Career changes in middle age: 5 ways to make job loss work for you
You can make a career change yourself, or have it thrust upon you. Either way it can be scary.
When you’re in your 40s or 50s, leaving a job you’ve had for years makes you feel the way a snail would feel about having its shell removed – it may have weighed you down and slowed your progress, but losing it hurt you a lot, and now you’re unprotected and on your own against the world. And a slug.
That really hurts. After all those years of loyal work, wham! Suddenly you’re out-dated, useless, not needed any more. But you shouldn’t take it personally. It’s not your fault, but a sign of the times. With companies facing cut-staff-or-go-under decisions every day, redundancy in middle age is something everyone has to be prepared to expect.
Or perhaps the choice to leave was yours – if you can call it a choice.
A midlife crisis can make you feel as if you’ve been in the wrong job all along, or the pressure is just too much to bear, and one day something snaps. You slam your resignation on the boss’s desk, or your partner finds you sobbing in a corner and calls the office to say you won’t be back. Or you’re waiting on the station platform as usual, but one day you just don’t get on the train.
Why career changes become necessary
Once the initial shock of job loss is over, you may look around for another job and find that you’ve become effectively unemployable. Younger people are more comfortable with the new technology, you look old and tired compared with other applicants, and no employer wants to pay your pension after only a few years’ work.
So what can you do instead?
1. Become a freelance consultant
If your skills are in demand, there may be no need for a career change – you may be able to work freelance at the same job, finding work online and perhaps through your former business contacts.
2. Retrain for a new career
If you have savings or redundancy pay, it may be worth investing part of the money in training for another career which interests you. It’s good for your CV/resume, too: employers like people who don’t sit around between jobs and aren’t too old to learn.
3. Build a self-employed business
Working for yourself can be hard work, but all the rewards are yours, it’s much more satisfying – and no one can fire you! There are many things to consider before starting a business, but if you’re confident and able to cope with paperwork, it could be right for you. If you have plenty of time, but no money to invest, building an Ebay business could be an option. Do your research before you start.
4. Swap roles and become a homemaker
If you can’t find work, but your partner is younger and more employable, why not take over running the household while they develop their career? Having a support team can help your partner to concentrate on that next promotion, and you could take the opportunity to develop your skills in other directions – maybe take that degree you’ve always wished you had, or build a hobby into a part-time income.
5. Become an internet infopreneur
If you’re computer-savvy and have excellent writing skills, you can use your experience and knowledge to recreate yourself as an infopreneur, especially if you know about an in-demand topic. You’ll draw readers by sharing your expert advice online and earn money through advertising on your website or blog, selling e-books and perhaps offering one-to-one consulting. It’s vital to learn all the skills of your new trade and establish yourself as a known figure in your field, so you’re unlikely to earn much for at least the first year.
A career change could be the best thing you ever do
Our parents probably worked at the same occupation throughout their working life, maybe even for the same employer from school until retirement – and I bet they found it boring as hell! Perhaps that’s one reason why so many older people look back fondly on the horror of the war years, as it was probably the only variety in their working lives. They were expecting to spend 50 years doing the same thing every day, so a few years driving an army truck must have come as a welcome change.
Our generation is luckier than they were. ‘A job for life’ may be a thing of the past, but the freedom to make career changes widens your range of skills, develops your personality and offers you the chance to rethink your priorities. Job loss can give you the impetus for positive lifestyle changes, if you see it as an opportunity instead of a disaster.
In today’s competitive job market, career changes are far more usual, but if you can build up your confidence and develop the flexibility to cope with unexpected situations, job loss in middle age could be the beginning of a new and better future.