout your career so far that will show up in your new role. If additional education would benefit your career change, you may be able to pursue a Professional Certificate rather than a new degree. Professional certificates tend to be quicker and cheaper, often focusing on the specific skills you need to succeed in your desired path.

Navigate signs of ageism.

While it’s illegal in the United Kingdom to discriminate against workers based on their age, ageism is still a phenomenon that may appear during the interview process or at a new workplace, either glaringly or subtly [2]. Only you can decide how you want to combat signs of ageism. However, noting any red flags during the interview process could be a factor in choosing a workplace. 

Some experts hope the shift to remote work will benefit older workers. Remote work can enable their colleagues to judge their performance in a way that’s more removed from their physical appearance. Additionally, remote work may make older workers more comfortable, as they can have more control over their working environment.

Next steps

Build your confidence and get job-ready for project management, social media marketing, data analytics, and more roles with a Professional Certificate from world-class companies like Google, Meta, and IBM on Coursera. For example, you could gain skills and experience with a Google Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate or Meta Marketing Analytics Professional Certificate—both available on Coursera.

Start exploring the next phase of your career today!

Article sources


Centre for Ageing Better. “Older Workers are the Solution - Not the Cause - to the UK’s Productivity Problem,” Accessed June 7, 2024.

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