50+ and getting ready for something new...

What?  Over 50? Looking for challenges in life? Surely you’ll be looking to “wind down” a bit now?  

Yes but the over-50s are a rum lot.  Some of the mythology around the Baby Boomers – even the younger ones - is true and I’m not going to repeat what you probably already know or think about Boomers all over again.  But there’s also data from a large sample of American adults showing that ambition actually increases after age 55 and peaks after – wait for it – 65 (Angela Duckworth in her book “Grit”).

You might want to define the word “ambition” in this context but whatever it means for individuals, it’s clear that the majority of over 50 year olds are still keen to be engaged, challenged, paid, valued, productive and making a contribution. 

Which is fortunate for the economy of the UK as a whole since there are so many adults aged 50 and over and that number is getting larger.  

Patrick Thomson, report author and Senior ProgrammeManager at Centre for Ageing Better, said:

“Our analysis makes clear how integral older workers are to the future of the UK economy. Being in work is a way of redistributing income via the tax system for all. It reduces the welfare bill and promotes savings and financial independence in retirement.”  He goes on:

“Older workers offer a solution to the fiscal challenge of our longer lives. We therefore need policy solutions that support and enable this increasingly important segment of the workforce.”

This is the pragmatic and sensible argument for retaining, possibly re-training, certainly valuing the older workers in the UK.  There’s an emotional response from the over 50s too: they want to feel happier.  They may be feeling stressed, under pressure at work to “keep up” with the younger workers, they may just be bored and looking to feel some sense of challenge and wonder again.  It may just come down to wanting to feel a sense of purpose about what they get up and do every day.  

There are also the more positive subversive benefits of a diverse workforce – particularly in the creative industries that are largely responsible for shaping social attitudes. If film, advertising, performance, design, social culture et al are being largely generated by a workforce aged between 25 and 35, it’s no wonder that there’s an imbalance in what we see and are influenced by around us every day.

Despite that infamous Baby Boomer sense of entitlement, the reality is that most people aged 50 and over don’t expect to have a new future handed to them on a plate.  We know that we need to keep an open mind, an open heart and an agility that keeps us up to date with change – whether that’s tech, societal, methods and attitudes.  You can’t EVER say “I’ve always done it this way and it’s worked so far…”  It may be true but it will win you no friends.  

So how do get started?  Again.

Work out realistically what it is that really matters to you in this change.  Flexibility, challenge, new people, less time in the office? Try to be objective about what your skills are NOW.  Not necessarily what you’ve been good at for the past twenty years otherwise you’re going to keep on repeating and returning to your default role.  Think ahead to what it is you want to be doing in the future and rewrite your CV around these things.  Adjust your CV to a skills-based format, focusing on your abilities rather than your previous roles. 

Get your Linked In profile really working FOR you and not reiterating what people already know about you.  And then get ready to tell people about the version of yourself that you’re lining up for your next career step.  Be prepared to do some of the dreaded networking which you probably thought you’d left behind you in the more junior years of your career.  

Age brings the benefit of experience and we can draw on this to stay calm when dealing with problems and overcome setbacks; so don’t apologise for your age or lack of recent, relevant experience.

Think about a career coach – I would say this of course but it’s clear that a knowledgeable and supportive external voicecan be useful to focus your thoughts, set goals, and keep you on track.  

There are still opportunities to retrain partially or completely.  If you have faith in the demographics and believe that you will live a longer and healthier life well into your nineties, then retraining at 50+ really isn’t a big thing.  

Older dogs can learn new tricks I promise. 

Madelaine is a Career Coach with a particular interest in supporting workers over the age of 50 as they make transitions in their life and career.  I have many years experience of working in talent attraction and retention and I have a Masters degree in Adult Life Development from the University of London.