Visiting with friends during the holidays, and someone asked me if I thought it was too late for him to switch careers.  As it was nearing midnight, I cracked wise,  “Yes, it is too late, and there’s not much you can do about it tonight!”  But it seems he was genuinely concerned about wanting to possibly make a career change in his late 50’s.  Isn’t it interesting – and common – how the holidays can make us reflective about our lives, careers and directions and choices?  Since this was weighing on him, I asked what was going on.
Predominantly an itinerant musician, who sometimes doubles as a tour guide, this was the first time he had voiced any interest in wanting to do something else. He has had moderate and long-term success in both fields and seemed to genuinely enjoy his work.
He explained that leading tours around the San Francisco Bay Area and around the globe had become less interesting, a case of been-there-done-that for over 25 years.  Originally he provided tours as a distraction from playing music, and because of his comfort on the road.  Both gigs had the common trait of him regularly working with different people in diverse situations.  He told me that in many ways the two careers were very similar and complimented his own interests.
But now after many years, he is less interested in being out on the road.  Playing music is still very important, but he no longer wants to tour or spend time away from home.  He said, “I love to try to do a lot of new things, and am confident that I can find enjoyment in almost any kind of challenge.”  And while he is also confident about what he doesn’t want to do, he’s really not sure what he does want to do next.
I clarified that although he can get satisfaction from doing any number of things, he needs to carefully select what he wants to do every day.  What one likes to do occasionally may not be comfortable doing all day every day; consider that an avocation or hobby can turn into a drudging job!  Though they can be the same thing (and for many they are), there is a great difference between doing something purely for its enjoyment or challenge, and doing something for pay!
Sure it’s a little intimidating to embark on an entirely different career later in life, but there are ways to try out any number of different career options with little risk and so much to gain.  Was he too old to start a new career? Of course the answer is a resounding, “No”!
There are a number of ways to pursue an entirely new career.  Among them:

  • Job Shadowing, where you make contact with a business owner or department manager and ask if you can be in the background to observe, and assist if possible, as regular employees go about their daily routines.  This can be an entrée for anything from baking to banking. The difficulty is in finding the right fit, as not all businesses are comfortable allowing “non-essential” personnel to witness their internal operations.
  • Freelancing:  If you already have good-to-excellent skills in a particular area, marketing yourself as an independent contractor is an option.  In the case of my friend, and many others who have already spent years working for themselves, this may not be as an attractive an option as working for someone else; but for those who have worked for others their whole lives, this may be a good approach to try something new.
  • Volunteering:  Offering of your time to help others while you are exploring or transitioning into a new career can be very satisfying.  Others will surely benefit as you discover your own affinity for a new professional endeavor.
  • S.C.O.R.E. (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a great resource provided by the US Small Business Administration to explore new industries and learn about career opportunities for older workers.

With these and other options available (some free, some paid), if you believe you’re really ready for a career change, it’s never too late! There are plenty of opportunities to explore and ways to explore them.  If you know of some appropriate resources for later career changers, please share them!
Best of luck with what ever you pursue in the New Year!  Cheers!
And for more tips and information that can help you in your job search or your career at any age or at any phase, please visit:  hanklondon.com

By Hank

Leave a Reply