10 Myths about Career Change at 50

If you are over 50 and planning a career change, you can be sure to have a whole pack of naysayers chasing you down and trying to spoil your plans with a long list of unjustified myths about changing careers after 50. And we say, just don’t listen to them!

 

Changing careers is always a bold move. Once you reach the age of 50, a lot of people don’t dare think about change because it seems like everything is stacked against you. They say you are too old, that you can’t learn anything new, and that the market only wants kids. But this is just wrong.

The fact is that today, 50 is a great age to start rethinking your career. We have compiled a list of the top 10 most dangerous and untrue myths about changing careers after 50, and added 10 home truths that will put you back on track!

 

  1. You’re just too old!

Says who? This may be the number one reason that people over 50 buy a rocking chair instead of returning their resume and getting back in the game. We are "taught" by the media to worship youth. If we believe what we read, young people dominate every part of business life. They all seem to be daring, sharp, knowledgeable, and savvy, while we are old and worn out. This portrayal can be a self-fulfilling prophecy if we believe it.

The days of One Job For Life may have been true in the 50s, but in the 21st century, the job market has completely changed. More and more people are changing jobs throughout their career and by the time they cross the threshold of 50, you have accumulated a huge war chest of skills, contacts, and experience that will serve you much better now than when you were 22.

At 50 plus, we are the ones who have the business acumen and knowledge to bring to jobs, projects, startups, and new entrepreneurial businesses.

 

  1. You’re Short Term

This is just another myth, and it is based on wrong thinking. The assumption is that if you hire a young person, train them, and invest in them, you will have them for many years. While if you are over 50, people will not expect you to be working nearly as long.

Life in the world, however, shows us that more and more people are working between 1-3 years on average at one job. Even entrepreneurs, starting their own business, the thinking may be to build it up and sell it off within five years. These facts actually speak in favor of making a new career after 50 – since no one stays long doing one thing, it is best to take someone who has the track record, experience, and know-how to get the best out of that time! Young hires need at least that much time to become useful, and then they move on!

We are all, in fact, short-term these days and we should not believe the myth that just because we are over 50 we are less valuable because we might (wait for it) RETIRE at some point. True, but in the meantime, we bring more to the table than an untrained youth.

 

  1. You are Overqualified

“Overqualified” is a mythical word all by itself! If a company refuses to hire older employees because they are “overqualified” it only means they are interested in saving money on people who either unqualified or underqualified. And do you really want to work for people who think like that?

In 2018, many company owners and entrepreneurs are actively seeking the so-called overqualified – these are the people who bring so much in terms of value to a business. If you have so many qualifications, you stand a much better chance of succeeding and bringing success to a business or company. Moreover, while your career change may bring you into a new field that you will have to learn about, you also can teach businesses certain skills and techniques that you have learned over the years.

Being overqualified is a badge of honor – not an excuse not to hire!

 

               4. New Tricks, Old Dogs

It is a huge misconception to think that people cannot learn new skills after 50. If you have had a career in sales until now, you may need to upgrade and update your skills with the new tools that are now available. More and more professionals over 50 are enrolling in extension courses and continuing education programs for this very reason.

Studies show that older students are actually quicker to learn new skills in a number of ways, especially as regards motivation. If you are retraining yourself for a career change after 50, your level of commitment is very high and quite specifically focused. When you compare to younger students, who are often gaining their first exposure to new topics, older students will be able to apply their knowledge more effectively.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? This is a myth!

 

  1. Too Stuck in Your Ways

Have you ever heard people say this? When talking about hiring an older person, people may claim that the person is unable to change, stuck in his or her ways, or in a slightly more euphemistic phrase, has “an established personality.” This myth depends on the assumption that no one ever changes, an assumption that we all know to be false.

Taking the initiative to change careers at mid-life shows that this is a false premise. While it may be true that work habits can become ingrained after many years, it is also completely true that they may be broken and changed to adapt to a new environment. Furthermore, it also important to remember that maybe the reason we keep to our old ways is that sometimes they just work! The important part is to be self-aware and evaluate work habits as they relate to the new situation.

But it is simply a myth to think that people cannot change their habits just because they are over 50.

TRUTH: “Older adults tend to change their habits less frequently, not because it’s harder, but because when they change, the change is almost always permanent.”

 

  1. You will be Humiliated

No one likes to be embarrassed. If you have had a long successful career and, at 55, decide to change, you might be intimidated by the possibility of being shown up by young managers who are no older than your grandkids. The potential for humiliation seems to be very high and it blocks a lot of us from pursuing change.

This is, again, a myth and a misconception. As more and more older professionals choose to make career changes, the workforce is becoming more and more diverse. This means that you are not alone! Once upon a time, seeing an older person working alongside much younger colleagues was rare, but in 2018 it is a much more common occurrence. With a changing economy, many people – old and young – are changing jobs and careers. Older persons in new careers are actually much better equipped to deal with new situations with poise and equanimity. And how can you feel humiliated when you can be a leader in change?

  • TRUTH: If you ever feel like you might not fit in, watch The Intern with Robert De Niro!

 

  1. Everyone Wants Kids

Many times, older professionals can become discouraged with the myth that says companies prefer to hire younger workers. Just the assumption that this is true might cause us not to polish up our resumes or apply ourselves as much. But this is a dangerous myth because it stops you even before you try!

In a merit-based economic environment, businesses are looking to reward performance more than promise. This is especially true in startups where the path to market must be fast and efficient. In these circumstances, it just makes more sense to hire someone who has the experience and skills to hit the ground running. This means hiring an older professional or entrepreneur. It just makes good business sense.

Big Corporations may choose youth more often if they want to create an army of automatons. But more agile and successful companies are looking for quality!

 

  1. The World has Passed You By

This is the information age. What that means is that we are constantly bombarded with information from all sides. It is so oppressive sometimes that we are sometimes tempted to throw up our arms and say it is all too much, that the world has passed me by!

The secret of the information age, however, is that some things do not change. When you worked in sales for the past 25 years, you may have had limited resources and had to fend for yourself a lot. Imagine what you could do now with all the information and new tools available to you? By the time we pass 50, we are much more skilled at sorting this mountain of information. It is easier for us to see what is actually important and what is just fluff! This makes your years an advantage over younger go-getters who want to absorb it all, even if it is not all useful.

 

  1. People Think You Couldn’t Cut it

The perception that changing career means something negative about you is another one of those harmful myths that can stop older career-changers in their tracks. The ominous question, "Why did you leave your last job?" is often harder for us to answer because we might feel self-conscious about it.

There was a time when changing jobs carried a stigma. The implication was that you are changing jobs because either you got fired or you could not hack it. Fortunately, most smart employers and recruiters understand that this is just not always true. Companies open and close. They change and get bought out and merge. This means that being in the workforce is a perpetual motion machine! Another aspect to consider is that we have many more options available today – leaving a steady job to start a new business, as an entrepreneur, certainly does not carry a stigma!

TRUTH: “Before buying McDonald's at 52 years old, Ray Kroc worked as a milkshake device engineer.”

 

  1. The Boss Doesn’t Want Competition

The final myth that we will debunk is about competition in the workplace. Competition is always there, and it is part of what drives a business forward. But gone are the days when the boss only hires yes-men and sycophants. A good manager and a good director, in today's business environment, are looking for people who challenge their ideas and preconceptions. This is where older professionals present a distinct advantage. With years of experience, we can talk intelligently about different systems and different approaches to problems, but we can also do it with the emotional intelligence that comes with age. This presents management with a good thinking partner and not a young-buck trying to make an impression.

TRUTH: “The average age of a financial advisor [at EY] is now 50 years old and continues to rise every year.

 

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